Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Postcards Home

We have a friend who collects postcards.  These postcards are not the new-fangled scenic postcards.  These postcards are the old-fashioned, vintage type of postcards - the ones that speak of a bygone era.  When I got home, I found that he had been sending postcards to my house of many of the places I had been on this trip.  How wonderful to see these and relive my journey.  Thanks Pete.

South Dakota


More Wyoming

Last but not least - Nebraska and Montana

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Step Back In Time - Blogwise

I figured it out – I now have some Black Hills photos available to share on my blog. So, without further ado, and no more than a month after I've been there, I present my Black Hills Adventure blog.

I drove in past the Crazy Horse monument, but decided that since I could see it from the road, that was good enough. It really didn't look like a whole bunch of progress had been made since I was here back in the mid-nineties. I think what dissuaded me was that I read that the entrance fee was $30. Of course, I didn't read the fine print – that is per carload – it is only $12 per person. Oh well, I'll catch it next time.

I stayed right outside of Custer, which was centrally located for what I wanted to do. The big draw for me was the Custer State Park. Admission was $20, but that is good for 7 days. I guess I know where my price point is. There is an 18 mile Wildlife Loop that is rather picturesque. I am looking for Bison (Bison is what they really are, Buffalo was a misnomer – but now that I think about it, who cares – Buffalo just sounds better). I can tell I have found them when I see a whole bunch of cars stopped on the side of the road. There is a fairly good size herd, off in the distance. Buffalo can run up to 35 miles and hour, are extremely agile, able to turn quickly and can jump tall buildings (actually fences) in a single bound. Of course there are the idiot people who have to get really close to them. They wouldn't have a chance if the buffalo decided they did not like being intruded on. 

The next wildlife encounter were the Begging Burros. These donkeys were released into the wild when there was no more use for them as pack animals. They have quite the thriving community and earn their feed through begging from the tourists. 

This guy decided he liked my car and licked it from one end to the other.  Then he decided that my passenger side mirror was the most perfect scratching post. Let's just say that I had to make major mirror readjustments.

I didn't get too close to these guys because I didn't get the memo that today was a "wear white" day

The Needles Highway is a definite must-do in the area. It is a 14 mile long route that is named after granite “needles”. It has sharp turns, narrow roadway and two tiny, low, little tunnels. There is not a lot of traffic and there are a lot of turnouts that allow you to take a break from concentrating on the road and check out the scenery. 


And more needles

The Warning

The Tunnel

And the Tour Bus

Pretty amazing driving

No visit to the Black Hills would be complete without seeing Mount Rushmore. After each head was completed, there was a dedication ceremony which helped to keep the project in the public eye and help raise funds. Washington was done first, followed by Jefferson. One onlooker at the Jefferson dedication, evidently was a little confused about what he was looking at when he commented on the new head: Gee – I really don't think they are doing Martha Washington justice. She looks much better than that.

Flags from every state mark the Avenue of Flags

No matter where you go, George is watching

Two caves, one a National Park(with capital letters) and one a National Monument. 

Jewel Cave, the National Monument, is currently the third longest cave in the world. I got there late in the day so I could only take the short 20 minute tour called the Discovery Tour. Jewel Cave is called this because of two types of calcite crystals commonly named nailhead spar and dogtooth spar. They are all sparkly when you shine light on them. 

I found Wind Cave, the National Park, to be much more interesting. Maybe that is because the tour I took was a little bit longer and you wandered through more of the passageways. Wind Cave is the sixth largest cave in the world and is know for something called boxwork formations. Boxwork is a subtraction formation as opposed to an addition formation. Boxwork filled cracks in the rock before the cave formed. As the walls of the cave began to dissolve away, the crack fillings did not dissolve at the same rate leaving what looks like a bunch of little boxes. 

I finally got close to a real live Buffalo (in my car, of course) Yay Me!!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Nebraska Badlands

Fort Robinson, in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, is a rather historic site. It was pivotal in the Sioux Wars from 1876 to 1890. It was the home of a unit of the Buffalo Soldiers, an all-black cavalry Regiment which included 2nd Lieutenant Charles Young who had graduated from West Point and was the highest-ranking African-American in the Army throughout his career. He eventually achieved the rank of colonel. It was also the place where Crazy Horse, defeater of General Custer at Little Big Horn, was fatally wounded while resisting imprisonment in 1877. Note: Crazy Horse was at Fort Robinson to surrender so it seems a little strange to me that he was resisting imprisonment.

And I walked thru these portals

About a half hour away from Fort Robinson, where I was camped is the Toadstool Geologic Park. It contains a badlands landscape and is named after its unusual rock formations. They were hard rock caps that did not erode as quickly as the underlying rock. This made them look like toadstools, hence the name. Evidently, most of the toadstools had fallen down but if you squinted you could make believe that at one time they looked like toadstools. The area was similar to the North Dakota Badlands except the NoDak Badlands have a lot of color and these badlands were just sort of gray. There was a one mile hike and a fourteen mile hike to choose from. We wimped out and went for the one mile hike which was actually a lot of fun. Lots of ups and downs and narrow ledges overlooking ravines and being directionally challenged as I am, it actually took some reconnoitering on my part.

