North Dakota

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Loving the sky, really can’t wait to get to BIG SKY Montana!!  Heading there tomorrow.  ND has been nice.  As always searching for the free things to do, and we consider gas free (especially this summer so far) so headed for a drive to the “enchanted highway.”  Was really a nice way to spend a hot afternoon in ND.  Really cool sculptures and much larger than you would think.  I will let Wikipedia explain since they do such a great job.

The Enchanted Highway is a collection of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures[1] constructed at intervals along a 32-mile stretch of two-lane highway in the southwestern part of the U.S. state of North Dakota. The road has no highway number, although its northern portion is 100½th Avenue S.W. (counting from Bismarck, N.D., which is 85 miles to the east). Local artist Gary Greff conceived of the project, built it beginning in 1989, maintains it and plans more sculptures. A goal is to counter the trend toward extinction of small towns such as Regent, North Dakota. The Enchanted Highway extends north from Regent to the Gladstone exit of Interstate 94 east of Dickinson. Each sculpture has a developed pull-out and several have picnic shelters. The highway passes through scenic farm country with intermittent buttes.

There is really nothing in Regent, so I am not sure if the sculptures served their purpose to revitalize the town, or not.   But we did stop for an ice cream so that was $3 towards the economy that wouldn’t have gotten with out the sculptures.

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Peace and love…

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Medora, ND

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We have been staying in Buffalo Gap, ND right outside the Medora the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. North Dakota was not our original plan, but for a variety of reasons we came up here for a short stay and to check another national park off the list. Yellowstone and Glacier were on the agenda for this summer, but that has proven difficult without reservations. After realizing that and thinking about the summer crowds we have decided to save them until late August and September after the eclipse and before it gets too cold. Sooo nice to be flexible, but will have to keep it in mind for future summers either have reservations or stay off the popular paths.

Medora is very small and your typical cowboy tourist town. Their biggest attraction is the Medora Musical, which they say is the rootin’-tootinest, boot-scootinest show in all the west! There’s no other show quite like it. I am sure that this is true, but is way out of our budget at $39.95 each (more for better seats) and really not our style. They also serve Cowboy Pitchfork Fondue?? We were not sure what this is, but have determined that it is deep fried steak cooked on a pitch fork… Hmmm???

Our first campground was at the Buffalo Gap Guest Ranch. Where you can rest your horse and your head at the same time. It is about 2 miles off the highway and about 6 miles west on the hwy from Medora. Really could be a nice place, and looks like it once was. They have stables, a hotel ~20 rooms, about 10 cabins, 30 + RV sites and a restaurant/bar. We had breakfast one day and it was very basic but very good. They have a Saturday night special Ribeye with salad bar and cowboy beans, so we decided to splurge where better to get a good cowboy steak than cow country of ND?? Well it sucked with capital letters SUCKED. Salad bar, beans and steak all sucked!!  Maybe we should have tried the Cowboy Pitchfork Fondue?   Anyway, this could be a little goldmine, but is rundown and seems like they have just lost interest.

The weather was not so great while at the guest ranch so we stayed a couple of more days, but moved down the road to a national forest park with no hookups, but only $6 per night. Weather has been interesting. Very nice when we first arrived, beautiful sky high in the 70s and lows in upper 50s with light breeze in the end of June!!! Then the wind picked up to over 30 mph and highs in the 50s. Not so great. Now on the other side we are pushing mid 90s with light wind. All this in a weeks’ time. I really think that we have had a lot of wind our entire trip?? Not sure if it is a western thing, or if I am just outside and exposed to weather more than at home?? But more often than not it is too windy to cook on the grill. One of the downsides of having the grill built in to the coach you can’t move it.

So enough bitching… We did enjoy the 40th Annual Medora Classic Car Show. They had over 100 cars in the show everything from the 1800 to 2017. Enjoy the cars…

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Peace and Love!!!

