Archive for August, 2008

Tuesday, August 26 – McPherson, KS

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

A beautiful sunrise start today which provides an automatic attitude adjustment for me.

We pass through the Maxwell Buffalo Preserve on the way back to Canton to start the days hike. A number of bulls, cows and calves are visible as silhouettes on the sunrise ridge. We also spot a magnificent bull and cow elk in the early light. In 1846, the Battalion also mentions lots of antelope in the area.

Denny has some interesting feelings about being so remote. Perhaps I can get her to blog that and some other stuff she’s shared with me.

Since she worked so hard yesterday, I ask Den to lay off some today. I hike 2 miles for each she hikes. We make good time, take lunch at 11 AM and are completely done hiking just after noon. Hooray! This day is almost in the bag and maybe we can get some other things done.

We check out the evening’s campsite at McPherson then beat it back to the Preserve camp site to pick up the RV and the Henski Truck.

Remember yesterday’s missive about “one step forward and two steps back”? Well…..

You may think that I’m making the following up for the dramatic effect or to gain pity, but I’m not. We have receipts to prove it. This afternoon, we had another flat - opposite the one we had yesterday. What are the odds? Again, I couldn’t remove the lug nuts, so I lowered the tow hitch to protect the tire rim and we limped to town. I bought two new tires for the back and will use the leftover tire as a spare. Sensing that the handwriting on the wall portends future problems, I got the mechanic to remove the lug nuts from the other two trailer tires and lube them so WHEN I have to remove them, I can.

McPherson (pronounced: Muck-FUR-son – NOT Mack-FEAR-son) is a “happening place.” It’s an oil town with a big (but clean, VERY clean) refinery and let me tell you folks, there’s LOTS of oil being pumped out here in Kansas. Almost every well we’ve passed is active.

In the evening, the entire bishopric of the local LDS congregation stopped by to coordinate with us for tomorrow night’s activity. We had a good time sharing stories, comparing experiences and taking pictures of each other. The women especially had fun chatting. It’s appreciated when folks stop in and chat for awhile.

Daughter Rita and I had some things in common – music, sports, etc. We both grew/are growing up in communities with a low LDS population. On one hand it’s easy to see the difference the church makes in your life. On the other hand, your values are different. My hat’s off to all the youth who live in difficult circumstances, who struggle to find others with similar standards, who grit their teeth and stick to it. Keep it up; it’s worth it in the long run.

Monday, August 25 – Canton, KS

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Today was one of those “two steps forward, one step back” days. Or maybe it was “one step forward, two steps back.” I’m not going to candy coat this day for you. This is how it actually went. I was there.

I arrived at the tire store at 7 AM which didn’t open until 9 AM. I was second in line and the repair cost all of eight dollars.
Since we camped at Council Grove Lake so many days, we had to move the trailer about 60 miles this morning to catch up where we needed to hike today, further delaying today’s hike. Of course, we needed to stop for gas along the way.

By the time we set up and drove back to where we needed to start hiking, it was after 2 PM. We started at the Cottonwood Crossing northeast of Canton, the town where we will end the day. In 1846, the Crossing was a muddy place and it took a lot of manpower to get across. It’s easy to imagine the wagons being roped down the bank, pushed and pulled across, then roped back up the other side. Pretty place.

But then, every so often there have been experiences on Trek that make me feel “unstuck in time” to use Kurt Vonnegut’s phrase. For instance: I’m walking along, watching the ridgeline off to my left for evidence of wagon ruts, thinking 1846 thoughts and my cell phone rings. Not strange because we get lots of phone calls. The phone number shows as “000” for the area code – and that is a little strange. The caller identifies himself as Elder Follett, a Battalion descendant. It’s always nice to hear from the descendants, so we chat for a few minutes before he mentions that he’s calling from EASTER ISLAND in the south Pacific. I have a strange moment of time & space disconnection. Can you imagine what the Battalion members would think about that? It made me shake my head.

Denny is a trooper. Even with her blister, she insists on helping “leap frog” hike today because of the late start. With 18 miles, I don’t argue, but I do ask how she’s doing frequently. We just keep hiking and the cooler day (low 80’s) with low humidity makes it a fairly comfortable day. Except I’m still having lingering distress from last week. You don’t want to know. Let’s just say, a step back, shall we?

About 3 PM, I realize that I don’t have the GPS tracking unit either on my belt or in my haversack, so I check with Denny and she doesn’t have it either. We check the support truck inside out and the trailer. No dice. We’ve lost our GPS dog, Spot. Two steps back.

