Lots of people making a Laura trip for the first time, especially those who haven’t put in a lot of effort to research what’s there, don’t know what to expect at a Laura homesite town. The more you put into prepping a trip and asking questions ahead of time the more you get out of it. Most of these towns don’t tell you everything in an one stop shopping type format and all of them house extra little jewels if you’re willing to dig.
However, no matter which Laura town you visit the best piece of advice I can give you is to park your car, get out and walk. Laura didn’t experience these towns zooming by a car window and to get the best experience neither should you. This was borne into me again in my last trip to De Smet.
My favorite Laura experience happened in De Smet during a Laura conference. I was wearing a long dress and walked up the road from the schoolhouse back up to the front gate. It was really a magical experience. The sun beat down, the wind tossed the prairie grasses, kids were singing, insects were buzzing and little clouds of dust swirled up with each step. This was the very road that Laura and her whole family must have walked a 1000 times, I felt like Laura was just over the hill at any minute.
A more practical experience getting a feel for the town can be had in any town. Although I’ve walked all over De Smet (there is even an official walking tour now) and I even met a family once who had taken an airport shuttle to town (from the “big city”) and more walking literally everywhere for the week. I think Pepin offers a great example of getting a feel for the town by walking. When I am town for Laura Days I tend to park my car either by the library or the Pepin Motel if I’m staying there, and leave it there until I head over to the Wayside (the replica cabin site) and the Little House Store in Lund. Walking gives you a feel for the town, how close things are. In the right part of town you’ll see all kinds of unique shops that you can see. It gives you a feel for the spaces involved. Some day, like Pa, I’m going to walk out to the Wayside, as soon as I can talk somebody into doing it with me.
You don’t have to walk as far as that, but I want to encourage everyone on your next Laura trip. Get out and walk!