More Waterfalls

Yesterday, we had stopped at Avalanche Creek but we didn't take the time to hike the 2 mile trail to Avalanche Lake. So, we decided to do it today. It is a very popular hike and now that we've done it we know why.

This view was our reward when we reached the lake. The lake was surrounded on three sides by mountains with at least six waterfalls. We thought it was worth the hike.

The Stellar Jay was flitting about at the end of the lake.

A close up of one or is it more waterfalls?

One of the many wildflowers we saw on the hike.

This waterfall looks like it's coming straight from a glacier.




Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is the official name of what we know as Glacier National Park in the US and Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. In 1932, the Rotary Club members of Montana and Alberta convinced the United States and Canada to join these two national parks as a symbol of their longtime friendship. During our visit to the area we will stay at West Glacier (obviously the west side of the park), St. Marys at the east side of Glacier and at Waterton on the Canadian and north end of the park. Currently, we are at West Glacier. One of the major attractions at Glacier is the Going-To-The-Sun-Road which goes through the middle of the park joining West Glacier and St. Marys. A winter storm washed out sections of the road causing the road to be closed. The park's people are aiming at reopening the road on July 1 so we will cross our fingers and hope. Today we explored the section of the road that is open on the west side and were rewarded with some amazing views and lots of waterfalls.

One of the many waterfalls we passed as we drove the Going-To-The-Sun-Road

As the name of the park implies there are many glaciers in the park and there is still a reasonable amount of snow. This pile of snow was beside the road and as you can see it is still over 5 feet in depth

A 1930's style tour bus drives past the "Weeping Wall".

The colours in the park are incredible --- purple rocks, blue-green water frothing white over the rapids and deep green trees

No, this isn't Zaph but a 12 year old female that looks a lot like him -- good thing Zaph has his spot on the forehead to make him unique

An interesting "burl" on an western red cedar --- I think it looks like a heart and Ed thinks it looks like a face.

A cedar forest.

Why did the moose cross the road? ..... to see how big of a traffic jam she could cause

The lobby of the Lake McDonald Lodge, one of the historical lodges in the park.

Sunset from the campground



Travel Days

June 26, 27 and 28

As we had booked campgrounds ahead at the major parks, we had a left a window of 2 nights between Craters of the Moon National Monument and Glacier National Park. If you didn't mind a really long day of driving you could do it in a day, we decided to give ourselves a break and take 3 days (2 nights).

The first day of driving was interesting as at one point we ended up in the middle of what appeared to be a "cattle drive". There were about 100 cattle on either side of the road and a few in the middle of the it, 4 cowboys on horses, several dogs and at least one guy in a pickup truck. We slowly picked our way through and unfortunately the person in charge of the camera (me - Frances) didn't managed to get any decent shots. When we stopped at a Bureau of Land Management park for lunch we liked it so much we found a campsite and spent the night.

On Day 2 we drove through some more of the beautiful Idaho countryside crossing into Montana at a mountain pass made famous by Lewis and Clark. After picking up groceries we stopped at a campground just outside of Missoula.

Day 3 saw us driving along Flathead Lake looking at tree after tree loaded with cherries --- this area produces all of Montana's cherries. Shortly after leaving the Flathead Lake area we started to the mountains of Glacier National Park. After landing at the RV park we headed to Hungry Horse Dam. This dam was the forth largest and fourth tallest in the world when it was built in 1953.

Our campsite at the Bureau of Land Management campground backed onto the Salmon River. As the current was strong, Zaph remained on a leash when he went in for a quick dip.

This Yellow Warbler was singing his heart out in the campsite next to ours.

The Hungry Horse Dam. If you look closely you can see the water on the top side of the dam.




First thing this morning we headed to "EBR-1", the world's first nuclear power plant. This plant was declared a national historic site in 1966. After our self-guided tour of the plant we headed back to Craters of the Moon to go check out the lava tubes (caves under the lava).

The main console in the control room --- the walls of the room were lined with monitors.

The first test of the plant created enough electricity to run four light bulbs, the next day they were producing enough electricity to run the plant.

I'm trying one of the mechanical arms. The first arms were heavy and I found them hard to use. Later models were lighter and much easier to use.

A working X-39 atomic jet plan engine --- can you image how large the plane would be

Indian Cave - a large lava tube.

