Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nebraska Byways Passport: Mines, Forts, Baseball

In early August, the Wife and I went on another roadtrip to pick up some Nebraska passport stamps to add to the ones I got in July.  This time we would visit the three attractions on the Loup Rivers Scenic Byway.

Our first stop, after a nearly four hour drive along country highways through small central Nebraska towns, was Happy Jack Peak and Chalk Mine.  The mine is located outside the town of Scotia, NE.  We stopped at a filling station to ask directions.  Even with the directions, I managed to miss the parking lot several times.

Entrance to the Happy Jack Chalk Mine.
The chalk mine, actually a diatomite mine, is one of only two known to exist in the United States and is the only one open to the public.  It is also advertised, according to the brochure I picked up, as:
"[N]ot just Nebraska's biggest underground adventure, it is Nebraska's only underground adventure."
In the office we payed the modest entry fee, the guide picked up a large hand lantern, and we went into the mine.  She told us about the history of the mine, the one death in the mine, the wild high school parties and dances that were held in the old mine, and pointed out interesting features in the soft walls including fossilized rodent burrows.  It was pretty cool in an odd sort of way.  We even saw some wildlife - a bat.  We left with a chunk of free souvenir diatomite (it's outside with our two chunks of Crazy Horse memorial).  More pictures of the mine can be found here.

We left and headed north in search of lunch in the another small town, Ord, NE, before going to our second attraction of the day, Fort Hartsuff.  Fort Hartsuff was built during the Indian Wars to protect settlers and friendly Native American tribes in the area.  The Fort is located in the Sand Hills and, due to the scarcity of trees in the area, was built of a material similar to concrete.  We watched a movie in the visitor's center before walking  through the buildings.  Once again I had to face the fact that most forts just don't look like the forts seen in the Westerns.  More Fort Hartsuff pictures can be found here.

Fort Hartsuff - Beautiful day on the parade grounds.
While we were talking to the ranger, she asked if we'd hiked up the short trail to the top of Happy Jack Peak.  We hadn't.  The view of the Loup River is supposed to be spectacular.  Sigh.  I'll have to go back sometime though I doubt I'll make it since it really isn't on the way to anything.

Out last stop was about an hour or so south in the town of St Paul, NE.  In a storefront space we found the Museum of Nebraska Major League Baseball.  It was a pretty good set up with interesting displays of the many major league players that had some tie to Nebraska such as Wade Boggs from Omaha.  It was put together better than the Bob Feller museum, though that museum was in a more interesting building.  I ended up not taking pictures here.

My next passport trip will probably be a solo mission as the Wife is back in school and college football season starts soon.  On the list of attractions: the Stuhr Museum, the Kearney Archway, Red Cloud, and more.  Stand By.

3 comments:

  1. I look at the mine entrance and think "AHHH!! I'm going to be murdered here!" so I appreciate the wide view of open sky and well-mowed field. :)

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  2. I am so jealous of your random travel days... stupid studying...

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  3. Miss McC: Ha HA HA! I doubt you will me killed in a chalk mine.

    GH: There is at least one more passport trip planned. Studying, though, is a much more productive use of your time.

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