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

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I had never heard of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and had no idea what to expect. Turns out that the park is primarily badlands. The North Dakota badlands are very similar to the South Dakota badlands and very different at the same time. In SD they seemed to connect two layers of the earth, a lower valley and a upper valley with an elevation difference of around 100 ft. It seemed pretty concentrated in this line and was very barren with rolling grassy hills in every other direction.

North Dakota badlands seem to be more wide spread and not as barren. They both have the distinctive horizontal layers and the colors are amazing. The National Park is broken up into 3 different units the north unit, the south unit and Elkhorn Ranch. We visited the north and south unit, but decided to skip Elkhorn Ranch. The Elkhorn Ranch was built for Roosevelt in 1884 and was a working cattle ranch until 1887 when over 60% of his cattle died in the “starvation winter” of 1886-1887. Roosevelt only returned to the badlands a handful of times after that, but they influenced his love for conservation of the land, which was evident during his presidency.

The badlands here basically layered hills for miles around. You can see the difference in the north face vs south face of the hills. The south side is hotter and drier and may have some grassy vegetation, where the north side is cooler and wetter and is tree covered.

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Another difference is that these badlands have the Little Missouri River cutting thru them. The river is the main erosive force that revealed the badlands. It has been so dry up here that the river is almost dry. We are currently in extreme drought conditions, which is obvious in the crunchiness and color of the grass land.

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We were fortunate enough to see the buffalo above grazing and enjoying what little water there was.

The layers of badlands are really interesting. In the picture below you can see the grey/blue layer which looks almost soft or like popcorn and the gold/bronze layer which is more crumbled. Both are crumbly and easily turn into dust in between your fingers. This land erodes at a rate of 2 to 4 inches per year. There are hard rocks in some layers that erode slower and create interesting tops/protrusions in the hills.P1090637 (2)P1090647 (2)P1090682 (2)

In the north unit, there are “Cannonball Concretions” you can see why they are called that. They are only in this one place in the park or so we thought until we went to the petrified forest where we saw one more.

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The petrified forest section of Theodore Roosevelt NP has the third largest collections of petrified wood in the continental US. It is accessible via a 7 mile dirt road and an out and back hike. We went during the middle of day with temps in the 80s. Doesn’t sound bad until you realize that there is no shade. Even low 80 with full sun is hot, but the hike was worth it.

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Peace and Love!!

Our First Rodeo

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We are in cattle country as evidenced by all the ranches.  From what we have seen Wyoming and South Dakota rule the cattle industry.  I always thought Texas was cowboy country but I was wrong.  Again this in only from our personal experience, but we have not seen all of Texas, Wyoming or South Dakota, so we could be way off base on our belief.

Anyway, what do you do in cowboy country but go to a rodeo.  Something we had never done, so really did not know if we would like it or not.  They had a large one over in Deadwood, but tickets were $30 each, Hahah.  Knowing us you know that was not going to happen, but Sturgis was hosting the High School Rodeo Regional Finals and it was free.  Obviously it was not a professional rodeo, but we got a feel for what events they have and how it goes.  It lasted two days, but we only attended on Sunday, so I am sure that there were events that we did not see.

It was pretty interesting and I can imagine a professional one being fun, but not worth $60, just my opinion.

First event we saw was calf roping.  Two people (guys and girls) on horse back chasing a calf, one has to rope the calf around the neck and the other ropes around the hind feet.   Looked pretty hard only about half were able to do it with in the 30 seconds allowed.

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Next they had the bull riding, it was pretty far across the field so we were not really able to get the full impact of this event, but I would not try it.  Looked like really rough and tough kids.

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We moved to a smaller arena for calf tying and goat tying, but no pictures sorry.  Going to a high school rodeo when you don’t have kids in the schools could seem kind of stalkerish??  and I decided to not climb the fence to photograph the event.  We are on bleacher for the larger arena so photography is not so obvious..  Anyway girls participated in the goat tying where they rode out and tackled a tethered goat, turned it over and tied its legs.  The boys did the calf tying, they had to rope the calf and then turn it over and tie its legs.  Both seemed a little cruel, but I assume that they could not harm the animals??

