Monday, July 22, 2013

A Walk on Fort Leavenworth

I've been hard on Kansas.  We arrived in the dead of winter, missed the holidays with family, got snow (lots and lots of snow!).  We are smack dab in the middle of the country and all of our family and friends are on the coasts.  It is hard for me to find the silver lining of Fort Leavenworth and lately I've been feeling guilty.  Like I haven't given a new friend a chance.

One thing I do love about it here is the history.  The Fort is teeming with amazing history around every corner.  When I go on walks I always discover something new to look at, read, and think about.  Last night was a beautiful summer night and John had a lot of work to do in the office.  So instead of curling up on the couch alone, I grabbed my camera and went for a walk.  I decided to take pictures of the things that caught my eye.  In doing so I really learned what an amazing place this really is; that I am lucky to spend a year here. 

Where else in one short 3 mile walk can you see the remnants of the Oregon Trail, one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas, a section of the Berlin Wall, the Missouri River, the oldest residence in Kansas, a wall erected to protect Leavenworth from the Indians during westward expansion, lakes, parks, cool old homes, and of course the old United States Disciplinary Barracks prison (the US military's only maximum security prison).  3 miles!  All from my front door.  Pretty cool, right? 

Brief History:

The elevation of this area is 896 feet above sea level.  It is 150 feet higher than the Missouri River which attracted the attention of Colonel Henry Leavenworth who in the spring of 1827, selected the site and built the first permanent United States military establishment west of the Missouri River - Now Fort Leavenworth
Fort Leavenworth's location was actually was selected when Kansas was not in US territory.  It was a very brazen move to take the high elevation on the west side of the Missouri.
My 3 mile(ish) walk started right outside my front door.  I live in Infantry Barracks, a cluster of old barracks that were converted into housing for families at the Command and General Staff College.  They barracks were constructed in 1902 and 1903, I'm not sure when they were converted to homes.  

Infantry Barracks, circa 1902
I walked south on Grant Avenue, the main drag at Leavenworth.  

The first thing that caught my eye was the Trolley Line.  On the west side of grant there are two rows of trees.  Between those trees is an area that you can tell is still somewhat worn from when there was a trolley system on the Fort.  

The old trolley line.  To the left is Grant Ave.
I personally never noticed the old trolley line until John pointed it out to me one day.  To the right of the Trolley Line is Merritt Lake and the golf course.  There were tons of families out enjoying the evening, eating a picnic dinner, and fishing.  There were also lots of families just out jogging or walking. 

Merritt Lake
After looking at Merritt Lake I crossed to the east side of Grant and walked by one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas - the Buffalo Soldier Monument.  

Buffalo Soldier Monument
After checking out the monument, I walked around Smith Lake (the lake to the east of Grant) and up toward the staff college where they have a piece of the Berlin Wall.  

 "Tear down this wall"

The Berlin Wall is located behind the staff college and on Smith Lake.

Smith Lake 

To cut back up to a road that had sidewalks, I went through the covered walkway between the Command General Staff College building and the newly remodeled library.  Then went up Wint Ave and took a left on Sherman Ave.

Sherman Avenue is right on the Missouri River.  From Sherman Avenue I took in the view.

And learned a little bit about Lewis & Clark and the "Highway to the West".

Sherman Avenue has many of the old "Main Post" homes.  These homes were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s and it makes me incredibly happy to see how well preserved they have been despite their age and the beating they get by being moved into and out of every 2-4 years.

A typical duplex style home on Sherman Ave.  These homes have views of the Missouri River.
Where Sherman Avenue turns into Scott Avenue is Grant Hall and the Grant Hall Bell Tower.  Grant Hall is the headquarters of the US Army Combined Arms Center but it used to house the staff college. The bell tower is one of my favorite things on Fort Leavenworth.  We can see it from our house and I just find it very charming.   Grant Hall is also a very beautiful building and I absolutely LOVE the lanterns. 

Right across from Grant Hall is one of the flag (General) officer homes.  This home belongs to the highest ranking officer on the Post and his commute is across the street to Grant Hall.  It makes me giggle that he still has a reserved parking space.  

I tried to be incognito taking this picture because the family was on the screen porch.  Stalker-central, right?
The home is the former site of the Soldiers Burying Ground.  Now you know why so many people think the homes on Leavenworth are haunted...

Across the street from the General's house, canons pointing into Missouri.  Sorry, MO.

As I continued north on Scott, I admire the many international flags.  There are hundreds of international students and staff on Fort Leavenworth.  It is one of the things we like most about living here.  In John's section alone (16 officers) there are three international student officers. 

