Friday, June 29, 2012

Enjoying the Badlands National Park, South Dakota

By looking at these pictures one can understand why the early settlers gave this unique area the name Badlands. It seems that nothing really grows in this poor eroded soil and the landscape is very difficult to transverse. We can understand their perspective back then, but today this area offers a one of a kind landscape to see and experience. 


It was Suzanne's birthday, so she got to decide what to do, so the Badlands it was! We drove the Badlands Loop Road, which goes through the heart of the Badlands. There are many overlooks to stop and view this amazing landscape ~ there are views from the top of the ridges and from bottom of the prairie looking up.  

This road eventually leads to the Ben Reifel Vistor Center. Here there is a movie about the park, museum like exhibits, a bookstore and a working lab where scientists can be seen cleaning fossils that were found in the park. Because of the mass erosion, there is a high number of prehistoric fossils that are found in the area.

We were told that the park's bison could be seen from Sage Creek Road, so off we went. Sage Creek is in the far western side of the park. It is a very good gravel road that connects with the Badlands Loop Road. 

We weren't disappointed with the scenery from this road either, for it offered great views of the prairie, large colonies of prairie dogs (Zoey enjoyed stopping at several of these) 

and of course a few bison.

A unique landscape and a national park that is a must see if one is in the area.

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!
Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Solstice Hike ~ Harney Peak & Little Devil’s Tower, Black Hills, South Dakota

We decide that it would be cool to hike to the highest point east of the Rockies and west of the Pyrenees on the summer solstice, however Mother Nature did not think it such as good idea, and by the end of our five hour hike, we had some sunshine, some rain, some hail, some thunder, and lots of wind. We also had tons of fun! 

We didn’t intend to do both Little Devil’s Tower and Harney Peak at the same time, but we took the wrong trailhead from the Sylvan Lake parking lot (not really our fault, since the correct trailhead was down a road that said “emergency vehicles only”), but we’re really glad we did both at the same time - Little Devil’s Tower offers great views of Harney Peak and the trail to Harney Peak offers great views of Little Devil’s Tower. 

We started on Trail #4 (yes, that’s the name) in Custer State Park which offered views of wildlife 

and something that used to be wildlife.

We then took the 0.6 mile one-way side trip to Little Devil’s Tower.  The hike is rather benign, until you get to the offshoot where you need to rock scramble for a good ¼ mile to get on top of Little Devil’s Tower

to see the views, one of which is a great view of Harney Peak. 
(This was the first instance of rain.)
We continued along Trail #4 which merges with the Norbeck Trail (in the Black Hills Wilderness) which then merged with Harney Peak #9 Trail.   

Great views could be seen from many places along the trail

including the back of Mount Rushmore National Memorial

and  Little Devil’s Tower.
 It was very cold and windy at Harney Peak,

but we stayed long enough to enjoy the views and have our picture taken.   
Zoey was with us, but very unwilling to step-out for her picture. :-)

We took the Harney Peak # 9 Trail back to Sylvan Lake (this was the intended ascend hike) and it was great to make the hike a loop. This trail was much less steep than the trails we took up, and we passed a lot of people heading up.  This was where we encountered the most rain and hail – picture us standing under a tree like elk waiting for it to pass, at least long enough where we weren’t getting pinged on the head by the hail! This trail offered one last view of Harney Peak and although not able to be appreciated in the picture, it was quite a-ways-away!
All-in-all, this was a fabulous hike. Inadvertently making it a loop was perfect, and we enjoyed the solitude of the hike up. The entire hike took about five hours (we had to ascend Little Devil’s Tower individually since Zoey wouldn’t be able to do the rock scramble) and was probably about 10 miles, give-or-take half a mile or so. 

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!
Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Naturalization Ceremony, Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota

Today we went to the Naturalization Ceremony of 111 new American citizens at Mt. Rushmore in the amphitheater.  Starting with the court being called to order, the Ellsworth Air Force Base Honor Guard presented the flags, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, a welcoming address, a speech by a gentleman who was naturalized 21 years ago, the Oath of Allegiance

and then the Proclamation of Citizenship as the new American citizens were given their naturalization certificates. At this point, the new citizens could go to the microphone and state their name and country they were from. Many shared more, such as “Yesterday I was an Iraqi; Today I am an American!” or My name is so-and-so and I am an American!”

The ceremony ended with some more remarks and the singing America the Beautiful as each new citizen was welcomed to the stage to take a picture by the American flag with the judge.  Not to be political, but it does make one think of what we who are born American take for granted.