Then Elder Follett from EASTER ISLAND calls me back to find out why we aren’t moving on the tracking page. “Did you fall in the water at the lake” he asks (as I have another disoriented moment in time). So I explain the lost tracking unit and that we won’t have live tracking until we find it or replace it. One step forward – someone actually cares.

Marion County’s Santa Fe Trail chapter has done a great job of marking all their roads and producing a nice brochure detailing the SFT places in their county.

\Today is the first time we’ve had to hike past sundown, but it was a beautiful sunset, so we didn’t mind so much. Besides, we beat the day instead of it beating us. One step forward.

And, I spot a cute skunk at the roadside. I manage to get some fair pictures (nothing fantastic) but one daren’t approach too close, should one? Getting sprayed would be a couple GIANT steps backward.

Denny completes her last leg and jumps in the truck to come pick me up. The truck won’t start. No lights. No camera. No action. She calls me on the radio and I hike back a half-mile to the truck.

Fortunately, it’s only a loose battery cable, so we’re soon on the road for home. One step forward.

But, the Spot tracker device isn’t in the other vehicle, so it’s gone. “Spot” ran away. Probably my fault. I must have misplaced it, or it fell out or was left at one of the early stops today. Dang! Two GIANT steps backward for sure.

We have cold, leftover pizza (see yesterday’s blog entry) as the main course. It’s OK because we’re too tired to fix anything.

I write this blog entry and try to connect for upload, but nothing doing. Not even one bar reception. Another frustration for the day.

Did I mention that we’re camped at a buffalo nature preserve? How cool is that? We saw at least 100 of the big guys (and girls) on the hill this afternoon. Tomorrow morning should be interesting.

Bed is calling. One step forward, perform a half twist and I gently fall backward into the clutches of the mattress monster.

Sunday, August 24 – Council Grove

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Last night’s interpretive program was attended by about a dozen folks and we were pleased with how it went. A mom brought her three sons fishing and each of them brought a buddy. They stopped by for our Battalion presentation. There were also two older couples and two of the Park rangers, all of whom said they enjoyed it. OK, so I guess that makes thirteen in all.

We finished there about 8:30 PM, packed up and scooted down to talk with Ken and Shirley McClintock some more. They agreed to let Denny tape them for use on the website. Ken discussed the area of Council Grove in 1846 and Shirley talked about their restoration of the Terwilliger House. They’ve put us onto some more lines of research and interest that we hope will bear fruit in the future.

We finished there about 10:30 PM and realized that we had somehow overlooked getting dinner earlier. Please don’t be disappointed in us, but we just couldn’t bear to go back and cook at that late hour, so we trolled the streets of Council Grove looking for a place to eat that late. Choice were: 1) the Hayes House bar & grill; 2) Sonic; 3) Pizza Hut. The Hut won out, so we went tromping in dressed pioneer at just about their closing time, ordered a pizza, only to realize that neither Denny nor I had brought our plastic with us. Dang! All we had was $10 cash a lady had contributed as a donation to us.

So, we went scrounging in the truck for the extra quarters left over from doing the wash on Saturday. SCORE! We had just enough for a large everything pizza which we took home to scarf and were SO grateful for that food. Got to bed at midnight.

Church today was about 30 miles away in Emporia Kansas. Good homecoming for one of their own Elders who had been serving in Germany. Made us think much of our son Brian who is currently serving a mission in Mongolia.

These young men and women are entrusted by the LDS Church to represent the Lord, Jesus Christ to the world. They get no pay for their service; they receive little formal training; their language skills are mostly learned “on the job” and they work very hard under very trying circumstances. Many are fairly average but accomplish so much in helping other people start to repair their lives. It is nothing short of amazing that we can put 50,000 of these young people into the nations of the world and have so few problems. They are from “every nation, kindred, tongue and people” and with the Lords’ help and humble hearts they manage to change lives – their own included.

That’s not a plug for the LDS church, just a fact that constantly amazes me when I sit and think about it. If only all volunteers were as effective and dedicated. We’ve been blessed with good help.

When we arrived home, we noticed that one of the tires on the flatbed trailer is flat. Dang! That means we get a late start tomorrow.

And a final thought: We’ve decided that the folks in Council Grove are a little more accustomed to seeing people dressed in 1800’s costume. Either that or they’re too polite to stare. We love Kansas.

Saturday, August 23 – Council Grove, KS

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

We’re back at Council Grove for the day.

There was one whale of a storm that started approaching about 3 AM and continued until nearly mid-day. “Deadly lightning” was the phrase the National Weather Service used to describe one of the most vigorous thunderstorms I’ve ever experienced. Bolts were popping off every second or so for three solid hours. We had sustained winds of 25+ MPH and gusts much higher than that from the northwest as the cold front approached.

