Our next stop was Dodge City for lunch. Boot Hill was closed so we ate fast food and moved on. How do you know you are in Dodge City? There is Wyatt Earp Liquor, Wyatt Earp Inn, Doc Holiday Liquor, Miss Kitty Boutique, Boot Hill 66 and Hitch' Post Travel Plaza. I even thought I saw Shoots Haircutting.
At Kinsley Hwy 56 meets the Santa Fe Trail. Near Larned is Fort Larned, a National historical site. This is well worth a stop. The Fort has been almost completely restored complete with furnishings, clothes and guns. Pete Bethke was the Park Service Ranger in charge when we were there. Perhaps it was because we were the only visitors at the time, but he took the time to answer all of our questions in detail. Almost all the buildings were open.
Fort Larned was built as a guardian of the Santa Fe trail in 1860. The trail carried several million dollars in commercial traffic between Independence Mo. and Santa Fe NM. With the acquision of land after the Mexican War and the gold rushes the trail became even more popular. Soon the great influx of travelers began to disrupt the Indians way of life so skirmishes and full scale attacks began. Fort Larned was built to protect travelers along the Trail. Mr. Bethke told us that actually it was cheaper for the infantry to walk with the travelers rather than the cavalry on horses.
The need for the fort decreased after the railroad progression in the 1870s and in 1884 it was sold at public auction. For the next 80 years it was a working farm, with the family living in the General's headquarters. In 1964 Fort Larned became a national historical site. Most of the buildings have been kept intact with the exception of the Blockhouse which was rebuilt exactly as it was originally. We are looking forward to taking our grandchildren to visit during one of the Park's summer programs. Mr. Bethke told us the children are allowed to sit on the bunkbeds and try on the soldiers clothing. Again, it is one of only five Kansas National historical sites (Nicodemus, Brown v. Board of Education, Fort Scott and Tallgrass Prairie).
From Fort Larned we traveled just a few miles more to stop at the Santa Fe Trail museum. We stayed so long at the fort that we only had a short time at the museum before it closed. The one fact I learned there was that merchants traveled on the Santa Fe Trail north from Mexico as well as south from Independence. The museum had many exhibits of period clothing, wagons, dishes, etc. It is well done and worth the small admission charge.
We briefly stopped by Pawnee Rock, a once high outcropping of rock on the prairie that could be seen for miles. At the top of the rock, the flag at Fort Larned could be seen.
It was dark when we arrived to a joyous welcome at Salina. We played games with the boys, our kids, ate some welcome homecooked food and went to bed. Sunday would be a stop by Chapman to visit Mom and home.