South Dakota – Final Thoughts

Got caught up in things at home once we got home and am just now posting from the last few days of our trip.  The weather turned colder with rain and significant wind about day four.  It only stopped us one day. For some reason, “sideways rain” and sustained winds at 35 with guts at 55+ had our attention!

Our next adventure out (Saturday) was to Sturgis, home of the famous motorcycle rally, and on to Deadwood, scene of some of the early west’s best stories (Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok). In Sturgis, it was DIFFICULT to see how during Rally Week host some 400,000+ folks and their gear. It should be noted that every town, regardless of size has a Harley-Davidson dealership and every shop, eatery, gas station, whatever, in SW South Dakota is geared to deal with the Rally crowd. I was amazed.

In Deadwood, we toured the Adams Museum, a great little museum that covers the infamous period of the town, wandered around and had lunch.  We headed back to Piedmont because of the weather front moving in and before we were at the cabin saw a weather report that they had almost 2 inches of hail!

On Sunday, we headed back toward Rushmore and then detoured further to the southwest to Wind Cave National Park.  It is really two parks in one. The one below ground is some 140 miles of mapped caves with a single natural entrance. It is a cave with no bats, two lakes (much deeper than where we were), and beautiful delicate “boxwork”.  We took a tour that took us down about a mile. Really fascinating and its story of discovery makes it that much more so.  When we went in, there was sunshine. When we came out, huge thunderstorm! As a result we did not spend a lot of time exploring the above ground park; however to look at it, you would never believe what lies below those beautiful prairies!

Monday was the weather day. On Tuesday, we headed for Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, about 100 miles from where we stayed. For you Sci-Fi fans, this was the setting for Close Encounters of the Third KindIt was a fact known to Steve and my Dad but believe it or not I never saw the movie! It is also sacred to many Native American tribes. You can see prayer shawls and ribbons in the trees (pictured on one my photos). We hiked the base trail. It is a beautiful site. The basalt column structure is similar to that we saw in NI at the Giants’ Causeway.

Again I reminded of Psalm 8 when I get the chance to experience these unique places of beauty.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

How can folks not believe? I just do not know.

Still choosing joy!

Cille

 

South Dakota – The Cold War and The Badlands

D-1 Launch Control Facility
D-1 Launch Control Facility

Today we headed east on I90. Our first stop was the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center and then the D-01 Launch Control Center. Fascinating and tied together things like why we learned to “duck and cover” as kids in elementary school. As I got older I understood there were ICBMs in the mid-west but really never computed why until today. Interesting. Really dangerous work for US Airmen assigned to this detail.

Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park

Leaving there, we drove into the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands – saw lots of cows but no bison – and into Badlands National Park. We rounded a curve and the entire landscape dramatically changed. Unreal. Felt like I was in a western movie set with Clint Eastwood or John Wayne! It is beautiful but uninhabitable (as the Native Americans and initial settlers in the area would agree). Even more interesting are the sea, dinasour, and other fossils that are found in this area. Volcanic upheaval that pushed up the ganite crating the Black Hills also created the ash that changed this area forever.

Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park
Wall Drugstore
Wall Drugstore

We took a detour through Wall to stop for ice cream at the Wall Drug Store. This place is a bona fide road side tourist attraction!

Minuteman Missle in Silo at D-9
Minuteman Missile in Silo at D-9

We ended the day by visiting the only remaining Minuteman Missile Silo – Delta-09 – in South Dakota. The missile in the silo is unarmed and not manned but really gives a clear picture of the Cold War threats this nation faced.

I can only imagine the faith it took to settle this area. Primarily this was settled by Germans, Slavic, and Irish immigrants. There is a large Catholic and Lutheran presence here. Still I wonder if they felt like Abraham and went not know where they were going.

South Dakota – Great Faces Great Places

Avenue of States
Avenue of States

Today’s adventure took us to the southwest first to Mount Rushmore and later to the Crazy Horse Mountain at Custer (as in “George Armstrong Custer”).

Mount Rushmore is a National Monument under the care of the National Park Service. It is surreal and very moving. And the science and craftmanship behind it is truly amazing.  The four presidents whose faces are carved into that weird piece of granite represent the USA at strategic turning points in her history. Washington is the most fully featured. Teddy Roosevelt (who ranched in SD), the most personality. All important to who we are today.

Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore

 

The faces appear before you enter the park. As you approach the viewing area, you walk through a plaza with state flags and flying above the state name and the date of their admission to the Union.  We checked out the history surrounding the sculptor and walked the “Presidential Trail” which allows various perspectives of the carvings.

From there we went to the Crazy Horse Memorial. This project is not under the national or state government but is a non-profit. The sculpture is still actively in progress and our guess is that it will be for another 50+ years. It was fascinating. We talked to a Native American artist there who was making story telling bracelets and doing beautiful metal work.

Shadow Box at Crazy Horse
Shadow Box at Crazy Horse

There was some rain today in the area. They desperately need it. The forests and prairies are a tinderbox.

Steve and the Crazy Horse Model
Steve and the Crazy Horse Model

Tomorrow on to a little Cold War History and the Badlands.

Cille

South Dakota – First Impressions

I have been up too long to have too many coherent thoughts but just wanted to say we had a good travel day (3 flights, no delays, luggage made the trip, good weather). Thank you Lord for that!

We landed at Rapid City about 6 local time. We are in the middle of one of the more interesting landscapes we have experienced. When they say “black hills” we are talking about literal hills with lots of crevices and cracks. Here at Piedmont, there are some pines and cottonwood trees but for the most part it is stark. There are a lot of cattle grazing and cultivation of what probably is grain – they are just planting.

We found our cabin on Chimney Canyon Road with only one wrong turn in a brand new car (8 miles on the odometer!) and were met by the caretaker. We checked out a local steakhouse (very much old school small town restraunt with good food and friendly staff). We will have to go back to Rapid City tomorrow for groceries but did not know that before we headed out today.

Tomorrow Mt. Rushmore. Pictures to come.

Cille