Bridgeport, Nebraska – Initial enemy contact

The elevator in Jewel Cave Monument is broken. There is no possibility to get us down to the stalactite cavern system, one of the large ones in the world, 100 m deeper under the Black Hills. We return via Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park and head into Nebraska with its endless prairie, uncounted grasses, and where the sky is big and the horizon far.

Once the settlers with their covered wagons followed the Oregon Trail to the west. On their way through the seemingly never ending plain landmarks were not only optical changes but a welcome navigation aid. The Mormon Trail and the Pony Express Service took the same route. Three of these rock shapes follow each other in a short distance in Nebraska. The first Courthouse & Jail Rocks named formation is right behind Bridgeport. The second landmark a few miles further west is rightly named Chimney Rock: a vent, a thin finger that points the direction. There is no sign prohibiting to park overnight, so we stay at the foot of the rock to get away as far as possible from the penetratingly hooting trains.

At 11.30 pm we are reading in our bed. Suddenly there are voices, light, the cabin shakes – somebody is climbing on Arminius! It knocks on the door: “Police! Somebody in there?” It seems to be better to open the door. Two policemen with two cars and flashlights explain us that they have been alarmed by the nightly patrol of the monument: “Up there is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen in my life!” The officers are kind and very curious and understand that we just wanted to sleep a night here. “Normally we don’t allow somebody to camp here… what’s the mileage of the truck?” They think to and fro and actually we should better park on the campground down the road, which is empty but not locked in winter (that’s where the trains pass by). The kids came up here and were doing their kids’ things. Whatever this means. We should be careful. And then both of them agree to just let us camp here and clear off. They didn’t even ask for an ID.

Half an hour later another car approaches – kids who want to do their kid’s things? Our vehicle appears not only weird, but dangerous as well. At least the car disappears faster than if came. Then all is quiet.

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