July 19, 2012

on the banks

At the spot where the Ingalls' dugout was before collapsing in the 1920s.
My recent trip to Mankato, Minn., with my mom offered more than a few days with fellow Laura Ingalls Wilder enthusiasts. It brought us within two hours of Walnut Grove, Minn., the setting of On the Banks of Plum Creek.

The road from Mankato
to Walnut Grove literally
has LIW's name on it.

I am told it is also where the TV show took place, but in my smug devotion to the books, I have not seen Michael Landon's prairie creation and cannot personally attest to this fact.

Originally Mom and I planned to visit the LIW homesite with the other LauraPalooza attendees, but in our anxiousness to get home, we decided to skip lunch and stop by on our way home.

I was excited, because unlike my visits to Pepin, Wis., and De Smet, S.D., this time I had a partner in crime. Not only would I have someone to share the experience with, but it also meant I had another person on hand to take photos of me. I am pretty good at self portraits, but at some point you feel a little ridiculous.

In all seriousness, having another person there to share in my excitement made the visit all the more fun. For the past several years, I've kept my LIW admiration and Little House obsession mostly quiet and personal (except for the occasional blog post). But after a few days of talking about her at LauraPalooza and sharing it with my mom made me realize how awesome it is to be part of a community like that.

But back to the adventure...

Mom leads the way to the museum.
We started our adventure in town at the museum. With the local pageant in progress, Mom and I decided to skip the full tour and poked around the gift shop. We wanted to visit the sites relevant to the book, and though I am sure interesting, the museum was not a must see for me -- especially not when we had to fight a crowd..

Besides, I will visit more thoroughly someday. I have a big vision of touring all of the sites on one whirlwind trip when I have kids (there I go jinxing myself).

Why would I want to spoil all of the fun before then? 

The church bell Pa helped buy.
After a few minutes poking around the gift shop, Mom and I drive to a church a few blocks away. Thanks to my handy, twice-autographed guidebook courtesy of William Anderson, I knew that the bell in the tower is the same one Pa Ingalls helped buy in the book.

The original church is no longer standing, but the significance of the bell made the stop worth making. Even if you are not a fan of the books, knowing that the bell has been part of the community for so many years is an amazing thing. It's history and a gift from our ancestors to the future.

The site of the Ingalls dugout is a little more than a mile north of town. The Gordons, the owners of the land, allow people to check out the area for $5 a car. Well kept, informative and the homesite that looks most authentic to the time period of the book, that money was worth the experience. As an added perk, I managed to keep my crazy together and avoid crying at this spot. Go me!

Now for a few more photos:

The Gordons are gracious enough to let people tour the grounds and have even added a few walking trails with natural prairie restored in spots for our viewing pleasure.

Mom and I on the Banks of Plum Creek. Such a pretty spot and exactly like I imagined it from LIW's descriptions in the book.

Harnessing my inner prairie girl. 

Wading through the waters of Plum Creek just like Laura. This was maybe my favorite LIW home site visit activity and one I insist you try. It's worth dirtying your feet and having to awkwardly scrub and dry them clean in a truck stop restroom.

 The beautiful flowers growing. I wanted to channel my inner LIW and pick them, but, as Mom reminded me that if I did the next people to come would not get to enjoy them, too.

More photos from my LIW adventures are posted on Facebook if you would like to see them.

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