Sunday, June 30, 2013

Devil's Tower to Sheridan WY

Our next stop was Sheridan, WY, but on the way we stopped to see Devil's Tower. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt established Devils Tower as the nation's first national monument.

There's a short walk around the base. This is a sacred site to the Native Americans, and along the way they have tied prayer cloths.

You can also see some of the many climbers who go to the top of the 5,112-foot high tower.

There are many theories from geologists and Native Americans as to how the tower was created. This is my favorite, though --

According to the Native American tribes of the Kiowa and Lakota Sioux, some girls went out to play and were spotted by several giant bears, who began to chase them. In an effort to escape the bears, the girls climbed atop a rock, fell to their knees, and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. Hearing their prayers, the Great Spirit made the rock rise from the ground towards the heavens so that the bears could not reach the girls. The bears, in an effort to climb the rock, left deep claw marks in the sides, which had become too steep to climb.

In Sheridan, we had special permission to stay at the Sheridan Gun Club.

We had a gorgeous view of the snow-covered mountains.

Sheridan is a real cowboy town. The Mint Bar is over 100 years old.

They are also murals and many statues in town. There is even a "Custom Cowboy Shop." I had to think long and hard about what I wanted, but the most important thing was that he said "Yes, dear." Can you believe they just laughed at me when I put in my order?!?

Unfortunately, they also have a lot of hail here - 3 days in a row for us. This was the first day - forcasted as dime-size hail, but combined with 60-mile per hour winds.


By the third day, the forecast was up to ping-pong ball-size hail. Although it was bigger, the winds weren't as strong, and I had no more damage. I replaced the broken vent lid with an "unbreakable" one, so we'll see...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Spearfish Canyon and Deadwood

Spearfish Canyon, south of Spearfish, SD is home to some gorgeous waterfalls. The prettiest one, Roughlock Falls, is down a 1-mile trail.

The trail was a little muddy in places -

But the end of the trail was definitely worth it.

We also attempted to hike to Spearfish Falls.

But the bridge on the trail has been washed out. Why couldn't they tell us that before we went all the way down the hill??

But wait a minute! All is not lost. There's some really neat rusty stuff down here!

We then drove over to Deadwood. This is the historic site of Saloon Number 10, where Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed in 1876, while playing poker, holding the now famous "Dead Man's Hand" of Aces and Eights.

We went up to the cemetery to see his grave, and that of his friend, Calamity Jane.

Another odd thing we found in the Black Hills in the town of Keystone - did Paul and Marti have to go back to work???

They had some beautiful chainsaw carvings there, even some you could climb on.

Wait - I think I found the real carver - he must be a child genious!

(More info on the real carvers, apparently this little guy's father and uncle, and pictures of their creations, are here)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wildlife in the Black Hills

One day the group went on a tour of the Black Hills on the Needles Highway, and came back through Custer State Park. The Needles are a beautiful region of eroded granite pillars, towers, and spires.

There is even an Eye of the Needle.

The Highway is very twisty, and goes through several tunnels. Three of them line up with Mount Rushmore, purposely built that way.

This year we saw more buffalo than ever - both on the Needles Highway and in Custer State Park. When they want to cross the road, you better STOP!

Don't worry, I was in the car. But it was still scary they way he was coming right at the vehicle.

Besides lots of big males, there were a lot of mothers and babies. Lunch time!

And the prairie dogs were multiplying too.

The funniest, friendliest wildlife were the "Begging Burros" in Custer SP. They just line up on the road, and milk the tourists for everything they can. You don't even have to get out of the car - they just stick their heads in the windows.

Phil brought some grapes for the little beggers.

Which were healthier than the cookies this lady was handing out. But they will eat anything - and this practice is not frowned upon by park officials.

We also stopped by Sylvan Lake, created by a dam built in 1881.

And we took a short hike around the lake, where at one point we walked through a tunnel created by the rocks.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mount Rushmore

There is so much to see in the Black Hills of South Dakota that we were busy for a whole week and didn't make a dent. But the most famous attraction is Mount Rushmore. We saw a preview of it from the Needles Highway. It's amazing how small it looks from far away -

Compared to when you get to the monument. Those heads are 60 feet high.

The story of how Mount Rushmore came to be is just fascinating. Rather than repeat it, you can read the story on Wikipedia here if you are curious.

But I will tell you why these 4 American presidents were chosen, taken from the Mount Rushmore brochure. Washington guided a struggling new country - everything he did set a precedent, including the creation of the cabinet system, census polls, and the federal banking system.

Jefferson, the primary author of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, determined the course this newly formed democratic government would take. He also secured the Louisiana Purchase, adding to the Western half of our country.

Jefferson was originally supposed to be on the far left of the monument, but the mountain had too many faults there, so the initial work was blasted away, and he was moved to the other side of Washington. The sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, said, "I have no intention of leaving a head on the mountain that in the course of 500 or 5,000 years will be without a nose."

Lincoln had the moral integrity to stand for what was right in the face of great opposition. He extended freedom to all people at the cost of a devastating civil war and many lives, yet through this he was able to keep the union of American states intact.

Theodore Roosevelt secured the Panama Canal, ushering in a new era of economic growth and increased American involvement and leadership in world affairs. He was also one of the greatest conservationists in US history.

I love the clever way Roosevelt's face was carved to make it look like he has glasses on.

That's all I have for now, so are you ready for it? (Gee, I hope Judy approves...)


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mammoth Site

Located near Hot Springs, SD, Mammoth Site is the world's largest mammoth research facility.

This was the site of a 60-foot deep sinkhole 26000 years ago. The mammoths were attracted by the warm spring, slipped in, and couldn't get back out.

The site was discovered fairly recently - in 1974.

Sixty mammoths have been found here in this tiny area!

We had a short tour where the guide used the kids to demonstrate the size of the bones. This is a femur - upper leg bone.

And this is a jaw bone! Of course these are replicas, so I guess they weren't very heavy...

There was a nice museum, in the same building as the dig site. It was definitely worth the visit. It reminded me of the Ashfall Fossil Beds, which I visited in 2010, but their site was 12 MILLION years old. That post is here.