Trip to South Dakota

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Well, at the end of a hot week, we left the house about a half past 6 in the morning for South Dakota with stops along the way, at three places mentioned in the Little House books of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Twas a good thing that we were all packed the day before as we were off, heading north, in the rain.
Just before leaving the U.P. behind, the rain had stopped so we pulled into the city park at Menominee, to have lunch. Below is a view of Lake Michigan from the park.
Michigan Rain

After a bite to eat we headed into Wisconsin, and more rain. This part of Wisconsin looks a bit like the lower half of Lower Michigan. There were several noted differences though. It seems through this section of Wisconsin the folks collect sex stones. Digging them out of the ground. In some areas they pile them high and in other places they put them in neat rows. The county roads there are lettered, we thought that was a neat idea, as one could learn the alphabet while traveling. That was untill we had to find our campground. Seems that whom ever lettered the roads, liked the letter X, which was the road we were to turn on. Seems like most of the roads in that area were named X. Talk about a geographical oddity, and our directions did not tell which X to turn on. After a bit of sight seeing we did find the campground, a nice mom and pop place.
Wisconsin Camp

The next day we headed for our first stop, Pepin, Wisconsin. As we got closer to Pepin the landscape changed, from one of rolling hills to one of hills that looked like mounds. Very steep and heavy with trees, with occasional rock out crops. We stopped at the Ingalls Wayside, where they had a marker and a replica of the Ingalls house in the big woods.
Ingalls Historic Marker, Pepin, Wisconsin Ingalls Home Reconstuction, Pepin, Wisconsin

Then on to cross the Mississippi River. Driving along Lake Pepin, which is a very wide section of the Mississippi. Here is some of what we saw.
Countryside, Pepin, Wisconsin Lake Pepin, Pepin, Wisconsin

As we got further away from the Mississippi, driving through Minnesota, the mounds turned to rolling hills and the trees got fewer. we stopped for lunch in St. Peter, Minnesota at the city park.
Bandstand, St. John, Minesota

After lunch, we started to see the prairie, still rolling hills but the trees got fewer and fewer.
Plains of Minnesota Prairie color

Here are a few photos of our stop in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. One of the Ingalls home site and one of Plum Creek.
Ingalls home site, Walnut Grove, Minnesota cool water of Plumb Creek

We stopped for the night at Shetek Lake State Park, Minnesota. Very nice park tons of trees round the lake. Like most of the prairie trees are found around streams, rivers and lakes. Since the pioneers moved in there have been trees planted, mostly around their homes and some planting of wind breaks.
Lake Shetek, Minnesota

Here are some photos of western Minnesota. On the western edge of the state there is a very large windmill farm, with hundreds of windmills. From the first photo, one can see why they have put the wind farm there.
Plains of Western Minnesota Windmill Farm Western border of Minnesota Windmill Farm Western border of Minnesota

I was very glad that I did not have to venture from from highway US 14, as the county roads are numbered, and the one who put the numbers to the roads must have been a black jack player. Most of the roads we crossed were 21.

Our third stop was in DeSmet, South Dakota, where most of the Little House books are about. We stayed on the Ingalls homestead, about a mile from town.
camp on the prairie Prairie pano DeSmet, South Dakota Ingalls claim home Ingalls homestead marker, DeSmet, South Dakota Silver Lake, DeSmet South Dakota

That night there was a wonderful sunset, and a look to the east was also colorful. I had brought my telescope with me as I thought that the prairie would be a great place to do some star gazing. Well, it would have been but the dew was real heavy this night. Though I did get a chance to do a little bit, even used my web cam on the moon as it was just coming into view. I got the chance to show a bit of the sky to some folks from Pennsylvania before the dew came in.
eastern view, DeSmet sunset DeSmet sunset

We didn't stop much on the drive across the prairie, but managed to get a few shots off at 65 mph.
South Dakota prairie at 65mph South Dakota prairie at 65mph

We saw lots of corn, wheat and sunflower fields. The sun flowers were rather interesting, as they were all facing the east.
We did see a chubby angel, watching over us as we drove down the road.
Chubby Angel Sunflower Field

When we got almost to Wall, South Dakota, the badlands made a quick change to the view. We stopped off at Wall Drugs, hmmm, can we all say tourist trap? Well, we needed a break anyway. One stop there and one does not have to stop at any more tourist shops in South Dakota, they have it all.
first view of the badlands

After Wall, we drove through a bit more prairie, and the prairie gave way to the Black Hills. We set up camp just outside of Custer, South Dakota, at a very nice private campground.
Black Hills camp in Custer, South Dakota

Well, the campground gave me no place to set up the scope, as it is covered in pines. Through the gaps in the trees cover i could see tons of stars, even though we were only 2.5 miles outside Custer. Seems most places in South Dakota now have full cutoff lighting and the commercial signs do not seem as bright as other places. The first day there I shot the moon through the pines.
Great start, South Dakota

Our first stop was at the National Woodcarver's Museum. It was almost entirely one man's work, the national part came in, in items forsale.
Crazy Horse was the second stop. As with anything that big you can see it from the main highway. From the visitors center, you are still a mile away. He is extremely large, the four heads at Mount Rushmore will fit in Crazy Horse's head. I sure hope that I can see it finished. We toured the museum and were very moved by the exhibits. Then, of course the gift shop at the visitors center.
Crazy Horse Crazy Horse Crazy Horse