The storm looked so bad on radar (yep, I booted the computer for this one!) I was convinced we had the possibility of a tornado, so about 5 AM we took refuge in a cinderblock shelter next to camp. Stayed about 30 minutes before it calmed down enough to go back to the camper. Kind of sorry I didn’t have the 1846 tent put up, but even if I did, I would not have stayed in it during this storm. One stands in awe of nature when it gets this wild.

After the storm front cleared out about 11 AM, Denny and I talked it over, deciding to skip today’s hike, opting instead to catch up on some pressing business matters, do the wash and shopping in preparation for moving camp on Monday.

We also have an interpretive program planned for tonight at the campground. That’s presuming we don’t have any more storms this evening.

Our time at the library was spent contacting folks further down the trail to try and help coordinate special events – more seminars, firesides and day hikes where people have expressed interest The library is closing in about 15 minutes, so I need to finish up and post these last three entries. Have a great weekend everyone.

Friday, August 22 – Lost Spring, KS

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

It was another lovely day. It’s the first TOTALLY clear, bright sunshine, comfortably warm and breezy day we’ve had here in Kansas. Even though we’re nearly a quarter of the way across the state, it’s been cool and cloudy almost the whole time. Maybe we’re going to escape the brutal heat that often occurs this time of year.

The plants and terrain have changed just since the first of the week. It’s certainly drier. Groves of full sized trees away from the streams are giving way to wide open expanses of grasses. Types of trees are less varied with mostly cottonwoods and burr oaks concentrated along the streams.

We recorded the winds today. By late morning, we had a sustained breeze of about 15 MPH from the southeast shifting to the southwest later. The cottonwoods and grasses were spectacular waving in the wind. We also came across the first fields of sorghum we’ve seen.

Denny and I have been married 29 years as of this morning. We celebrated by hiking and meeting people, talking about things and enjoying our country and its history. We have four wonderful kids, five and a half grandkids, wonderful parents and a boatload of blessings. We’re in reasonably good health and don’t really want for much. We have sufficient for our needs and what else do we need? Ours is a charmed life for which we are grateful. We hope the next 30 are just as good as the first.

Thursday, August 21 – Diamond Springs, KS

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

We are officially in the land of BIG ranches and farms. Some of these spreads cover five miles or more. Fields without fences. Roads without traffic. Land without people. It makes you feel small. Awesome. Just awesome.

One gentleman – Mr. Riffle came out to check to see if Denny was OK – said he couldn’t believe it when the county wanted to put road signs with the names at the intersections. “Heck, I know I gotta go two miles this way and one mile that way to get to my neighbors’ house. What do I need signs for? Shucks, it’s for that 911 thing.” Mr. Riffle owns only about one and a half square miles.

“I love being a farmer. I’m a small town boy that married right. I thank my mother-in-law fairly often for letting me marry her daughter. After 30 years of bumping across those Santa Fe Trail ruts, I still get goosebumps when I think about what their lives must have been like. I can’t imagine how hard it was for the women. They had to walk, take care of the children, cook and do all the other things women did.”

Awesome, Just awesome.

Wednesday, August 20 – Council Grove KS

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

“These are the times that try the soles of men…”

It just popped into my mind and I thought I should share it with you. Starting our dinner tonight, I accidently stepped upon a small (very small) live coal which slipped between two of my toes. Ouch! But I’ll be fine. Really.

We officially arrived in historically minded Council Grove Kansas today. “History Happens Here” is their theme and the town makes a sincere effort to keep their roots going. Because there’s so much here, I won’t try to list or comment on it all. This will be a long entry anyway. Just do an internet search for “Council Grove Kansas History” and you’ll get a basic tour.

In order to spend time at the many sites here, we planned just seven miles of hiking for today, leaving the afternoon to browse. Denny is proud that she got her first blister during our hike. She will be fine. Really.

So, Denny and I were in full costume today; backpack, bonnet, belts, hat and musket. You’d think someone would get a little concerned about me carrying a musket down the major highway, but perhaps it’s more common here in Council Grove.

The Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Board and many businesses work hard to help groups like us. This year they’ve already had two cross county bikers, one trans-continental hiker and are expecting a long-distance horse race event next month.

In 1846, there weren’t any buildings here yet. In July, the Army had positioned a temporary blacksmith shop here to help the wagon trains going west as part of the war effort. It was probably on the east side of the Neosho River where there were lots of trees for use in fixing wagons.