The final and what appeared to be the most popular was barrel racing.  On this day only girls competed, they had to race out and circle three different barrels one at a time set up in a triangle.  Most were able to do this in 18 – 22 seconds over 30 were disqualified.  Winner was in the 16 second range.

All in all it was a pleasant day at the rodeo, but we were both glad we didn’t spend $60 to see it.  Peace and love!!

Bear Butte State Park, SD

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So our volksmarch at Crazy Horse got our confidence up deciding we could hike more than a mile or two at a time.  So for our next conquest we decided to hike Bear Butte!!

Bear Butte is only about 10 minutes from our camp site in Sturgis, and we had visited the educational center before. It was interesting and Randy spent a while talking with a Native American from the Oglala Lakota tribe who was working at the center.  We had also kayaked on Bear Butte Lake.  We went looking for a kayak spot in the Black Hills National Forest, but they charged for lake usage on Sheridan and Pactola even with our Annual Interagency Pass???  We could have gone back to Custer state park lakes, but they are over an hour away and Bear Butte lake is large enough for us.  Especially with the wind we have been having.  Kayaking against the wind is not fun so we stayed pretty close to the shore, but with no mountains or trees it was still pretty windy.  But fun, plan on going back before we leave close and fun.

 

 

Bear Butte as you can see is an odd looking mountain, I believe for a couple of reasons.  Most of the large trees were burned in a major fire in 1996.  Over 20 years ago and it has really not recovered, you can notice in the pictures all the logs laying around.  There are some full grown trees, but not many.

Also, you will notice that the surround area is mostly flat.  The Black Hills are to the west and south about 8 miles away, but all other directions are pretty flat as far as the eye can see.  We drove ~40 miles north and Bear Butte was just as prevalent on the landscape as it was from the lake right across the street.  So the way this mountain/hill was created is different from the rest of the area.  Again I understand that it is kind of a volcano that did not erupt, it is not a tower like Devils Tower, but more a dome of magma…  Notice how the mountain is not green it is mostly covered with crumbled rock with some greenery mixed in.

 

Anyway on to the hike, it was only 1.8 miles each way and a climb of 1,000 ft., doable right?  Well we made it.  It was tough for me, you can see on the pictures that part of it was on a “goat path.”  I have mentioned my new found fear of heights?  And the climb was hard, had to keep stopping for “scenery checks.”  But beautiful and glad we are here to do it.

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Peace and love.

 

Devils Tower National Monument, WY

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OK so this is really a wild looking thing.  It is one tower with nothing else like it around rising approximately 900 feet straight up from the surrounding landscape.  We thought that you would be able to see it from many miles away as we approached, but the area is rather hilly and it only appeared when we were approximately 10 miles away.

 

So the way I understand it, this was formed very much like a volcano except it never erupted.  The magma rose in a cone until the pressure stopped and it hardened in place kind of like a pimple.  It was below the surface at first, but over time the land has eroded around it.  You can see the movement of the magma in the rock millions of years later, guess it is noticeable in many rock formations, but this cone can almost look liquid and it is over a mile in circumference.

 

Kind of odd as you drive up it sort of has an angle like an animal horn (Or devil’s horn) that has been cut off.  Seems so flat from down here, would really like to see what it looks like up there on top.

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Unfortunately we did not walk around the entire tower.  Nellie was with us on this day trip and was not allowed on the formal trails.  There is a very nice paved trail that circles the tower and is only 1.3 miles.  We have to remember that pets are not allowed on any trails in national parks/monuments.