Crumbled Toadstools

The trail goes up into the hills

Miko scouting out the way down

Now I've been to Cadillac Ranch in Texas where they sunk Cadillacs head first into the dirt and I've been to the Hillbilly Garden in Kentucky where they did the same thing with lawn mowers so I figured that I needed to go see Carhenge in Alliance Nebraska. Jim Reinders decided to create a “Stonehenge West” modeled after the original Stonehenge in England. Since he didn't have access to large stones, he decided to use cars instead. Consider me underwhelmed. It might have been better if he had not painted the cars all a depressing gray and they were still their original color but who am I to question another person's artistic intent. 


Now isn't this much more interesting?

This is a much more lovely piece of art

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Westward Ho!

Greetings from Nebraska, land of corn fields and endless flatness......NOT!!! Northwestern Nebraska was surprising in how hilly it was. Instead of the cornfields, we had acres and acres of grassland. I think this area must be every steer's idea of heaven and there were a lot of them living the dream.

I did make once last foray back into Wyoming to see Fort Laramie. Fort Laramie started out life as a trading post, but in 1849, the Army bought the post and renamed it Fort Laramie. This was the time when hordes of people were heading west, through Indian country and the Fort was where all of the trails (California, Oregon and Mormon) converged. We had gold seekers, homesteaders and people fleeing from religious persecution all coming through the Fort. There were also many treaties between the Indians and the U.S. Government signed and subsequently broken. Interesting fact: Northern Plains Indians (Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho) rarely attacked wagon trains. All those westerns I watched as a kid were, dare I say, lies. 

Built as the Commanding Officer's quarters, this building became a duplex for company-grade officers.

Calvary barracks 1874

There was a room which had copies of many of the treaties signed between the U.S. government and the native peoples.  Several of them had a clause in the treaty called the 'Bad Men Clause'

If bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States, shall commit any wrong upon the person or property of the Indians, the United States will, upon proof made to the agent and forwarded to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington city procced at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States, and also reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained.

This was signed in 1868.  The first claim filed was in 1970.  

As all of these emigrants came across the endless prairie, one of the first landmarks they came across was Chimney Rock. It became a symbol that these travelers were now 1/3 of the way on their journey westward.

The next landmark, 25 miles west was Scott's Bluff, named after Hiram Scott. Hiram was with a bunch of his pals when he became sick. His buddies decided to go on without him and a year later, when his bones were found, Hiram got this large land mass named after him. There was a road built up to the top of the bluff and Miko and I found our way up there. After we got past all of the signs warning us to watch out for rattlesnakes, we followed a couple of small trails around the top of the bluff. Signs told us that as we looked west, we would be able to see the Rockies and if we looked east, we could see Chimney Rock. It was a little bit hazy, so we had to use our imaginations. 

Scotts Bluff was right out the front window of the RV

View from the top

This was a surveyor's post that was hammered into the rock in 1933.  
They say that the top of it was level with the rock and this is how much the rock has eroded in the last 90 some years

One of the stops I had to make was to the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. I wasn't too keen on the idea, I mean I had just been to the Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming. How many fossils can a poor girl see? Turns out that Agate Fossil Beds was quite a bit different. Fossil Butte was from an earlier time era, therefore most of the fossils were of fish or perhaps small mammals. Agate was from the Miocene era which was only about 19 million years ago. Much larger mammals roamed the earth during this time period. There were pony-sized rhinoceros creatures and a carnivore called a beardog, among others.

One of the interesting fossils were not of specific animal but of a burrow. There were Palaeocaster which was a dry land beaver. They built these corkscrew burrows which eventually filled with sand and were preserved. 

A rather amazing discovery was a bone bed. Hundreds of bones of different species were all in this bone bed. Scientists speculate that there was a small shallow watering hole. The animals would come to drink and then start eating the vegetation around the pond. As they ate more, they had to go farther and farther away from the pond until eventually they had grown too weak to make the trip to eat and get back to the water. Essentially, they think all these animals died of starvation.

While all this was interesting, the best part of the place was the James H. Cook exhibit. Cook was a rancher who in the 1870s thru the early 1900s befriended the Upper Plains Indians. They gave him many gifts over the years along with the stories about the gift. There was a war club that had been in a specific battle with Army soldiers and the story about how the club's owner had hand to hand combat with an officer and his saber. The war club won the battle. 