Looking down at Indian Cave.

There was ice in Boyscout Cave. It was in the 70sF outside and close to freezing in the cave.

A view of the landscape.

A view of a lava flow.

An arch in the lava.



Craters of the Moon

The national monument was given it's name because people in the 1920's thought that this area looked how they imagined the moon to be. It is a landscape defined by lava flows, scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush. We spent today visiting many of the different areas in the park.

This is a collapsed lava tube. An amazing number and variety of plants thrive in this environment.

I'm standing beside a "lava tree".

A close up look at a volcanic cinder.

High atop a cinder cone is this lone Limber Pine and a number of bushes. The Limber Pine has very flexible branches which helps it survive in this windy environment.

One of the splatter cones. As the volcanic activity in this area was along the rift there are few volcanic cones.

A view of the A'A lava.



Land of Potatoes

Time to head west to the land of potatoes --- yup we're heading to Idaho today. Our destination is the small town of Arco which is the nearest town to the Craters of the Moon National Monument. The drive to Arco was interesting --- first we drove through the mountainous area around Jackson and Jackson Hole and then we drove on a high plane following the Snake River. This area is known for its "dry farming". There is little precipitation in the area but farms thrive by using irrigation.

A view from a mountain pass.

Arco's claim to fame is that on July 17, 1955 it became the first city to be powered by nuclear energy. The interesting thing is Arco was only powered by nuclear energy for a few hours and there are no commercial nuclear power plants in Idaho though the area still has several test reactors.

The hill overlooking the town is covered in numbers --- we haven't asked anyone but are assuming graduating high school classes are responsible.

The fellow who owns the RV park is retired army helicopter pilot, so the park has an "aviation" feel to it. Ed thinks it's great. VNE mean velocity not to exceed.



A Hiking we will go...

We were disappointed to learn that dogs were not allowed on the trails in the National Forest surrounding the Grand Tetons (at least not in the area we were in) as they run with the National Park rules. So, Zaph had hang out in the trailer while Ed and I headed into the Grand Tetons to hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. There were two ways of getting there ... hike from trail head (2.9 miles) or take a boat from the trail head and hike the last bit (less than a mile). As we were out for exercise, we opted for the longer hike. The hike was fairly easy as it followed the shore of the lake for the most and then headed uphill for the last bit.

One of the many flowers we encountered on the hike.

Hidden Falls

A golden-mantled squirrel

Inspiration Point and it's view.

A ground squirrel

A sunset view from the RV park.



Touring the Tetons

Today we explored the Grand Tetons National Park. It is much smaller than Yellowstone, withs a lot less to see and do so we had a nice relaxing day soaking in the scenery. As we ended up near Jackson, Wy and its world famous ski area, we decided to check it out. It's a small town but it's packed with a lot of interesting shops and boutiques some of which are very expensive, and most of the old downtown area has wooden sidewalks. One of the real estate offices had some listings in the window ---- almost everything was over a million dollars!

The Grand Tetons reflecting into Jackson Lake.

One of several glaciers nestled high in the mountains.

The area is filled with incredible views.

Chapel of the Sacred Heart, one a couple such of wooden log structures in the park

Another gorgeous view of the mountains.

We met this 16 year old Coydog, named Marty at one of the pull offs along the road --- he's half golden retriever, the other half is coyote.

A pretty pick wild flower, these skyrockets (aka scarlet gilia, or skunk flower) are seen often in the park.

A view of the mountains at Jenny Lake.

Chapel of the Transfiguration --- a wedding was ending as we arrived.

From the inside of the chapel the Tetons are framed in the window behind the alter--- an inspiring place to be.

Outside of the chapel, the window reflects the mountains --- an easier photo to take. We think the most important job for the chapel's caretaker is to clean this window every day.

A mule deer walked about 5 feet from us.

The old general store has been reopened to visitors --- you can buy huckleberry soda .... mmmm good.

Can you tell what the arches are made of? ..... yes it's antlers. This is one of four such entrances to the park in Jackson.

Jackson is filled with shops .... lots and lots of expensive shops and note the boardwalk. There is a ski area at the end of the main street and it's about 30 minutes from the world famous ski area of Jackson Hole. I think the rich and famous play here.