This site is very scared to numerous Native American tribes and there are several legends related to its creation and importance in their history.   Japanese artist Junkyu Muto was so moved by the site that he created and donated a sculpture, the third in a series of seven “peace sculptures”, named “Circle of Sacred Smoke” or “Wind Circle.”  This is related to an oral tradition of the Lakota tribe and others regarding the white buffalo and and its teachings for good living and scared ceremonies.  You should look it up there is much information regarding this tradition.

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On our way to the Devils Tower, we passed the Aladdin Tipple historic site.  We had never heard of a tipple and so we turned around to investigate.  Apparently a tipple is a loading and sorting devise for mined coal.  There was a large coal mine in Aladdin, WY that was capable of producing 160 tons of coal per day.  They continued mining this location until ~1940s, the remaining tipple was used to hold the coal in to top portion or box until a rail car or truck arrived for transport.  As the coal was released it traveled down and was sorted by size via screens that allowed smaller pieces to fall thru and as it worked its way down the larger pieces remained for loading to another car.  Very much like we sorted sand at Wilmington Materials sand pits.

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So that is what a tipple is…  Peace and Love!!

 

 

 

Crazy Horse Memorial and Volksmarch

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This mountain sculpture was begun in 1948 by Korczak Ziolkowski commissioned by Lakota Indian chiefs who wanted the “white man to know that the red man has great heroes too.”  This became his life work starting at age 40, and when completed will be the largest sculpture in the world.  While working on the mountain he met his wife Ruth and raised 10 children who in one capacity or another helped the dream continue.  The master plan for this campus will have the mountain carving, Indian University of North America, Indian Museum of North America and Native American Culture Center.

The work is slow going, but the dream is very much alive.  They have quite a nice Indian Museum in the works and the mountain memorial is making progress.

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Ziolkowski died in 1982, his wife Ruth and children continued the work, which is now ran by a not for profit corporation that will one day bring the dream to fruition.  They do not have an expected completion date, but having worked on it for almost 70 years, it looks like it will not be anytime soon.

Before beginning work on the Crazy Horse memorial Ziolkowski had made a name for himself in the art world and even worked with Gutzon Borglum on the near by Mt. Rushmore mountain carving.  They have incorporated his homestead/workshop as part of the museum and display some of his other work and items he collected.  Below is one of his better known sculptures “Fighting Stallions” which was done in 1935; hand carved from a solid piece of mahogany and is 18 inches tall.  It balances on the tail of one of the stallions.  This is not the original piece, it is no longer on display.  But there is a very large replica in the courtyard of the visitor center.

 

They also have the “Nature Gate” which Ziolkowski and his children all created panels for.  It was very stunning.

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Also on display was this stagecoach, the original from Cheyenne, WY to Deadwood, SD.  I include this only because the placard explained that 21 people could ride on this one stagecoach.  Nine inside and 12 on top!!!  Can you believe it.  That is almost a 5 hour drive at todays speeds, could you imagine the ride with 20 others at stagecoach speeds???

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So, full disclosure, if you have been reading you know that we are traveling on a budget and doing mostly free (or almost free) things.  Memorial day weekend Crazy Horse Memorial was having their open house and admission was 3 canned goods as a donation to a local food bank.  This was much better than the typical $22 admission fee so we jumped on it.   This weekend they hosted a 10k Volksmarch which included being allowed to hike to the top of the memorial, so we took them up on it.  The volksmarch cost $3 each and admission to the memorial was again 3 canned goods.

We had never heard of much less participated in a volksmarch.  It is a non competitive fitness inspiring community walk, usually 5 or 10k on a marked path.  This was the 32nd annual Crazy Horse Volksmarch, and we made it.  The hike went thru and around the woods, up and down hills before circling to the backside of the mountain and followed the work road to the top.  It was a hard hike for us.  That incline is not easy and it was really pretty steep in parts.  Getting to the top was only half of it we still had to hike back down.   But we made it and were glad to say that we did.

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Peach and Love and never forget your dreams!!