This is a hairbrush created from a porcupine's tail.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Picture Stones

On leaving Big Horn Canyon, I headed south. It was starting to get cold, in fact I heard that the Black Hills had gotten a little snow. I drove into the Wind River Indian Reservation and my socks were totally blown off. Wind River Canyon has got to be one of the most beautiful canyons in the United States and to think I found it by accident. A curvy road between two massive walls of rock with a river flowing right down the center of the canyon. I am really sorry that there was no time to take pictures- I really was awed. There were even three tunnels. I pulled over before the first tunnel to scope it out, since they were such narrow tunnels, it would have been heart-stopping to meet another vehicle in the dark.

I safely proceeded thru the tunnels and continued on to the Wind River Casino where I spent the night. Can you imagine my delight when I found out that Tuesday was senior night and you got a free meal in the restaurant? I joined my other gray-hairs, sat down and had a totally bland stewed chicken breast, mashed potatoes, roll and a carrot medley that had been boiled to an inch of their lives. I guess it is good to see what my future might look

Leaving the casino, I headed to Kemmerer in the southwestern corner of Wyoming. Somebody told met that there was always snow in Kemmerer and it was a long way up to get there. They were not kidding – I think that I spent maybe over an hour just heading up the mountain, parts of which were pretty steep. At one point, I had shifted down to second and was going about 25 miles per hour. That is all my RV could give me, poor thing. When I got to the top, I stopped at a rest stop to give myself and my RV a chance to rest. At this point, there were tremendous cross winds. It was a long hard day.

The attractions in Kemmerer was two-fold. First up was a JC Penney store – the very first one. Kemmerer is where it all started. The store is still in business, it still has some of the original store fixtures from 1902. 

They call it the Mother Store

Fossil Butte National Monument is right by Kemmerer. Back in the olden days (fifty-two million years ago), a shallow lake covered this area. A thick growth of algae coated the bottom and when a creature died, it sank to the bottom, was covered by algae and because of this it never had a chance to decay or be eaten by creatures. They estimate that there are over a billion (yes, I said billion) well preserved fossils here. Millions of fossils have already been excavated. We have plant fossils, mammal fossils, birds, insects, spiders and over 20 kinds of fish. Again, I was amazed at much detail you could see in the fossils.

Check out the size of that Palm frond

Look at the detail
There was a scenic drive which I started off on but realized when I got to the sign that said 17% grade that my car, mighty though it is, would not be able to continue.  We turned around.

The fossils are all found in that light colored rock up at the top.  That used to be the bottom of the lake.

This was one of my Junior Ranger tasks - Move over Picasso!!

This is somebody's back yard near the RV park.  Evidently fences don't mean much here.  There was one buck and 23 does and youngsters.  Mr. Pronghorn kept trying to get all his girls rounded up, but they weren't listening to him much.

And another back yard.  

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Camping In Wyoming; Hiking In Montana

Colleen and Pete live on the east side of the Big Horn Mountains. I needed to get to the west side. There are several ways to get across the mountains. One of them is what the locals call the 'Oh My God Hill'. There are many long miles of 10% grade,with switchback curves and cliffs which is definitely not something you want to do in a big RV. I have heard some of the locals say that it is even scary to do in a car. My choice was to go around the southern end of the Big Horn mountains but even then I had to go down some hefty hills and hairpin turns. The scenery was pretty impressive, what I could see out of the corner of my eye. I am actually pretty proud of myself for getting over the mountain

I got to Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area. Big Horn Canyon is between the Pryor Mountains on the west and the Big Horn Mountains on the east. Part of the Recreation Area is in Wyoming and part of it is in Montana.  The walls of the canyon rise over a thousand feet above the Big Horn River. Most people come here to play on the 71 mile long lake created by the Yellowtail Dam. I had come for the hiking and the rocks.

The Pryor Mountains are home to the first National Wild Horse Range which was established in 1968. There are about 90-120 wild horses that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. I saw a small herd but they were just sort of hanging out. Not very exciting.

I stayed in the campground in the park and my views were outstanding. The first night I was there, the winds were so ferocious that you could hardly stand upright. I had never felt the RV shake so much. Miko and I drove out to do some hiking from the campground. Big Horn Canyon is one of the few national sites that allow dogs on the trails. While Miko seem to enjoy being out and about, I think the rocks were a little hard on her feet. This is one rocky place.

View out the front of the RV

Looking another direction in the campground

Here is the campground - not too busy at all - see my rig on the right side

One evening, I took the Mouth of the Canyon trail that left from the campground. All of sudden, as I approached the edge of the canyon, two golden eagles flew up right in front of me. They had been perched on a ledge right below the trail. They were no more than twenty feet away from me. These eagles are huge, their wing span in bigger than a human's wing span and they were so close. I have never seen golden eagles before - what a way to see them. One of them even came back and flew over me again, either mad at me for disturbing them or checking out if Miko and I might be possible meals. 

Following are pictures of the canyon from various hikes. Where ever you looked, there was something different to see. Too bad that it was so cloudy out.  

On the Sullivan's Knob hike looking back at my poor lonely little car

You always have to close with a sunset