Following the Ingalls Wilder Trail

As a family we have always been a fan of the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her descriptions of the life of her and her husband are interesting and engaging (especially for younger readers). On our recent trip across the country and back we were able to stop off at two historic landmarks along the Ingalls Wilder Trail.

The first stop was at the childhood home of Laura’s husband, Almanzo Wilder, just outside of the town of Malone, New York. The Wilder Homestead isn’t the easiest attraction to find (they definitely need more road signs). However, the grounds and tour more than make up for the 30 minutes that we spent looking for the homestead. Our tour guide was very informative and engaging, giving us a comprehensive tour of the school house, barns, and house. We spent the most time in the recreated barns that house many artifacts from the time when the Wilder Family farmed in Upper-state New York. We were most impressed with the original house and the very large tree growing outside the front door. Several families have lived in the house since Almanzo and his family left, but the foundation is still original, and you can see the black spot that Almanzo made on the wall as described in the book Farmer Boy.

Our second stop was in the town of De Smet, South Dakota where Laura Ingalls’ family moved in 1879 when her farther Charles took a job with the railroad. The family stayed in De Smet and started a homestead. When visiting De Smet there are many historic sites to view including the cemetery where Pa, Ma, Mary, Carrie, and Grace Ingalls are all buried. For our tour of the area we decided to visit the original homestead that Pa started. There are five humongous cottonwood trees still standing today that Pa planted back in the 1880’s. From the homestead we walked a trail leading along the Silver Lake slough. We then headed into town to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society where we were able to view the original Surveyors’ House that the family stayed in and Laura wrote about in her book The Long Winter.

There are many more historic sites to visit along the Ingalls Wilder Trail each with amazing history. Five of Hearts would love to visit where Laura lived near Walnut Grove, Minnesota as well as Rocky Ridge Farm where Laura and Almanzo lived in Missouri until their deaths. Until then we will keep enjoying the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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Traveling in Sandy’s Wake

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We pushed up our departure day leaving Maine ahead of Hurricane Sandy. We were able to visit a very deserted Boston on Sunday and arrive in Connecticut with plenty of time to settle in with relatives and wait out the storm. As we received reports that our house back in Maine was being quickly advanced upon by the rising tide we watched the high winds in awe. By Tuesday morning the highway was reopened and we had a very somber drive towards New York City as we surveyed Sandy’s destruction. With the George Washington closed down we re-routed to the Tapenze and crossed the river just as a bit of sun produced a rainbow. Our New Jersey hotel had electricity even though it was just blocks away from badly hit areas. As we looked across at the skyline of New York City our thoughts were with all those who suffered from the storm.

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Best Laid Plans

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After leaving the Mystic Seaport we booked it to Hammonasset State Park in Madison, CT. We were lucky that they had a few campsites still open for the night. The campground was extremely clean with a great staff and extensive facilities including dishwashing sinks and recycling. We put off setting up the tent and opted to head to one of the three ocean beaches that are part of the park. It was after returning from the beach that we realized that all three kids had come down with a head cold and were all extremely tired and cranky. Needless to say it was a rough night that included crying, groaning and the occasional scream. Our camp neighbors must have been pleased when at 5am we threw in the towel, put the kids in the car, and hit the road. We had planned on making it to New York City and were greatful for the early head start but definitely could have used a little more sleep.

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All in all the drive through this highly congested stretch of Route 1 from Central Connecticut to New York City went pretty smoothly. We had planned on stopping for a break at the Rye, New York Nature Center only to find it occupied by day campers. Fortunately we found an alternate picnic site just down the road at the Post Road Market, where we refueled and had some great parking lot conversations with the friendly locals. From there we traversed straight through the Bronx and over the George Washington Bridge. The kids forgot about their stuffy noses as they took in the many sights and sounds from bodegas to street side protests. As always Five String gets major props for seemlessly navigating the Mazda5 through the twists and turns that finally spit us out at our New Jersey hotel. Not exactly the most memorable of days but one that nonetheless carried us a little further down Route 1.