One of the twelve “Madonna of the Prairie” sculptures is here. Craig McNeal interviewed Denny and I there for a newspaper article. Craig is the newspaper’s second generation owner, editor, reporter, photographer, ad-man and promoter of his city. The “Council Grove Republican” is the ONLY remaining daily newspaper published in town this size – about 2,500 souls. Five days a week, Craig and four staff members knock out a local paper that costs just 35 cents. It’s another example of faith, dedication and devotion to ones community.

The modern city has made a nice river walk as part of their historic tour. Another sculpture called “The Guardian of the Grove” stands at the entrance. “The Guardian” depicts a Kaw native brave with lots of symbolism included in the design. It’s an inspiring piece and positive in its message. “Guardian” is another example of faith in the future despite a period of severe trials and disappointments. The Kaw Nation is understandably proud of this monument to their people.

The original river crossing is still evident today. The river is about 20 yards wide and less than a foot deep at the rock crossing, so I hiked across and meandered down Main Street to the west end.

Yesterday, we made arrangements to stop in at the Terwilliger House. Kenneth & Shirley McClintock worked with others to restore an 1860’s home that had been a lot of things over the years. Now it looks much like it did before the turn of the century (1900) and they operate the House as an educational center. It’s set up as a bakery and restaurant with liberal helpings of history on the side.

In addition to being an enjoyable museum, while you dine (very reasonable rates) the opportunity to be educated about the local history, food, cultures and personalities makes a stop at the Terwilliger House something we highly recommend. Shirley is experimenting with native salads and has an interesting story about a native carving she found during the renovations of the building See their info at:

Now, we would be remiss if we did not mention another local business. The Council Grove Dairy Queen is owned by Dick Montgomery – another local promoter and historian. As we came into town, we passed the DQ and were FLOORED to see “Welcome – Mormon Battalion Trek” on their marquee – not once, but TWICE per cycle of the display. Yep, our name has been up in lights. Thanks Dick, for making us feel welcome. We’ll be in for Blizzards on Friday, our 29th anniversary.

And a final PS – Paul Sandor made it home just fine.

NOTICE: Until Monday morning, we will be camped at Neosho Campground at the Council Grove Lake just north of town. Site 5 to be specific. We will still be hiking during the days, but returning here for the nights.

And, we will put on an interpretive program at the Canning Creek Campground on Saturday evening at 7 PM. Bring your own seating.

If you want to follow our progress via GPS on the Internet, go to:

Tuesday, August 19 – Rock Creek, KS

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Paul headed home to Michigan this morning. We’re going to miss the big guy. Between his humor, his abilities, his insights (which he shares!) and his uncomplaining attitude, he’s been a great help this week in getting us reorganized. Safe trip buddy.

With only two of us now, Denny and I discuss how to get everything done in the hours available to us. We opt today to try a “leap-frog” hiking method that keeps both of us on the trail – just hiking different parts separately. We finish our sixteen miles by early afternoon, leaving us time to coordinate with the folks at Council Grove’s tourism office, newspaper and a local historian. The official arrival at Council Grove tomorrow should be fun. More about that tomorrow.

At the end of the day, we drive back to the camp at Council Grove Lake, get our showers, wash some clothes and I get to spend a couple hours completing my blog catch-up session. Really everyone, I’m sorry it’s so slow in coming. Hopefully, you will find it worth waiting for.

If you want to follow our progress via GPS on the Internet, go to:

It’s not always perfect, but is pretty good.

Monday, August 18 – Elm Creek, KS

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Paul Sandor is such a hoot! And quick witted as well. For example:
I related that I intend to dedicate a week of blog entries thusly:

Monday – “Things I Saw Today”
Tuesday – “Things I Heard Today”
Wednesday – “Things I Smelled Today”
Thursday – “Things I Tasted Today”
Friday – “Things I Touched Today”

Paul’s immediate response: “So, everything else you write in your blog will just be senseless.”

We end hiking at Elm Creek and preview tomorrow’s route as we drive to our campsite outside Council Grove. We’re getting ready for Paul to leave and have some more rearranging to complete. The lakeside campsite is gorgeous. We highly recommend it to anyone passing through the area.

Sunday, August 17 – Burlingame KS

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

We attend church at Colly Creek Ward in Topeka. Paul demonstrates his GPS directional driving aide on the way and we get … a mite bewildered on the way to church. But we make it and have a good time meeting folks.

In the afternoon, we are taken for a local Santa Fe Trail tour by Dave Prescott and then invited over to his house for dinner. Denny makes some peaches and cream to share and we have a great evening swapping stories and background.