Pecos National Historical Park

Pecos National Historical Park is only about 70 miles from our house, so I am little embarrassed to admit that it has taken us two years to finally make it there. We pass it all the time on the way to wrestling tournaments or football games, but we never really have time to stop. On our way home from Kansas, we finally took the time. It was a great history lesson with a chance to stretch our legs for a bit.

Ruins

My crazy kids are photo-bomb happy…

I think if they heard “Hey, let me take your picture!” one more time, they would have hog-tied me and left me along the road somewhere…

A little over an hour after Leaving Pecos NHS, we arrived back home. As fun as it is to take trips, it is always nice to get back home. I am pretty sure the kitties were happy to see us! Charbie had fun out exploring with us, but I think even he was happy to have his favorite lounge spots back. Only two days left, and then it was back to school for the kids. There are just two months remaining in the school year, which seems hard to believe, but apparently time really has gone that fast.

Time to start planning our next adventure!

Dodge City and Beyond

We got up in the morning and walked around downtown Dodge City a little bit. We stopped into the Visitor’s Center and checked out an antique shop I had read about. It is definitely the off season because it was pretty quiet. The Visitor’s Center has a map for people to put pins in their home towns. Each month has a different colored pin, and there were not many locations pinned yet. We were showed the map from last year and it was filled! As it was, we were just the second pin in the state of New Mexico, the first being in Albuquerque.

A fun sign we found on the way to Dodge City.

Kansas Countryside

Dodge City

Dodge City

After lunch we decided to hit the zoo. The Wright Park Zoo is very small but cute, right in the middle of town. It is free to visit, but they do accept donations. We always enjoy visiting the animals, and this little zoo was the perfect place to do that.

It is true what they say about the wind never stopping in Kansas. It blew and blew the entire time we were there, well, except for a few minutes at Fort Larned when the flag was practically still. That probably does not happen very often! We had a wonderful time, though, and western Kansas is beautiful. (I am a sucker for farmland and cows.) Our plan was to start driving towards home until we found a nice place to camp for the night. That happened not too far inside New Mexico at Clayton Lake State Park. It was a great place to spend the evening.

After a good night’s rest, we would head for home in the morning.

 

Exploring Kansas

We had originally planned on staying at the same campground for our entire stay in Kansas, but ended up deciding against that. It turned out to be a good decision, because after a couple hours of driving across the state, we did not really want to go all the way back to where we had started the day.

Packing up camp.

Our first stop was Pawnee Rock. This was the half-way point on the Santa Fe Trail. It is basically a small mound out in the middle of flat farmland. They have built a small monument on the hilltop now, and you can see for miles and miles in every direction.

Pawnee Rock

Liam actually let me take his picture…

Once again, we appear to be all alone…

From Pawnee Rock, we continued down the highway for about 7 miles or so until we came to Fort Larned National Historic Site. We pulled into the parking lot at about 4:20, hoping that they were going to be open until 5pm. As it turns out, they close at 4:30. We ran to the Visitor’s Center to get a pin and a stamp in our passport, assuming that would be all we had time for. We were all prepared to simply admire the grounds on the walk back to the car, but we were invited to go along with the Ranger as he locked up for the night. We thought we would simply be able to peek inside the buildings as he locked up, but he ended up giving us a personal tour! We did not end up leaving the park until 5:45pm. They closed at 4:30pm. That was completely unexpected, and we couldn’t be more grateful!

Names etched into the walls.

Sleeping quarters. Two men to each bunk level, head to foot.

Special punishment for the really bad guy. They put Nathan in there…

From there, we drove to Dodge City. There was a campground we were going to check out, but it turns out Dodge City is a much larger town that we had anticipated. Not very comfortable tent camping in an unfamiliar city, we opted for a hotel for the night. We stayed dry during the night rain, and after a nice hot shower, we were all refreshed and ready to go explore Dodge City in the morning.

Spring Break!

Spring break is always such a great time for a road trip. It’s not too hot, and if you head the opposite direction from the rest of the crowd, you don’t bump into too many people. This year we decided to head to Kansas. We are trying to get the kids to all of the lower 48 states before they head out on their own, so now we are one state closer to that goal! Only 13 to go!

Nathan did not make it very far before falling asleep.

Our first stop was at Capulin Volcano National Monument. It was quite cold and very windy, but we practically had the place to ourselves, so there were no complaints there! What a neat, perfectly shaped volcano! I realize now that I did not take any pictures of the volcano itself, so I feel a little bit silly.

The view from the top was amazing!

We did not have too much trouble finding a place to park!

Mr. Amazing himself. 🙂

It was windy on top of the volcano!

Quiet country roads are my favorite, and we saw only a handful of cars on our way to Lake Scott State Park in Kansas, which was where we made camp the first night. It was great! We arrived later than planned and it was somewhat difficult finding a place to camp in the dark. Once we figured out which loop we needed to be in, though, we were able to get set up pretty quick. Again we found ourselves practically alone. Apparently not many people are up for camping in late March in Kansas. Who knew?

Bright sunshine not only makes it hard to look, but also makes it hard to stop laughing!

Beautiful sky on the Colorado/Kansas border.

This kid loves to photo bomb, and he dove right into my sky picture!

My camp pictures will not load with our blazing (not) fast internet, so I will have to leave that to your imagination! Just picture a pretty state park right on a lake, with no cars except ours. Join us tomorrow as we venture a little further into Kansas to see what we can find!