Among other countries, people who will go to sleep as American citizens today came from: Afghanistan, Cameroon, People’s Republic of China, the Congo, EL Salvador, Ethiopia, Iran, Japan, Liberia, Mexico, Poland, Australia, Canada, Somalia, Viet-Nam.
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cathedral Spires & Sylvan Lakeshore Hikes, Custer State Park, South Dakota

When we drove through Custer State Park a few weeks ago, we found many trailheads that appears to be the start of great hikes, so we hiked the Cathedral Spires and Sylvan Lakeshore trails today.  

The Cathedral Spires trailhead is found after the Eye of the Needle (when driving clockwise from Keystone). Parking can be troublesome, so be sure to get there early.  The hike is rated as strenuous due to some rock scrambling, but it’s only two to three miles roundtrip (depending on which hiking guide or trail map you read). The trail starts steep, gets a bit steeper, then levels out towards the end.   

The trail system seems very well marked, for this trail, you just follow the blue signs. 
You’ll know you’re at the end by one of two ways ~ either you’ll notice that the trail itself ends, or this sign helps!

After this hike, which took us about one-and-a-half hours, we decided we were hungry (not much of a surprise) and we had a fabulous lunch at the Sylvan Lake Dining Room. Although there isn’t much of a view, we sat outside on the patio (they allowed Zoey to sit with us), and although the service was slow (a large group ordered just before we got there), the food was excellent.
After lunch, we decide to do the fairly easy Sylvan Lake Loop Trail, which begins and ends along the shoreline, but the middle is up-and-down some rocky areas, so don’t let the trail fool you – you’ll still need decent shoes and not sandals.

All-in-all, a fabulous day! :-)

Here are just a couple cool pictures we took along the Sylvan Lake Loop Trail~

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Crazy Horse Volksmarch, South Dakota

Every year, the Volksmarch organization has a walk on Crazy Horse, and since we heard about it a few months ago, we  thought it would be very cool to partake, so that’s what we did this past weekend. 

Here we are at the start…….

and the view of people as we waited for the walk to begin……..

Since we like to hike in the early morning, we were there at 7:15 am for an 8am start (although they let everyone start about 10 minutes early). At first the trail was pretty tightly packed with walkers,

but with a little maneuvering, we were able to get some space ahead of the pack and enjoy a little music found along the side of the trail……….

There were four checkpoints along the way, where all walkers had to check-in………

We started along the same side of Crazy Horse that everyone can see from the viewing area in the Visitor’s Center

But as we continued our walk

We were able to see the other side of Crazy Horse, which was pretty cool……….
 Up close, one could really see the detail………

With some really great views……….
 As we headed down, we could walk to the tunnel………..

And get a great view of the people on the (future) arm………….

Until we hit the finish line…………

Overall it was really a fun time and we’re glad we did it.  This volksmarch was done in cooperation with the South Dakota Food Bank, so admission was three cans of food per person, and $3 to the Volksmarch organization. The walk is the first full weekend in June every year, so if you’re in the area, this is a definite must do!  (Plan a few hours ~ they say it’s a 10k (6.2 miles), but it didn’t feel that long.  We took 1 hour and 15 minutes to ascent, about 30 to descend, along a different path.)
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 
Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Friday, June 1, 2012

Brad’s Childhood, South Dakota

Brad spent much of his childhood actually living near Mt. Rushmore ~ he spent a few years in Hill City and a few more years in Rapid City. When Brad was in early elementary school, a year after a family vacationed to the Black Hills area, his parents decided to leave their jobs and with another family, open a gift shop on Main Street of Hill City. Now we’re not sure exactly which shop was their's as the storefronts have changed (it was called Tara Teepee at the time), but it was one of these stores.
The first few weeks, the family lived in the back of the store and Brad (and his brother Brian) walked a block down the street to school:

Eventually Brad’s parents purchased a single-wide trailer and lived about five miles out of town.  Although the trailer is no longer there, the spot remains……….

One of Brad’s endearing stories of his childhood was his bus driver, Benny (who also owned the trailer park). Seems like the best seat on Benny’s bus was behind the driver, since that’s where he kept his shotguns, to kill deer to- and from- school. (Slightly different times these days, wouldn’t you say!) Brad remembers that as a child, it was with great excitement if Benny was late, as that meant he got a deer, and it would be strapped over the hood of the bus. 
This was the corner all the kids watched, waiting to see Benny’s kill:


After a few years, Brad’s parents sold their half of the shop to their friends and move to “the big city” ~ Rapid City.  Here they purchased a house:

Brad skated on this pond in the winter

And they lived here until moving back to Iowa when Brad was in high school and his brother Brian (Can you say “Brad’s brother Brian” three times fast?) graduated.

So that’s the story of Brad’s childhood!  :-)
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

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