I didn't get a chance to share nearly enough about our trip to Colorado and Wyoming. Immediately after we returned a little series took up most of my time, but now I get to share some of the best moments of our trip. It was probably the BEST trip we've ever taken!
I knew we would be in Denver for a few days, and then had three more days to play with. In researching the area I found that there was a lot of history around Cheyenne; history of the Transcontinental Railroad and The Oregon Trail. The kids helped me every step of the way, and by the time we left for Colorado we had mapped and studied everything we wanted to see.
This isn't homeschool. This is LIFE.
We stayed in Cheyenne, WY (at a lovely Springhill Suites, but that's a whole other blog posts on awesome hotels!) and made a trek to visit Ames Monument. We all woke up early, ate a big breakfast at the hotel, packed our water bottles and snacks, and were off for the day.
The Ames Monument was the highest point on the Transcontinental Railroad and was constructed as a tribute to the Ames brothers, who were financiers for the railroad. The monument actually was a huge PR move for the Union Pacific Railroad Company and it's a very interesting story. You can read about that at Roadside America, a great site when you're planning a road trip, by the way.
The scenic route to the monument was via Happy Jack Road. This was perhaps one of the best drives in my memory. As we left Cheyenne we saw absolutely NOTHING. Nothing, that is, except, wind turbines and wide open sky. The dichotomy of the very modern wind turbines against the backdrop of a gorgeous October sky was incredible.
Technology is amazing - you would think we would have had no cell or 4G service, but we did, so as we drove I was Googling "wind farms", "wind turbines", and "wind energy". Homeschool science. Check.
Medicine Bow National Forest
About thirty minutes into our drive we knew we were approaching the Medicine Bow National Forest. The kids noticed a herd of cattle at the entrance to the forest. There was NOT A SOUL on the road or at the entrance. It was a bit eerie, but when we got out to take pictures and explore we realized what a gift it was to be alone.
It was ABSOLUTELY QUIET. The sky was HUGE. The awesomeness of God literally took my breath away.
The panoramic shots my husband got on his iPhone are quite beautiful. Unfortunately they are HUGE files and I would eat up a lot of space putting them on the blog. I can't adequately describe the expanse of nothingness and how beautiful that was.
We continued on to find Ames Monument. If you didn't have exact directions you would NEVER find it. It is barely visible from the interstate, and is located down a dirt road. We were shocked and please at how uncommercial this historic place was. Once again, we were the only people there and the sense of NOTHING and SKY was present.
This is the view as I stood in FRONT of the monument. I told the kids to try and imagine all of the railroad workers that came through this very area. I wanted them to imagine the hardships these workers faced, and the uncertainty of life in those days.
We had been reading about the construction of the railroad, and to be in the place where it all took place kind of boggled my mind.
The pyramid is 60 feet square and 60 feet square, made of pink granite. Oliver Ames faces west, towards California, while Oakes Ames faces east towards his "pals" in Washington, DC. Between the two of them, it is thought that they cheated taxpayers out of close to $50 million in the building of the railroad. This monument was an attempt to salvage their reputation. Travelers would get off at this stop and see the shrine to the Ames brothers.
"The road must be built, and you are the man to do it. Take hold of it yourself. By building the Union Pacific, you will be the remembered man of your generation."
The monument now belongs to the Wyoming Parks System and is being preserved nicely. It was surreal to be standing right next to it after we had studied it several weeks earlier.
The noses of the Ames brothers have been shot (and perhaps fallen) off. A picture didn't quite capture that, but the kids thought it was funny to see that yes, indeed their noses were gone.
I still can't get over all of the BLUE SKY in every picture from this day. It makes me smile whenever I think about it.
After our morning in Medicine Bow National Forest and visiting Ames Monument we headed to a Bison ranch for a train ride and trail rides. I'll blog more about that in Part II of the Very Awesome Homeschool Day.
Books For The Trip
I'd like to share our Transcontinental Railroad read alouds with you. Of course you know I had some books about all this!
Don't you love this picture? It almost looks too perfect, doesn't it? Yes, Wyoming is just that beautiful.
- Ten Mile Day and the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad (There is also a lapbook to go with this from Homeschool Share.) This book is about the laying of 10 miles of track in one day - a GREAT story!
- The Transcontinental Railroad (True Books: Westward Expansion)
- You Wouldn't Want to Work on the Railroad (A Track You'd Rather Not Go Down) My kids love this whole series of books. I always search for them when we're exploring any new topic.
*I'm linking this post with my friend, Amy, at Hope is the Word.