Autograph Rock

Autograph Rock was an important camp site along the Santa Fe Trail because of year-round water. People began carving their names in the sandstone and many of them are still there today. Autograph Rock now sits on private property so you do need permission to see it, but that is easily done, and the rock is definitely worth the stop if you ever find yourself in the Oklahoma panhandle.

A wagon train owner, F.B.Delgado carved his name on several occasions.

Our W.C.Harper was really excited to find another W.C.Harper on the rock!

Off to Oklahoma!

Rob and I usually only have one day off together each week, but with the 4th of July and Rob taking Monday off, we ended up with three! We had debated staying home since we just got back from a big trip not too long ago, but knowing this would be the longest weekend we would have together for the rest of the summer, we decided to make the most of it. So, after some deliberation, we decided on Oklahoma.

Hello Oklahoma!

I had read about Autograph Rock in Boise City, OK, as well as some dinosaur tracks preserved in sandstone just up the road in Kenton. Black Mesa State Park is also in the area, as is the highest peak in Oklahoma. If you go just a bit further, you run into a fun tri-state marker. All of these things are only about five hours away, so the panhandle of Oklahoma was our destination.

We arrived at Black Mesa State Park at about 3pm. After setting up camp, we decided to go find the dinosaur tracks. There are no markers or street signs for the tracks, so you definitely have to have an idea of where to go. Before we left home, I wrote down every hint I could find as to their location. We found the creek bed, but went the wrong direction at first. We found the tracks just down the hill from the car. Apparently when the tracks were discovered back in the 80s, there were 47 footprints. You can only see about a third of them today. What an amazing find, though.

When we left the footprints, we continued down the road towards the tri-state marker. We were on a little country road that turned to dirt, and we did not see another car the entire time we were out there. We arrived at the state line marker for Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Colorado out in the middle of farm and ranch country. It was absolutely beautiful.

We had contemplated hiking up the Summit Trail, but it was getting too late to start the 4-hour hike, so we went back to camp for the night. There was a thunderstorm heading towards us, so we ended up hanging out in the car for a little bit while all the thunder and lightening passed.  Once it passed, the sky was amazing.

After the storm

Upon waking in the morning, we noticed that we had a flat tire. This kind of altered our plans just a little bit, but we found ourselves being extremely grateful that it was Monday and not Sunday, or the Tuesday holiday, when most repair shops would be closed. After dropping off the tire, we went to a little cafe for breakfast. Great food at a great price. Of course we were the only non-farmer/ranchers in the place, but that was fine with us. After we picked up our tire, which they only charged us $10 to fix, we were on our way again.

Our next stop was the Cimarron Heritage Center. Unfortunately they were closed. I was a little bummed because Autograph Rock is on private property and requires permission from the Heritage Center. I had the number for the manager, so Rob decided to give her a call. She was extremely sweet and even offered to have someone come open up the center so we could see the museum! We declined that offer so that everyone could enjoy their day off, but she did give us verbal permission as well as directions to Autograph Rock.

“Cimmy” at the Cimarron Heritage Center

Autograph Rock was incredible. It was a common stopping point for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. There was year-round water, so it became a well-known campsite. Over the years, people carved their names in the sandstone bluffs. The oldest known name is from 1806, but we did not find that one. F.B.Delgado is the most popular, as he was the owner of a mule and ox train that used the trail, and he carved his name several times. We were the only ones out at Autograph Rock, so we were able to take our time and enjoy the history of the area.

On Tuesday morning, we broke camp and headed for home. We stopped at Fort Union National Monument on the way back. Another quiet spot with only a few visitors. We walked around the fort for a while, then loaded back up to finish our drive home. We arrived home in time to unload our little trailer, take showers, and head back into town for the 4th of July fireworks. We were all very tired when we got back home at almost 11pm, and it felt good to sleep in out own beds.

Before we left home last Sunday, we had worried that perhaps we would not be able to get a camp site, or that things would be crowded since it was the 4th of July weekend. Our worries were quickly put to rest, though. The campground at the state park in OK was almost empty each night. There was no traffic at all. There were no people at the places we visited. Even the playground we stopped at for the kids was quiet. I guess the panhandle of Oklahoma is not a tourist hot-spot for long weekends. For us, though, it was wonderful. A quiet get-away was just what we were looking for. Not to mention we were able to add Oklahoma to our state map.

I am still organizing pictures, so I will share those over the next couple of days. For now, here are a few random pictures I came across this morning…

Catheryn took this picture of Charbie at camp.

The kids really liked the glass coke bottles…

Nathan with his “You’re seriously taking my picture again?” face on.

Liam loves to photo bomb.

Idaho

We had a really nice weekend up in Idaho. My sister and her family made the trip up from Nevada, and we all met at my parents’ house for sometime together. It usually happens every few years or so where we are all able to get together. We always try and get some updated family pictures during these visits.

Grammy and Grampy with their grand kids

My mom, sister, and me with all the kids

Trinity and Catheryn had a blast together. As a matter of fact, they were always off doing things together, so the rest of us rarely saw them! I am so glad they were able to spend the weekend together. It makes me happy that no matter how long between visits, they always seem to pick up right where they left off the last time.

These two were inseparable

All of the kids are growing up so fast. My oldest nephew is 21 already, with his brother not too far behind him at almost 17. Then comes Liam at 14, the twins are 12, and Trinity is about to turn 11.

All the cousins

My only complaint about the weekend is that it went by way too fast. I wish we had had a little more time, but then time always goes by too fast when you are having fun…