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Spanish Peaks, Colorado

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bent's Old Fort

One of the first attractions we wanted to see when we came to La Junta was Bent's Old Fort, which we managed on our 3rd or 4th day here. It lived up to our expectations, and is a place we will want to return to many times. I'll touch briefly on the origins and use of the Old Fort. Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain, both seasoned traders and trappers, entered the famous Santa Fe trade in 1829. It soon became evident that a headquarters for the lucrative Mexican and Indian trading should be situated near the border with Mexico, then along the Arkansas River, and in the midst of the southern tribes of Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Sioux, Comanches, Kiowas, and even Blackfeet and Gros Ventres Indians. Actual building began in 1833.

The main items for trade were buffalo hides, horses and mules, and whiskey. We enjoyed seeing this restored merchantile, complete with sleeping cat!

Here is the inside of the fort, a large courtyard in the midst of the two story walls. Though it was a hot day when we visited, we felt a deep coolness inside each room because of the very thick adobe walls.

This is one of the upstairs rooms. 
The fort did a brisk business until the U.S. declared war on Mexico in 1846, and the fort became headquarters for awhile for the army. Charles Bent was appointed governor of the new province which included New Mexico, but was killed in the revolt of the Mexican people. This spelled the end of the era and of the company.

Each of the thick walled rooms inside the Fort had its own fireplace. Very cozy!
 
Within a few years of Bent's and St. Vrain's deaths, the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, and other tribes that had frequented their adobe trading post would all be confined to reservations, and the buffalo herds driven to virtual extinction on the southern plains.
 
Here we see the restored Doctor's office, on the second floor. You can see the huge logs used for the ceiling. These same big logs were above the bottom floor, supporting the second story. The fort had various uses for the next few years, including as a stage station, a post office, and a cattle ranching headquarters. By the early 1900s the fort had fallen into ruin. The site was transferred to the State Historical Society of Colorado in 1954, and complete restoration was begun in 1975. Because of the volumes written by various traders and occupants of the fort over the years, and the artifacts that were dug up, the restoration is quite accurate.
 
Being a cat lover, I had to revisit the merchantile to see if the cat was still sleeping there. He raised his head to thank me for the pets, very content in his old fort. He was not the only animal we saw there. The Fort had a corral in the back with chickens and a few cows and at least one horse. The adobe walls had cactus planted all around the top, thus discouraging thieves from breaking in.

Before we headed back to La Junta we went a little further east to the small town of Las Animas, and there we found this gorgeous Bent County Courthouse in the middle of the dusty, sleepy town. I believe this town is also along the old Santa Fe Trail, which runs through La Junta, too. There is so much history in this area, and we intend to explore it wherever we can! I hope to go into more detail about Bent's Old Fort on future visits.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Missoula MT to La Junta CO

 After a year and a half in one place, our longest stay since our workamping years, we are on the road again, heading east and south from Missoula MT to La Junta CO, 1,000 miles. This is super exciting for us! We wondered if our rig and our BigTruk would remember how to roll. They did! This scene is somewhere between Missoula and Bozeman.

 Mr. Keith and I were anxious to stay at the Bozeman KOA, where we worked in 2013, and to see our former managers there. The park has been expanded and improved, which was fun for us to see.

 Here's Robert, enjoying some coffee with us and catching up with our families' news. The best part of our RVing lifestyle is the people we meet and have met and stayed in touch with. We may not ever see some of them again, but some we do, and it's always a pleasure.

 Somewhere on the road to Hardin MT.

 The Hardin KOA is a small, but pleasant park out in the middle of a farming area. We enjoyed our stay here. At this time of year, autumn, there are not many RVers staying. We thought about visiting the Monument to Custer's Last Stand, but have seen it several times, so we reluctantly passed it up this trip.

 I love this "fence" at the Hardin KOA. There were old bicycles circling the entire perimeter of the park, a unique and humorous idea for a fence. South of Hardin we passed through some very beautiful country, at least till we reached Buffalo WY and exited I-90 for I-25. Unfortunately, I couldn't snap pictures while traveling down the highway behind the 5th wheel.

After Buffalo the scenery changed to dry, mostly flat and treeless, not so pretty. Douglas WY is a nice little town known for the famous "Jackalope". Their town center features this cute statue. We stayed at the Douglas KOA, a fairly large, very well kept park.

 We were excited about visiting the Denver East/Strasburg KOA where we worked for two winters. After battling some pretty tough traffic heading south towards Denver, we got off on a toll freeway skirting the metropolis, then onto I-70 going east. It was almost like home, getting to Strasburg, especially when we found we'd been assigned Space #68, the very spot we occupied both winters, a fact unknown to the gal who put us there. For dinner we ordered chicken wings, which we had cooked numerous times, along with pizza, at the KOA when we were employed here. Yum! The next morning we had a joyous reunion with our former boss Tracy, breakfast and a wonderful visit at her house. We were sad to leave, but we were ready for the final leg of our 1000 mile journey.

The last leg of our journey was the shortest, and also the hardest, south from Limon on Hwy 71. The road was bumpy and things inside the RV spilled all over! This was a desolate road, but we came out on Hwy 50 and on to La Junta, our winter abode. Here we are at the KOA, in our spot for the next several months. We toured the town, population about 7,000, and found it to be neat, clean, and very attractive. We will love it here!