So we made it to three big spots this week. Pepin, Wisconsin, the birthplace of Laura and the site of the Little House in the Big Woods. Then because of logistics, we had to go out-of-order of the books; we headed to De Smet, South Dakota. That’s where the stories in The Long Winter and it was the final home place of Charles and Caroline Ingalls. The Shores of Silver Lake and These Happy Golden Years are also set in De Smet. After South Dakota, we drove back over to Walnut Grove, Minnesota. This is the Little Town on the Prairie (and site of the TV series, see earlier post) and The Banks of Plum Creek.
Each of these stops had a Laura museum and historical markers to visit. Each place had it’s own particular feel and charm. All are worth visiting and I am so grateful that we were able to see them all in sequence.
Briefly, here are some of my impressions. I plan to write a longer essay when we get back, but this can capture some of my thoughts before we get down the road. Remember, I am writing as an individual with my own idiosyncrasies, so please don’t just take my word for it- if you get the chance, take the Laura pilgrimage yourself!
Pepin, Wisconsin: Beautiful. Lunch on Lake Pepin was a great start to the Laura stops. The museum was quaint & staff so friendly. Gift shop was fun for the girls & helped to get us on a good start to the postcarding (I am creating this verb now). The museums and displays at the other towns got more elaborate, so I am glad that we started in Pepin and could build up. There was a play space for kids inside, so it would be good for very young children. The highlight for me in Pepin was the Little House Wayside. It is a replica cabin of the Little House in the Big Woods, but even though it is a reproduction, it is on the actual site of the home. I was able to take off my shoes and walk the ground. There is a copse of trees nearby and we sat on a blanket and wrote postcards. It wasn’t very crowded (for a few minutes we were the only ones there). Really it was a perfect start to the Laura trio.
De Smet, South Dakota: It was a big day. First we went to the Ingalls Homestead. It was fabulous. It’s on the original tree claim that Pa made. You enter through a large gift shop, and could spend a whole day touring the site and doing activities- both for adults and children. You can even camp on an adjacent site & you know I eyed those campers with some envy. Not that I necessarily felt like camping but O! to sleep on the ground that Laura lived on. I think next time, I will have to camp at least one night on the Homestead. So let’s see… covered wagon ride to the replica school house, pony ride and pony cart ride, garden with prairie grasses, cabin with play kitchen for the kids, an instructor to learn to wash clothes on a wash board, barn full of farm tools and buggies and surries to climb and play on. A dug out house and a claim shanty you can go in. Jump-rope making, corn cob doll activity and a demonstration of twisting wheat into knots that can be burned (my fave, you know how I am enthralled with TLW).
For my girls, the best thing ever was The Kittens. A grass roofed barn with a sweet baby cow and Kittens, Kittens, Kittens. Real, live kittens and enough for everyone so you don’t have to wait to hold one. I think they were in the barn for more than an hour. I left them to see the sod house & then claim shanty. Came back to check on them and they still were content. So then my highlight- I was able to go sit by the well that Pa dug. Sit all by myself and meditate. By the well that Pa dug. The actual well that Pa dug! Maybe I haven’t mentioned in this blog yet, but part of my research is on Water too. I was peaceful and happy for several undisturbed minutes. OK, I could dwell here awhile, but I gotta write faster. It’s almost time to check out of the hotel and get to Missouri.
Just outside the Homestead site, there is a spot you can walk that has 5 remaining Cottonwood Trees that Pa planted. That is a pretty holy site too.
In town, you go in Loftus’ Store – do that (more postcards). And then we took the guided tour where you can go in the Surveyor’s House (!!) and a some neat stuff in the middle and then end up at the House that Pa built in town (!!). Do it. Very cool.
Walnut Grove, Minnesota: Nice museum, lots of the kids to do, if you are a fan of the TV series, this is the place for you. For me, maybe the biggest deal so far is the Plum Creek site. $5 per car, you can walk up and get right in the creek. When I got there 4 or 5 kids were in the creek and the mom was taking pictures. Instead of saying “cheeeeeese”, they said “leeeeeeches”! There is a nice little marked natural path (.5 mile in either direction) that I walked a ways. When I got back, the kids were gone and I was able to sit on a rock in the creek by myself for several minutes. The Georgia clay I mixed into the banks of Plum Creek was a deep red in contrast to the black silt mud. Lots of butterflies and damselflies hovering and sparkling (the girls from my Elementals study group will know what that means!). Water, more wonderful living holy water.
Another big-deal-must-see in Walnut Grove is the pageant. It is a live theatre, 2 hour long presentation that the town puts on at night, under the stars beside Plum Creek. It is something special, and my girls loved it. More on that later.
OK, headed to Rocky Ridge – the Little House in the Ozarks. Will write more when I can.
Feeling blessed and so very grateful,