Veg'ng in the Tetons

Time to leave the Yellowstone area and head to the Grand Tetons. After a three hour drive through both National Parks, we ended up at the RV park that would be our home for the next three days. The sun was shining and the view was beautiful so Ed and I decided to veg out for the rest of the day. What a nice change of pace.

A view from the campground.

This little brown headed cow bird and his friend below both were hanging around Ed until they got their photos taken.

Common grackle, with a bronzed tine typical of this area

Sunset in the Tetons.



Spurting Mud

Today is our last day to tour Yellowstone and we've decided to drive the lower loop of the park. Thermal features, waterfalls, Bald Eagles, Buffalo, and a coyote are some of the things we saw in our travels.

The Lower Geyser Basin has your typical geysers but it also has "paint pots" --- bubbling pools of clay.

We couldn't see into the pool but this "geyser" was shooting mud into the area. It's called Red Spouter.

When Fountain Geyser (the geyser not erupting in the front of the photo) is thinking about erupting, the thermal activity increases in the area --- Morning Thief, the geyser erupting in the photo, erupts as well as a couple of other smaller geysers near by.

Clepsydra Geyser has been erupting constantly since the 1959 earthquake.

In the West Thumb Basin we saw this beautiful pool call Abyss Pool ---- the water was so clear you could see a long way down into the pool but couldn't see a bottom.

Seismograph Spring

Yellowstone Lake is a large (136 square miles) beautiful lake on the eastern side of the park. From the national parks web site: "The west Thumb of Yellowstone Lake was formed by a large volcanic explosion that occurred approximately 150,000 years ago (125,000-200,000). The resulting collapsed volcano, called a caldera ("boiling pot" or caldron), later filled with water forming an extension of Yellowstone Lake." The cone in the photo is called Fishing Cone and is one of the many thermal features in this area.

A fire did not kill these trees ---- they were cooked. After a series of small earthquakes the temperature of the ground rose to 200F subsequently "cooking" the trees. This is called Cooking Hillside in the Mud Volcano area.

Across from Cooking Hill is this large thermal area --- can you see the Buffalo getting a spa treatment?

Mud Volcano

Nothing like a quick dip to cool off.

It's easy to understand why this area is called Artists Paint Pots.

A mud geyser near Artists Paint Pots --- this geyser was spurting mud about 10 feet into the air.

Another view of the Artists Paint Pots

Gibbon Falls



Here a Geyser, There a Geyser, Everywhere a Geyser

Another day in Yellowstone and a whole lot left to see. I didn't realize just how big Yellowstone is and how much there is to see and to do even though lots of people tried to tell me. We'll be lucky if we see all of the the major sites before we leave --- I guess we'll have a reason to come back.

Rapids just below Firehole Falls

Some of the thermo area near Firehole Lake

The Heart Geyser not far from Old Faithful

The Spasmodic Geyser, near Old Faithful

More of the geyser area near Old Faithful, the orange colour is from thermophilic bacteria

The Lion Geyser

Another view of the Lion Geyser with some of the Old Faithful's Lodge buildings in the rear

Everyone was waiting for Old Faithfull --- I can't image how busy it will be when the "busy season" begins on July 4.

There she blows.....Old Faithful erupted right on schedule.

Cliff Geyser in the Black Sand Basin

More colourful thermo ponds in the Black Sand Basin

One of the flowers that like being near the hot springs.

A Raven happily posed for us.

These trees died with the water levels covered their roots. Accumulated silicate gives the white sock look to their bases. This is near the Opalescence Pool, in the Black Sand Basin

The Grand Prismatic Spring in the background is the largest hot spring in the world

Closer view of the Grand Prismatic Spring

Zaph decided to join the wolf pack.

Even though all but one road closes to cars in the winter, the park is still open for business. Snowcoaches and snowmobiles are used to ferry people into the park. If you like to snowmobile this is the place to be as they usually get 4 to 5 feet of snow.



1959 Earthquake

We drove through Yellowstone from the north gate to the west gate as we were moving to the town of West Yellowstone. Once we settle in we decided to do a scenic drive through the area and visit the Madison River Canyon Earthquake Area. On August 17, 1959 one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded on the North American continent struck the Madison River Canyon. From the brochure: "The earthquake, which measured 7.5 on the Richter scale, triggered a massive landslide, which sent over 80 million tons of rock crashing down into the canyon, blocking the Madison River. The water backed up behind the rocks, forming the new Earthquake Lake.'

