Monday, August 25, 2014

The Dakotas

Time for a rest!  We found a Good Sam campground in the town of Custer called Fort Welikit and registered for a few days. One day we just relaxed and grilled Salmon we brought from Alaska, and watched a Law and Order marathon. Fun!  

 The beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota surrounded us as we approached Custer.

We visited the National Forest Visitor Center and learned that the major species of the Black Hills is the Ponderosa Pine.  The dead trees we saw in patches along the hills are a result of the Pine Beetle.  In addition, the elevation of the town of Custer is 5500 feet so we were sleeping above the height of Katahdin!

The second day in The Black Hills included a visit to two awe-inspiring places...Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument.

The walk to the Monument is flag-lined and features every state.  Look what Latona found...

The average size of the heads is 60 feet, the size of a six story building. The history of the choosing of the site and the figures to be represented is interesting and might be worth a "google". The original idea was to include local western heroes, but the artist wanted his work to represent the growing nation and the ideal of democracy, so Presidents Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt and Lincoln were chosen.

The Rushmore sculptor died before finishing his work but his son completed the project and also sculpted this bust of him.

On the way out of the Mt. Rushmore park we saw this Mountain Goat and her two babies. They ended up on one side of the road and cried until the cars stopped, and we waited for, and watched the happy reunion.

Not far from Mt. Rushmore is the amazing Crazy Horse Memorial.  So much history and vision involved with this place that will eventually have at its Center the completed sculpture, the largest rock sculpture in the world.  It will also include the Indian Museum of North America, the Indian University of North America and the Medical Training Center.

Chief Standing Bear wrote to a Boston born Polish artist known as Korczak, on behalf of the Lakota elders and asked him to take on the challenge of creating this piece that will show the world that the Native American people have heroes, too.

The head is 87 and 1/2 feet high and is the only completed section so far.  It was begun in 1948.

Korczak Ziolkowski and Chief Standing Bear.

A view from outside the Museum.

The scale model of what the final piece will look like, represents the spirit of Crazy Horse. He is pointing in answer to the question by some military person who asked him where were his lands now that the white man had usurped them after broken every treaty formed with his people.

  He answered,  "My lands are where my dead lie buried."

In the town of Custer each fall there is a a celebration that includes a Buffalo Roundup and an Arts Festival.  These life size bisons and smaller ones are auctioned off by the Chamber of Commerce.
We enjoyed seeing them and reading about the artists that created them. Here are only two of the many we saw.

Fun town...

Time to move along toward the Bad Lands National Park going through the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.

Some of the wildlife we saw included Mule Deer, Big Horn Sheep and a Prairied Dog Town!

Guess who stepped in some very wet land as she captured these last two wonderful photos on a rainy day!

We ventured on to North Dakota and had a very rainy day of travel so very few chances for photos.

One thing that grabbed our interest were the field and fields of sunflowers, and the many bee hives.

We learned that over half of the bee population in the US lives in the Dakotas and western Minnesota.
They love sunflowers and the success of this crop is totally dependent on the bees.  Where would we be without them in the world?  We learned that University of Minn. is doing a three year study to try to understand the 50% reduction in the bee population since the fifties.

We had read about Tom Brokaw when we drove through SD and now rode along the Lawrence Welk Memorial Highway through ND and took this picture for my stepdad Chick.

The final thing to share is a prayer that we found at Crazy Horse Mountain. 


Thursday, August 21, 2014

More of Montana and Wyoming...

As we have traveled, we have thought of the lives of all the people that call each place we visit "home". We are aware of the waves and layers of history that we are moving over as we drive and read road signs like the site of the Sand Creek Massacre Trail. We can also feel the presence of First Nations people when we travel through Black Feet Nation land, and learn more of the trip of Lewis and Clark at a state park named for them, and the role of the native woman Sacajawea.  In Wyoming, we learned about the way the earth changed when the Yellowstone Caldera formed and left this hot thermal piece of earth percolating.  I believe that what we have learned and experienced we will be processing for many years to come. We are being changed by the path we are traveling.

The Lewis and Clark Cavern SP brought a thrill I wanted to share with you.  In addition to Meadowlarks feeding in the area, we had a Mountain Bluebird feast!  Here is one we could capture in a picture.


As I said in the previous post, the road through Yellowstone NP goes through the Grand Teton NP.  

So in only a few miles, we began to encounter the Teton mountains. We see them forming the background of our view of Jackson Lake. 

We get closer and closer.  The central peak is known as the Grand Teton.

We loved this area and enjoyed the mighty presence of the mountains, and took so many pictures of them from all angles. Here are a few as we drove away from the park to continue across Wyoming.

As we drove away from the mountains, we started to experience open prairie land and the animals that roam the area.  Some on the road itself.  We saw hundreds and hundreds of Bison and Pronghorn Antelope dwelling on this land together.

We continued on through the Teton Valley and the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains.  Latona found this beautiful Thistle...

And look what we saw feeding along the hillside.  This Grizzly Bear was sniffing and scratching the ground to root up something delectable.


We didn't need the zoom for this one and really enjoyed watching him? ( no cub) from an unobtrusive distance.  Always thrilling to encounter the wild creatures!

We captured some scenes of Wyoming as we drove along...

It was also hard to believe the colours and structures of the land...

After this amazing day, we wanted to find a state park for the night, and the gas attendant in Riverton, WY told us about Boysen Lake SP.  It took a while to find it but we were rewarded with this wonderful spot right on the shore of the lake.

As we enjoyed this beautiful spot and talked about all that we saw that day, a pair of Canadian Geese flew over.  We rejoiced in their commitment to each other that reflects our own. Still the One!