Here are a few more photos of the landscape of the Black Hills. After the endless rolling hills and few trees of the prairie, this was a very welcome change.
Black Hills Black Hills

Well, here we are at Mount Rushmore. Guess we should have seen this first. After seeing Crazy Horse Mount Rushmore seems so small, and after seeing the movie North by Northwest, so many times I felt that I would know the place. Things have changed, now there are flags, granite columns, walkways and buildings. Looks like a down town area. Not anything like I thought. Funny though, on the same mountain as the monument, there is a very odd shape. It seems as though, a very long time ago that ET has been here and left their mark. The parks rangers say that it is a natural formation, but I have my doubts.
Mount Rushmore ET

Here are is a panorama of the Black Hills and a photo of one of the tunnels on the Iron Mountain Highway. The Iron Mountain Highway is very narrow and full of switch backs, several tunnels and they have what is called a pig's tails. A pig's tail is where you go under a bridge and then go across the same bridge. A very fun drive, though make sure your brakes are good.
view around Mount Rushmore Iron Mountain Road Tunnel

On into Custer State Park, a combination of Black Hills and prairie.
The burros were our greeter's this day. Like an old time holdup they block the road making you stop. One on each side of the auto, sticking their head through any open window, hoping for a bit of food. I think if I had opened the door they would have climbed in.
We next spotted a lone buffalo, who may have had a challenge fight and lost. Leaving him to be off by himself.
Next we came across some antelope, very hard to see as they were quite a way out from the road. Then came the herd of buffalo. Most of my photos of them did not turn out well, as they were between me and the sun. Though here is a little fellow all sacked out along with several others.
Burros, Custer State Park Lone Buffalo, Custer State Park Deer, Custer State Park Sacked Out, Custer State Park

Yet, another brake test for your auto, the Needles Highway, much the same as the Iron Mountain drive, but as you can see the rock out cropping are a bit different. On this road you can view Mount Rushmore from several locations. You go through several tunnels, which like the Iron Mountain Highway, are very small, measuring around 12 feet wide by 13 feet high. Motor homes and 5th wheel trailers do not fit.
Needles Highway Needles Highway Needles Highway Tunnel

As you can see, the drive on the Needles, takes you up and in between the formations. Soon you come to the real reason they call it the Needles, the eye of the needle. The middle photo should you just how big things are. Just be careful you do not get lost amongst the rocks.
Eye of the Needle, Needles Highway Needles Highway Lost, Needles Highway

Now, for a trip on the train. It was like many of the train rides of this type I have taken. Powered by a 2-6-6-2 engine that had been converted to a tanker and burning oil. Behind it were 7 cars, half of which were old time and the other half were converted to open sided, sight seeing cars.
The ride was very nice and we got to see the country side up very close. We road from Hill City to Keystone and back.
I was a bit disappointed that they did not have an off train photo op. It would have been nice if they would at least publish a time table for the road crossings, so that one could get that photo.
1880's Train, 2-6-6-2 1880's Train 1880's Train

We took a tour of Jewel Cave National Monument. It was an interesting tour through part of the 100 plus miles of the cave. Nice and cool, compared to outside.

Back at Crazy Horse for the laser light show. All would have been the greatest except for the rain. Not enough to cancel the show, just enough to get ya wet. Wonderful show though. Didn't bring a tripod, silly me. So all photos were taken hand held and at 1/20 of a second.
Crazy Horse Crazy Horse

One does not camp without a camp fire. This time I had my camera out. We watched the sparks fly, the flame dance and the thunderbird appear out of the fire.
Sittin round the fire Dancing Sparks Dancing Flame Thunderbird

Wind Cave National Park is a bit different than Jewel, in that the it is mostly prairie above ground. Below ground, where Jewel Cave has quite a few interesting types of deposits Wind Cave does not. It has only one major deposit and that is boxwork, in fact it has most of the worlds boxwork. Though there can be seen very small deposits of some of the types in Jewel.
The biggest thrill we had at Wind Cave, was the buffalo herd that greeted us as we left the parking lot at the interpretive center. The herd was on both sides of the road. When I pulled up and stopped, a buffalo decided that it did not like the way i parked and did a false charge at the van. I was able to get a few shots after regaining my composure. It was nice to get them in good light.
As you can see in the second photo, they cross the road when and where they want.
Buffalo, Wind Cave Buffalo, Wind Cave

We visited the Wounded Knee Museum in Wall, on the way to the Badlands. It was another moving place.

On entering the Badlands, we came across some very shy Bighorn lambs and ewes. Who did not want their photo taken. Along the way we visited a prairie dog village, they too were not to happy with the thought of getting their photo taken either.
Bighorn Sheep, Badlands Prairie Dog, Badlands

The drive through the Badlands was hot, kind of like being in the middle of thousands of acres of asphalt parking lot. A very interesting place, with the combination of prairie broken with raw formations of deposits and the horizontal color bands.
Badlands Badlands

With South Dakota being the windy state that it is. I found it very hard to take macros of the flowers and plants. Though I did manage a few.
Badlands Badlands Badlands Prickly Pear Cactus, Badlands

The trip home was much like the trip out, only in reverse order. As we had left home in the rain, we came home in the rain. A very wonderful trip, that we will do again, soon.

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