On the Road With Laura Ingalls Wilder--Part I

Monday, May 17, 2010

I just returned from a road trip with my 90-year-old mother. When I decided to take her on a vacation, I looked for somthing that would interest both of us and wouldn't be too taxing for her (or for me).

The trip that fit the bill? Visiting the places where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived.

Most of you know who Laura Ingalls Wilder was, so I won't go into much detail. But for those of you who don't, she wrote the Little House books (Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, and more). She wrote them for children, but many adults like them, too.

Although some parts of the Little House books are fictionalized, Laura based them on her own life. That means our road trip took us to the real places she lived and wrote about.

Laura's family did a lot of backtracking and Mama and I didn't want to, so our trip did not follow the exact sequence of Laura's books (or her life). But it was an interesting way to learn about a beloved children's author. It is also a good trip for the young and the elderly alike. While people who have trouble walking or climbing might have to forgo a couple of items of interest, my mother was able to see most of them.

We started in Pepin, Wisconsin (Little House in the Big Woods), which is the closest town to where Laura was born. Pepin has a small museum, but it doesn't open for the season until May 15, so we didn't get to see it. I'm guessing, though, that much of the information there would have duplicated exhibits we saw at other museums.

From Pepin, we followed the signs to a wayside at the approximate location of the Ingalls' home. The wayside contains a replica of a log cabin that does not match the description in the book but was still interesting. The location is the main thing, anyway.

In her books, Laura traveled next to Indiana Territory, Kansas (Little House on the Prairie), but we left that for later. Instead, we drove to Walnut Grove, Minnesota (On the Banks of Plum Creek). Walnut Grove has a nice museum with exhibits about Laura and the TV show (which was set in Walnut Grove rather than Indian Territory, where the book of the same title took place). The museum also has a replica of a dugout and has several old buildings, most without any connection to Laura. The exhibits took two hours or less.

Next, we drove to the banks of Plum Creek, and I took the trail to the dugout site. This is one place where my mother stayed in the car. It would be an easy hike for most people, but it was a little too much for Mama's 90-year-old legs.

The picture at the head of this post shows Plum Creek, with the dugout site at the top of the bank (where the billboard-size sign is). The dugout is now just a depression in the ground, but you can see from the picture that the bank was high enough for it.

Next week's post will continue the trip with stops at De Smet, South Dakota and Burr Oak, Iowa.


Caroline said...

Lovely, Kathryn! Great books that many cherish. I'm enjoying reading about your trip.

Linda Glaz said...

Wow. You're lucky to have been there. How nice.

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