This elk was getting a lot of attention while he was eating breakfast.

Don't need a post hole digger to put up this fence.

Some pretty blue flowers.

Hebgen Lake tilted upward during the earthquake lowering the south shore by 19 feet. The occupant of this cabin jumped out just before it slipped into the lake.

The ridge on the right of the picture was formed during the earthquake.

A view of Earthquake Lake. In a hundred years or so it may be drained as the river slowly widens the channel allowing more water to flow out of it.

To give you a size prospective that's our truck in the parking lot. The rock on the right was originally attached to the circle like outcropping on the left and was moved during the slide. The rock is sitting about 300 feet above the original valley floor.



Wildlife and Flowers

Today we were going to look for wildlife and as luck would have it we saw some though not as much as Ed hoped for. Guess we should have gotten up earlier!

A Sandhill Crane family.

A petrified tree.

A pretty purple flower --- I need to spend some time reading our wildflower book.

A field of pretty yellow flowers.

We stopped at a pull off to watch a herd of Bison down in a valley. There was a lone Bison across the road and up a hill. He slowly made his way down the hill, crossed the road and headed straight for the wooden guard rail. He happily scratched his back and chin while 20 people backed up and watched. When he finished scratching he headed about 40 feet down the hill then stopped and rolled around in the dirt. That's a piece of grass on his face not a hair on the photo.

There was a herd of Bison, several Pronghorns (antelope) and this coyote in the valley.

This guy was ripping vegetation of the side of a hill by a road. (I think he's a young bighorn sheep).

A Black Bear. We had stopped to look at a black bear high on a hill sleeping by a tree. When we walked back to the truck we saw this guy down the hill.

A herd of Elk.

Soda Butte.



So Much to See

Today was our first full day to visit Yellowstone National Park and we filled every moment resulting in a lot of fantastic experiences and photos. The road system in Yellowstone is basically a figure eight with five offshoots heading to the different gates. Today we drove the upper circle of the eight visiting Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace, Norris Geyser Basin, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and stopped at many places along the route.

Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces - Palette Springs: Several key ingredients combine to make the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces: heat, water, limestone, and a rock fracture system through which hot water can reach the earth's surface. Palette Springs were created by water flowing from a flat area and then down a steep ridge, creating a colorful hillside palette of brown, green, and orange (the colors are due to the presence of different heat-tolerant bacteria). This effect is much the same as an artist would achieve by allowing wet paint to run down a vertical surface.

Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace - Cleopatra Terrace

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces - Main Terrace: On the main terrace the travertine (calcium carbonate) surrounded trees creating an eerie image.

Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace - Canary Springs: Canary Springs was named for its bright yellow color (sulfur dependent filamentous bacteria). This is the upper portion.

Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace - Canary Springs: water falls on the lower portion

Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace - Orange Spring Mound: Its large mounded shape is the result of very slow water flow and mineral deposition.

At one of the lookouts along the road we say this Raven next complete with young.

One of the Yellowstone tour buses --- this one is unique because it is a convertable. You don't have to get off the bus to get a very view --- just stand up.

At another pull off we noticed a lot of people, so we stopped to see what had been spotted. Turned out it was a fox. I think it got tired of being watched so it stood up and walked past the crowd before heading away.

Many of the animals in the park are not afraid of people as people are not considered predators by the animals at Yellowstone (no hunting). Now we understand why we heard people in Cody referring to Yellowstone as the "petting zoo down the road".

Norris Geyser Basin -Norris Geyser Basin the hottest and most changeable thermal area in Yellowstone. Ed liked the green and orange colours in the Porcelain Basin area.

Norris Geyser Basin - One of the many colourful springs in the basin.

Norris Geyser Basin - A small lake with thermal activity at the far end of it.

Norris Geyser Basin - The Veteran Geyser bubbles away.

Norris Geyser Basin - A small eruption of the Steamboat Geyser. The Steamboat Geyser eruptions can reach more than 300 feet and last 3 to 40 minutes. The major eruptions are rare with the last one being in May of 2005. Small eruptions occur on a regular basis.

