So the next morning we got up in the dark, hard to do. Oh, it was beautiful driving the wildlife loop at that time of the morning! The other tourists were still in bed, and we had the loop road almost entirely to ourselves! Even the park rangers weren’t there yet. The air was cool, the birds were meeting the day with numerous songs, the animals were busy getting breakfast and enjoying that the humans, most of them, were sleeping in. Deer were numerous! The buffalo were everywhere and relaxed. There were lots of buffalo calves, sweet little babies who were wild with play! They romped and ran and were a joy to see while their mother’s munched on grass.
While parked at the side of the road, a buffalo got very interested in our car as he moseyed by. He laid he head down on the hood by the review mirror. I had my window down and could hear him breathe. Make no mistake, this was not a petting zoo. This was a wild creature and he was getting ready to either butt the car or put his head in the window. When that black wet nose as big as a saucer began to move forward, I rolled up the window—fast. He thumped the car a bit and then inched forward. I love buffalo. I know them. But for a bit, I was truly sacred at that moment. I find the creatures majestic and always have. My grandpa had a buffalo but that is another story.
In the early morning the deer were also numerous….and fast! We sighted pronghorn, prairie dogs but no elk. We returned to our room by way of the Needles Highway. Then we packed up and began the turn back towards home. We went through Hot Springs where buildings were made of local and very high grade limestone. A local woman told us about one the founders of the town raising polo ponies here, about the rich people who came to take the cure of the mineral springs. It was an interesting place.
Hot, Springs, South Dakota
From there we passed through the bottom of South Dakota, watching the landscape change back into the farm ground and farms of Nebraska. The road was quiet, the land swelling and surging. We went to Fort Robinson, a place I always wanted to see. When we drove in the buildings were in good shape, but there was a commercial busyness that bothered me. One building was a dining area…other houses on officers row were now rented out to tourists and lake visitors in the state park. I know old forts have to be restored or rebuilt, but something about this place bothered me. We visited their little, very little, museum….an officer’s home…and went by the jail where Crazy Horse was killed. (So redone it looked fake.) When I heard how the officers all had polo ponies, were indulged men and their families from West Point I was ready to go. I did not like the feel of the earth here.
Spot where Crazy Horse was killed.
Spot where Crazy Horse was killed.
View from Ft. Robinson
Fort Larned, Kansas
Again we saw rooms that showed how the officers and staff lived. We saw a video history of the fort. I found wonderful books in the National Site’s gift shop. While there, the temp was 100 degrees and that famous Kansas hot wind was blowing. I can’t imagine how people traveled, how soldiers worked in this weather in those times.
Note bug netting on bed for sleeping without bites.
By evening we were 400 miles out from Missouri, but it felt like being home. In the week we had been on the road, wheat had ripened and combines were in the fields. It felt good to see farmers at work feeding the nation. The wild flowers were coming out now...susans, Queen Ann's lace, chicory. We saw an abundance of lilies but none as pretty as at the family farm when we went by.