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Trip Report Pronghorns and Glenn Miller

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Last June I heard a news feature telling that there was a celebration that weekend in Ft. Morgan, CO celebrating big band leader Glenn Miller. Miller went to high school in Ft. Morgan and considered it his hometown.

Knowing that my wife was a big Glenn Miller fan (we both like the movie about his life), we used the opportunity to combine a visit to Ft. Morgan with a trip to the Pawnee Buttes on the Pawnee National Grassland.

We left Greeley that Friday and turned onto hwy 392 to Briggsdale. Just before Briggsdale, we spotted two pronghorn just off the right of the road in a pasture. I was quite surprised as we have never seen pronghorn in that area. It is not part of the National Grassland, but a rancher's pasture. Pronghorn do not jump over fences so I'm not sure how they got there. I have seen them duck under fences, but I would assume that a rancher would have his fences in order so calves don't get out.

In Briggsdale, we stopped at the very small grocery store. After getting some water and soda pop, I also grabbed the brochures on the Grassland. If you haven't stopped at the HQ in Greeley, it is a must to get the info and the map at the store.

We went east on Hwy 14 then followed the directions thru Keota to the Buttes. A couple of intersections were poorly marked so use of the map is very helpful. At one intersection, the directional arrows pointed both north and east. We took the east route. It turned out to be the rougher road. Although 4 wheel drive was not necessary, I was glad we had a high clearance vehicle. On the way out, we took the other trail and it was much better.

We stopped at the trailhead. It has parking for about a dozen cars and two portable toilets. It is open range in that area so there are cattle at a nearby water tank (the Grassland has a mix of federal and private land). The buttes are home to eagles, falcons, and hawks. From April 1 to June 30, some areas are off limits to protect nesting birds. We had hoped to see nests, but we were not able to get close enough to see them even thru binoculars.

We walked about 1/2 mile to get as close as allowed. The trail is well maintained with perhaps a 200 ft, decline to where we stopped. There were lots of birds in the area. A bird checklist is available. Among others, we saw an avocet and a horned lark (I needed to email a picture to my birdwatching brother to identify it).

On our way out, I got turned around and we went the wrong way for a while, but it was worth it as we saw another two pronghorn. On the correct road out, we spotted an adult pronghorn and a fawn. That is the first fawn we have seen this year (including this trip, we had seen at least 16 different pronghorn in the previous two months).

East and then south to New Raymer and then continuing on south , we were in Ft. Morgan by noon. The town museum is at the Library, right there on Main Street. There is no admission charge but a donation is nice. The museum has an excellent display of Indian arrowheads and spear points, dating from 5000 BC to the 1800's. Very nice displays on the history of Ft. Morgan are just enough to be interesting without being tedious. There are display cases of local celebrities including rodeo cowboys and pro golfer Dale Douglas. One very unusual exhibit is the depression area 'Sanitary Privy' designed to keep the bugs out!

But the main attraction of the museum is the Glenn Miller exhibit. Again, I think it is just about right with a short history of him at Ft. Morgan and as he became famous and then his unfortunate death in WWII. Various items from his life, posters from the movies, and newspaper articles are also present.

Next we had lunch at a local restaurant - Memories Restaurant - with an interesting decor featuring items from bygone days. I had a nice French dip while DW had a grilled cheese (with tomato in it - unusual but good) and excellent Green Chile Pork soup.

The ride home was on I 76 and then Hwy 34 to Greeley. Uneventful but we did pass one dairy that also had a few buffalo in one paddock.

This is not a trip that anyone would make a special journey for, but if someone is spending time in Northeast Colorado, I would recommend it as a nice day trip.

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