Yellowstone's Grand Canyon - Our first view of the Lower Falls. It is 308 feet high making it twice as tall as Niagara Falls.

Yellowstone's Grand Canyon - We walked down till we were at the brink of the Lower Falls. A view looking down the canyon.

Yellowstone's Grand Canyon - A view of the falls from Artist Point. I thought that this was the best view of the falls and understood why they called this area Artist Point.

Yellowstone's Grand Canyon - 328 steps take you down to view the Lower Falls from the South Rim. It was too bad that you have to climb back up them.

Yellowstone's Grand Canyon - The view from the bottom of the steps. Notice how some of the water appears green --- it reminded Ed of his toothpaste - white with green stripes.



That Other Season - Road Construction

This morning we hitched up the trailer, loaded Zaph into the truck and headed for Yellowstone National Park. The plan was to enter the park at the East Entrance drive to the North Entrance and land at an RV park in Gardiner Montana. As dogs are not allowed on any trails or boardwalks in the national park we opted to stay outside of the park in Gardiner where Zaph would be able to walk around town. For once we lucked out, it looked like we were going to be stopped at the beginning of the road construction (and would have to wait the warned about 30 minutes) but we were waved on past the stop sign. During the drive through the park we saw some spectacular views, many buffalo, mule deer and steaming water --- can't wait till we go into the park tomorrow to get a closer look.

Road Construction inside Yellowstone National Park.

The Yellowstone River goes through the middle of Gardiner.

The Roosevelt Arch at the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park. This arch was dedicated by Theodore Roosevelt on April 24, 1903.

The main tourist shopping area in Gardiner.

Mother Nature couldn't make up her mind --- it was raining and the sun was shining causing the "sun ray affect".



Another Gunfight

The Plains Indian Museum and the Cody Firearms Museum were the final two museums on our visit to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Both museums were interesting and I've never seen so many different firearms as I saw today.

Next stop of the day was the Buffalo Bill Dam ---- yeah, a lot of the places in town are named for Buffalo Bill. The dam completed in 1910 and was the highest dam in the world at 325 feet. It was 108 feet wide at the base and 10 feet wide at the top. Its crest was 200 feet across. Buffalo Bill Dam was Reclamation's first high concrete arch dam. In 1993 an additional 25 feet was added to the dam.

In 1902 Buffalo Bill built the Irma Hotel (named after his daughter) which he called -"just the sweetest hotel that ever was.". This hotel is one of the other big attractions in town and each evening there is a gun fight. The performance is free but you can rent a chair for $1. The gun fight was our last stop for the day.

Yet one more bronze statue of Buffalo Bill Cody.

Zaph says this is definitely "dog abuse" --- can't image that any dog would submit willingly.

The exhibits in the Plains Indian Museum were very well done.

One of the gun exhibits.

"It Banishes Fear" --- that's the title in the display box.

A very interesting horse.

Looking down the Buffalo Bill Dam

A golf cart is used to transport visitors from the parking lot to the visitor center and even Zaph was offered a ride. I was surprised when he climb on board.

Kayaking on the Buffalo Bill Reservoir

The Shoshone River runs along the highway.

Violet-Green Swallows were flying over the Shoshone River.

Queen Victoria was so impressed with the "Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show" that she gave Buffalo Bill this cherry wood bar for the Irma Hotel.

The cast of the "Gun Fight"

The gun fight is on.

Even the coke machines is "western".



Rodeo Nite

The main attraction in Cody is the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. This makes sence as not only is the town name for William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) but it was founded by him. The Buffalo Bill Historical Center consists of five museums ---Buffalo Bill Museum, Plains Indian Museum, Draper Museum of Natural History, Whitney Gallery of Western Art and Cody Firearms Museum. Your entrance fee is good for two days so we took advantage of that --- figured two or three museums is enough for one day!

Day One we visited The Buffalo Bill Museum which of course is all about Buffalo Bill, the Draper Museum of Natural History which is all about the Yellowstone area and the Whitney Gallery of Western Art which of course is art work about the west.

The day ended with a trip to the Cody Nite Rodeo. The rodeo is on every evening all summer except when the stampede is on. The rodeo was a lot of fun .... maybe we'll have to plan a trip to the Calgary Stampede.

