“She glances at the photo, and the pilot light of memory flickers in her eyes.”
Frank Deford

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Vacation in South Dakota - Part 4

Here's the last in the series of photos from my vacation last month.  In this post I'm including photos from the Tri-State Museum and Center of the Nation monument in Belle Fourche; Devils Tower (just over the border in Wyoming); and Roughlock Falls in Spearfish Canyon.

The Center of the Nation monument marks the geographical center of the USA (including Alaska and Hawaii; the center of the lower 48 states is in Kansas).  It sits behind the Tri-State Museum, which is full of items of local historical interest, along with quite a few oddities.

Devils Tower is quite impressive; if you've seen the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" you'll recognize it right away.  Its made of volcanic-type material, though they think it was just an upsurge of molten material and not part of an actual volcano.  There's a nice trail that loops around the base; I was able to see several rock climbers making their way up the square columns.

On the way home from there, I drove down Spearfish Canyon, which is very beautiful:  high canyon walls, heavily wooded, with a river and waterfalls flowing through it.  The most visited falls is in Roughlock State Park - a series of cascades with a trail that goes down alongside it with several viewing areas.  It was very cool and refreshing there.

Anyway,  I hope you've enjoyed my travelog - maybe I've piqued your interest and you'll make a trip to South Dakota yourself!  Enjoy.

Center of the Nation Monument.

At the Tri-State Museum:
an old 1930s permanent wave machine.

Use an x-ray to fit your shoes!

Ladies must ride side saddle - doesn't look too safe or comfortable.

Devils Tower amid the fields and farmland.

Native American prayer shawls - the site is sacred to the local tribes.

Rock climbers way up high.

Devils Tower in the rear view mirror...

Beautiful Wyoming countryside.

Spearfish Canyon.

Roughlock Falls.

Friendly native.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Vacation in South Dakota - Part 3

Today I'm posting photos from Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Custer State Park, Jewel Cave National Monument and Crazy Horse Memorial.  The two things I remember from visiting South Dakota when I was young was a vague image of Mount Rushmore and the begging burros in Custer SP (the donkeys were very aggressive - when one of us rolled down our car window, they put their whole heads in looking for food - actually, I have a picture of that somewhere).

The visiting experience at Mount Rushmore has improved greatly - there are wonderful interpretive displays in the museum, everything from explaining how measurements were transferred from the scale model to the mountain to explanations on who the presidents depicted were and why they were chosen (remember, there are people from all over the world visiting, so not everyone knows who Teddy Roosevelt is).  I enjoyed people watching those visitors, too.

Custer State Park is very beautiful - similar terrain to Wind Cave National Park, which is directly south of it, except it also has a section in its northern part called the Pinnacles, which is similar to Badlands NP.  I went hiking near Sylvan Lake on a loop trail called Sunday Gulch - the description said it was around 3 miles and rated strenuous, so I thought how hard could 3 miles be?  Famous last words. It was a down and up hike, meaning hiking down into a canyon and then back up.  The beginning of the trail was stairs alongside a waterfall - very beautiful - except that at quite a few places, the waterfall actually went down the stairs (see the photo below).  Luckily there were railings in the really hard spots.  I was glad I started the loop going down the stairs instead of having to go *up* the staircase at the end.

Jewel Cave NM is the 3rd longest cave system in the world (it was just beat out for the 2nd place by a cave system in Mexico - lots of rivalry in the cave world!).  Our tour guide was this sweet young lady who had just started a month earlier, so she was pretty nervous about remembering her shpiel.  But it was a beautiful cave, with different types of formations than Wind Cave.  And it was nice to be in a 49degF cave in the middle of summer.

Crazy Horse Memorial is a privately financed venture similar to Mount Rushmore.  A Native American chief hired another sculptor to carve a mountain into the form of Chief Crazy Horse, saying he wanted "the white man to know that the red man had heroes too."  They've been working on it for 60 years and personally, I doubt that it will ever be finished (they blast rock only a couple times a year, versus Mount Rushmore blasting twice a day for 14 years).  But they have a very nice cultural center and museum and there were tons of people visiting, so I guess his purpose is being served anyway.

Hope you enjoy these photos - I'll have one more post soon to finish up my travelog. Enjoy!

Mount Rushmore
Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lincoln

Comparison of on of the plaster models to the final version through the window.

Many visitors at the viewing plaza.

They're here, too!

Pretty flowers

Along Iron Mountain Road in Custer State Park.  It's famous for
these Pig Tail bridges that allow travelers to gain or drop altitude quickly.

And also for its one-lane tunnels.

The begging burros.

Framed view in the Pinnacles.

Blue skies over the Pinnacles.

Sylvan Lake.

The staircase and waterfall at the beginning of the Sunday Gulch loop trail.

View of Sunday Gulch.

Walking down into Jewel Cave
(we took an elevator down around 300 ft first).

Our guide.

Flow stone.

Transluscent formation.

Is that a fish I see lurking in the shadows?

Plaster model of Crazy Horse Memorial in front of the carved mountain in the distance.

Sculpture models in the cultural center.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Vacation in South Dakota - Part 2

Okay, here are photos from Wind Cave National Park (6th longest cave system in the world), Homestake Mine/Sanford Lab in Lead (the richest gold mine in the history of the USA, now owned by the government and converted into an underground laboratory for studying sub-atomic particles without the interference of solar radiation), Minuteman National Monument (the last of the de-commissioned ICBM control center/missile silos in SD, now open for tours), Badlands National Park and the city of Wall (including Wall Drug Store, the Number 1 road-side attraction in America).  It's a wide-range of images - hope you enjoy them!

Sunrise from Terry Peak above Lead.

Spooky view inside Wind Cave.

Wind Cave is famous for its boxwork formations.

A cheerful tour guide :)

Coneflower and guest.

The view from Rankin Ridge Trail in Wind Cave NP.

Tour guide at the Homestake Mine, showing us the winch equipment
that operates the elevator system to the Lab.

Some gallows humor on the door to the underground Control Center
at Minuteman National Monument.

That's a very thick door!

Inside the Control Center - a little claustrophobic, don't you think?

Panorama of Badlands National Park.

I saw quite a few Mennonite tourists during my vacation.  These girls were pretty brave
to go so far out for a photo op.

A vigilant prairie dog on the look out.

Big horn sheep (except they're a female and baby, so
their horns aren't so big).

Yellow Mounds turnout.

The famous Wall Drug Store which started as a small store in the middle of nowhere,
but grew famous by offering free ice water and then posting advertising signs along highways all
over the world.

Here's the ice water - I had a couple of cups!

Mr. T-Rex woke up every 15 minutes and scared the kiddies :)