In "On the Shores of Silver Lake" which follows 'Plum Creek' in the series the girls follow Pa to Silver Lake on the train after he goes to work on the railroad camp. There is a lot of description of this journey to Tracy so I was really surprised to find that Tracy is only a few miles from Plum Creek. I did check out the railway depot, but no photos!
Walnut Grove is another seasonal tourist location mainly because the TV series is all set in the town. As I never watched the TV show I was not really interested in the town itself - but as it turns out there is really not much in the town, and again, no other visitors at all. The only Laura-related thing I saw was the church bell - once funded (partially) by Pa when he donated the money he had for new boots to buy the church bell. Its now located outside the local congregational church - obviously not the original!
My destination at Walnut Grove was the site of the Ingalls' house on the banks of the creek. They initially move into a Dugout (like the one in De Smet) built into the creek banks. This appalls Ma, and having visited the one in De Smet I can understand why. The dugout is no longer there, but you can clearly see the depression where it was located.
|Remains of the dugout|
Before I came on this trip I re-read all the books with special attention to the ones relating to these locations. What I loved about Plum Creek was that it was so clearly the same location as described by Laura. I could stand where the dugout door would have been and look across the creek.
|View from the dugout|
The creek water level was high, so the big rock that Laura and Mary played on was submerged, but it was easy to imagine falling into the creek and nearly getting swept away like Laura did.
|Looking back across the creek to the dugout site|
While I was there (and again the only visitor) I met the farmer who owns this land. He told me that he was the 5th generation of his family farming the land. His farmhouse is most likely built on the site of the house Pa built eventually so they could move out of the dugout - but of the house itself there is no trace.
|The current farmhouse|
The farmer related that the dugout had actually been intact until a few years previously, but had become dangerous with visitors ignoring his warning barriers so he had let it fall down. I had planned to walk from the dugout site into town, as Laura and Mary did to get to school but there was no pathway and it started to rain. I got in my car and reflected on what a terrible pioneer I would have been!