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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
After lunch, we started to see the prairie, still rolling hills but the trees got fewer and
Here are a few photos of our stop in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. One of the Ingalls home site and
one of Plum 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.
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.
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.
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.
We didn't stop much on the drive across the prairie, but managed to get a few shots off at 65 mph.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
As you can see in the second photo, they cross the road when and where they want.
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.
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.
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.
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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