|Rattler in the Grass|
I abandoned my position at Fort Morgan's Riverside Park in the early morning hours and made for the museum/library to do some work and check out the exhibits. I ended up being limited to a shocking fifteen minutes at the computers and was forced to beg for enough time to finish even one journal. How am I supposed to run a successful meth distribution business with these kinds of time constraints?
The museum across the hall brought a more fruitful haul, a treasure trove of local info. Apparently I have been following the Overland Trail, which was used by those seeking the glitter of gold following a strike in the hills surrounding Denver in the year 1858. The route mostly follows the South Platte, whose mixture of agricultural runoff with a little water is a little less palatable to travelers from the modern day.
Fort Morgan was one in a string of forts which protected those rushing to riches. The outpost was named in honor of Colonel Christopher Morgan, who survived the Civil War only to slightly killed by an exploding gas stove a year later. Fort Sedgwick, another part of the chain, was named after a Union general who died at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. Artists aren't the only breed who have a better chance of posthumous success.
In fact, having success in life seems to have been considered a failing during this era. The only Pony Express station to survive unharmed a series of Indian attacks in 1864 was renamed Fort Wicked.
Modern day Fort Morgan is known for their sugar beets. The vegetable was first used to replace sugar cane during an embargo of the West Indies by the French and English during the Napoleonic Wars. Once widely produced in Northeastern Colorado, the crop has been beet down in recent years. Fort Morgan has the only remaining factory.
Now for today's Did U Know? Big band leader Glenn Miller was born in Fort Morgan. Those who saw him play live in his heyday, please do not remove your feeding tubes in your excitement.
Believe it or not I managed to absorb all this titillating knowledge by ten and was on the road again, passing Columbine Elementary School on my way. The famous attacks did not happen here, but the name still brings me chills. I will be seeing the word a lot - there are many schools and parks named after the columbine flower, once a symbol of mountain beauty.
I followed 144 for the rest of the day, stopping in Weldona to fill my water and have a late lunch or early dinner, whatever you want to call a hamburger at four o'clock. This tiny town has seen a few events of its own. When the Colorado capital was under discussion Weldona made the final three selections, only to lose out to Denver. In the early to mid 20th century the populace was large enough to support three separate grocery stores.
The placement of US-34 several miles off doomed Weldona to its present size of a couple hundred. There are no grocery stores. On the bright side, things could have been worse. President Carter nixed a plan to create a dam which would have seen the land Weldona occupies buried under the reservoir.
On another positive note, the town has retained their school, which has a famously successful six man football team. They even won the national championship a few years back. In a strange quirk of scheduling they actually lost the state final a week later. Their most famous alum is Joel Dreesen, a new member of the Denver Broncos, who has played the last few years in Houston. Now paired with Peyton Manning, Joel is in line for a possible breakout season.
A short hour after leaving Weldona I came upon another possible first. The tail end of a rattler stuck out of the grass right on the edge of the road. The body seemed intact and the rattle, usually cut off of dead snakes as a souvenir, was still attached, leading me to believe he was still alive. Unfortunately, I could not see the head to make sure. After pausing to consider a number of really stupid things I could do to ascertain his life status I made a rare intelligent decision and left homeboy alone out of mad respect for his venomous skills.
The rest of the day saw me limping towards the finish line at Jackson Lake State Park. I had fiddled with my straps enough to overcome the irritation of the day before, but my right foot now wanted its turn in the spotlight. Heel pain and a vicious blister on my pinky toe meant the last few miles were not completed without a price. I didn't reach the camping grounds on the far northwest of the lake until sunset. I passed into dreamland hoping there was no permanent damage.
20 miles/1422 total miles