 Yay, UK! (pretending to be paparazzi in the trees)
 One of my favorite homes
On Scott is Zais Park, or what we call "The Christmas Park" in my family.  When we arrived in Leavenworth last December this park was lit up like you wouldn't believe.  If you are in the area, I highly recommend checking it out during the holidays.

At Riverside Drive there is one of the original fort walls that was constructed to keep the Native Americans out. 

I went west on Riverside, and then a right onto Sumner Place.  Sumner is notorious for being the most haunted block on Fort Leavenworth
The Rookery, aside from being haunted, is the oldest residential dwelling in Kansas.  It was built in 1834.  The rumor is that the housing office here makes you sign a waiver if you move in.  The waiver excuses them from liability if you choose to move out due to the ghosts.  Apparently people were moving in, getting scared, and then moving out costing the housing office a lot of money.  Now, move in if you dare...

Just north of the Rookery is the old United States Disciplinary Barracks.  The prison has since moved to a more modern facility on the fort, but the old bones of the former prison are still here.  It now houses offices and a restaurant.

On the way home this duplex caught my eye.  I like to think that the neighbor on the right is subtly countering the West Point flag with an "Annapolis" flag.  What is a better symbol of Annapolis than a crab?!

Walking west on McPherson Ave heading home I took a picture of one of MANY different historical markers.  You don't even have to read, you just push a button and listen.

I took a left and went back down toward our house by the old hospital that now houses youth services and other offices.  One thing I love about the old hospital are the cool dormer windows.

And then I was back on Pope Ave, the opposite side of our housing area.  A 3 mile walk, lots of history, and it is only a small fraction of the post. 

I know that one day I will remember the beautiful walks on Fort Leavenworth and miss it. 
Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dear Kate, You're 4

You're 4!  How did that happen, sweet girl?

Some days I swear that I can still smell and feel and taste the way the hospital was the weekend you were born.  I remember your tiny little body and your sweet little cries and the fear I had because you were too early and I wasn't ready.  You transformed me into a mother in the blink of an eye and I remember just being so incredibly overwhelmed with love and fear and happiness and anxiety.

I remember the first time your daddy left the two of us alone.  He had to go home to get a few items for me (my glasses! who forgets their glasses?) and as soon as he stepped out of the room I felt, for the first time, that new mommy fear.  What do I do with this little person?  Do I hold her?  Do I put her in the bassinet?  What if a nurse comes in and I'm not holding her right?  What will they think of me as a mom?  Little did I know that it was the very beginning of mother guilt and doubt.  It was the first of many life lessons we have experienced together.  It is true that children are their parent's greatest teachers in life.

I remember John coming back to the hospital and telling me how he could smell you on his clothes, on his hands, everywhere.  You had only been in the world for 12 hours but you were already everywhere around us.  You had imprinted on him and he was forever changed.  Wherever your daddy and I go, today and forever, you come with us.

You were our first baby.  We tried hard not to make any mistakes with you but I am sure we made some, and will continue to make some, on this journey of parenthood.  Your first week at home I obsessed over every ounce you gained, and worried every time you slept too long or didn't sleep at all. You were our miracle, our blessing, and we were absolutely terrified at how much we loved you.

Looking at you now, I cannot believe what a beautiful little girl you have become.  You aren't a baby anymore, you aren't a toddler, you are a little girl!  You are inquisitive and gentle, you are smart and focused, you love others deeply and light up the room with your smiles and winks.  You love so easily and so openly and I admire your ability to forgive quickly and comfort others even when you are hurting.  You have taught me a lot about forgiveness and being open to others.  I love that you are so friendly to other children and that you are quick to play with whoever approaches you.  I hope you continue to be so kindhearted and sweet spirited for making others feel worthy and important is a wonderful trait to possess.

You love school and your teachers and classmates.  You are so intent on learning to read and write right now.  I love how you ask questions all day and practice your writing for fun.  Your focus is breathtaking and you got that trait from your daddy.  Right now you really seem to enjoy insects which often freaks me out because you will calmly walk over to me and place bugs in my hands that you find so that I can put them outside.  "Isn't he cuuuuute?", you ask.  I fake a "yes, sweety of course" while I make a quick bolt toward the door.  Maybe in a few years you will be disposing of the spiders during daddy's deployments. 

For this next year I wish for you happiness and knowledge and friendship and love.  Daddy, Connor, and I love you more than anything and are so proud to be your family.  Happy birthday, Kate-Kate, here's to a wonderful 5th year!

Love, Mommy

Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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