A bronze of Buffalo Bill is at the front entrance.

A big part of the Buffalo Bill Museum revolved around "Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show". There was even a video of one of the performances.

One of Buffalo Bill's coats along with a rifle and a couple of pistols.

Ed wasn't interested in trading our 5th wheel for one of the original trailers. This is a sheep ranch wagon complete with bed and kitchen.

Iris's in one of the gardens.

Ride em cowboy! --- bareback riding.

It doesn't look any easier with a sadlle --- Sadlle bronc riding

I think the steer won --- this cowboy just wasn't big enough to bring him down. Steer Wrestling.

That horse has really good brakes --- Girl's barrel racing.

Even the little ones got in on the show --- Novice Barrel Racing. Unfortunately this little one lost control and fell off her horse but dad was there to rescue her.

Yup, that's a cowboy under a bull --- the clowns got in the fast and moved the bull off.

Oops.... he did hang on --- Bull Riding.

This is more like it --- but I don't know why anyone would want to do it.

Some people's driveways must be a bit rough around this part of the country, interesting solution.



The Home of Buffalo Bill

This morning we packed up the trailer and headed west to the home of Buffalo Bill --- Cody Wyoming. We had 500 km to travel and the computer navigation program predicted it would take 7 hours. The drive was through a variety of landscapes --- prairie fields, badlands and mountains.

One last look at Devil's Tower as we head down the road.

In the distance we can see snow covered peaks. The highway led us through these mountains.



Bear Lodge

Devils Tower National Monument was proclaimed the first national monument in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. "Devils Tower rises 1267 feet about the Belle Fourche River. Once hidden, erosion has revealed Devils Tower." "Also known as Bears Lodge, it is a sacred site for many American Indians." (exerts from National Parks web page). There are three scientific theories regarding the creation of the tower but the Indian legends are more interesting. Of later day culture, it was the centre of activity in the 1977 movie "Close encounters of the third kind"

A view of Devils Tower from the main road showing some of the red "spearfish" formation, a dominate feature of the black hill .

This site is a sacred spot for many Indian tribes and you'll see prayer cloths and bundles hanging in the trees.

June is the most sacred month at Devils Tower for many Indian Tribes. In deference to the Indian beliefs the park has put a voluntary ban on climbing during the month of June. This voluntary ban has reduced the number of climbers in June by 85%. We did see two climbers near the top.

The tower glows in the setting sun.

OK, this is the last tower picture ---- there really wasn't a lot of things to take photos of.

Bullock's Oriole --- we did see a number of birds and white tailed deer.



Crazy Horse and the Shootout

About five miles north of Custer is the Crazy Horse Memorial. This not for profit organization has been working on the memorial since 1948 and very far from complete. It’s unfortunate that the original sculptor who died in 1982 had such grandiose plans for the sculpture that it is destroying a large portion of a mountain and may never be completed --- at least not in my lifetime. I’m not sure that this is the memorial that the founding Indian chiefs had envisioned.

This evening we attended a "shoot out" at the Gold Pan Saloon. A bunch of locals including the owner of the RV park where we are staying and his wife are the cast of this grass roots show.

Inside the Museum at the Crazy Horse Memorial

A motorcycle with Crazy Horse's famous saying.

The sculptor's studio.

The Crazy Horse Memorial in its current state

The white sculpture is the model that reflects what the mountain will look like when done. In the background one can see there is a lot of work still to be done.

A bronze sculpture that was donated to the memorial.

A colourful bison on one of the downtown streets of Custer.

"The shootout" the good guys are on the left and the bad guy is at the right front.

Looks like everyone has been shot except for Rock (RV park owner) --- he was shot just after this photo was taken.



Friendly Ghost Town and What Every Happened to Wild Bill Hichok

The fellow at the Custer information centre had drawn a scenic route from Custer to Spearfish at the north end of the Black Hills. As the sun was shining we decided that it was a good day to do the drive. The route took us deep into the National Forest, past pristine lakes, up winding roads to lookout points, past quaint small towns and some not so quaint. One of the highlights was Rochford, a small "ghost" town with a church, fire station, the mall or “small” as they called it and a restaurant / bar / store / meeting place. Another highlight or should I saw “downlight” was finding snow on the ground at Terry Peak --- there wasn’t a lot of snow but there was snow. While it was cold, drizzling and windy in Custer yesterday, Terry Peak was having a blizzard. Another interesting stop was the town of Deadwood --- South Dakota’s "Las Vegas" western style.

A small corner of Deerfield Lake.

This tree swallow kept hanging around till Ed took his picture --- Ed was about 3 feet away from him.

Ditch Creek on the edge of Deerfield Lake.

Flag Mountain --- in the 1940's there was a fire lookout here.

As we drove up the road to flag mountain we saw hundreds of these yellow flowers.

Rochford --- Moonshine Gulch Saloon is the restaurant / bar /meeting place etc.

The mall... better known as the "small". In a past life this building was a garage and fuel depot for the old mining operation. The owner showed us a photo album of the renovations.

Yup mom, it's snow.

Roughlock Falls

Wild Bill Hichok was gunned down in a saloon in Deadwood --- the only time he every sat with his back to the door.

A view of downtown Deadwood. About 80 percent of the establishments along this street are casinos.

Homestake Open Gold Mine in Lead. I think all the gold is gone as the mine no longer operates.

Mom... Which lever was it to make it move?



Wind and Box works

From the National Parks website: "Wind Cave became a national park in 1903. It is one of the nation's oldest US national parks. Today the park not only protects the 4th longest cave in the world, it protects an amazing prairie ecosystem and the wildlife associated with it." The cave was found when two bothers, out hunting, heard a loud whistling noise, which led them to a small hole in the ground, the cave's only natural opening. The hole is still there and we heard the whistling noise today as we approached it. The noise is created as air either moves in or out of the cave depending on the barometric pressure. If you haven't guessed, we went to Wind Cave National Park today. One of the amazing things about this cave is that all of the 124 miles of passages are within one square mile --- that means a lot of connecting tunnels on three layers.

The natural entrance to Wind Cave --- I don't think I would have crawled into that 8"x10"hole.

Some of the passage ways were low --- OK I was probably bending more than I needed to.

This structure is called popcorn. It is formed by water seeping through the cave wall and forming a water droplet. The water evaporates leaving the popcorn formation.

Descending deep into the cave. The tour included some rooms on the upper level and middle level.

This is the formation called "box works". Before the cave was formed, the limestone rock cracked under pressure from above rocks. Water carrying calcite fills the cracks as time passed, left the calcite behind forming a hard plug. As the acidic ground water carved the cave passages, in the weak limestone, it exposed the more acid resistant calcite, which resulted in the box work structures which the cave if famous for.

Wind Cave has about 95% of the exposed "box works features" in the world.

A view in the Black Hills.




Custer South Dakota is a really nice town and there is a fair bit to do in the area so we decided to extend our stay to a week. With that decided we headed out on a day trip south to the city of Hot Springs. This is another quaint little town set in the Black Hills and yes, there are a number of hot springs and spas in the area. The beautiful old stone buildings attest to the fact that a number of stonemasons settled here. In 1974, just outside of town a bulldozer was beginning to ready some land for a housing development when some large bones were discovered. After showing the bones to a scientist at a university it was determined that the bones were those of a Mammoth and the subdivision was stopped. The landowner sold the land to “Mammoth Site”, a not for profit organization, who began to dig at the site. Still an active research site, some of the bones are left in place so you view them as they were found and to allow researchers to study the fossils of the animals in the position they died.

Bison are pretty big .... that's a dump truck coming towards us.

Babies are always so cute.

The old train station has been converted to an information center.

The former town jail.

This spring was very hot --- I think it was only around 75F

To date 55 mammoths have been found. By examining the bones the paleontologists have determined that all of the mammoths in the dig are males and the majority are Columbian Mammoths and the remainder are Woolly Mammoths.

One of the complete skeletons found in the dig. A large sink hole form and filled with water. When the mammoths tried to eat the grass at the edge of the hole or get a drink of water some of them fell in a were unable to get out due to the steepness of the sink hole.

A volunteer is using dentals tools to clean around a bone.

Zaph checking out the Mammoth statue --- he doesn't really like the looks of it.



Jewel Cave

From the National Park's website: "At 139 miles, Jewel cave is the second longest cave in the world. It is filled with calcite crystals and other wonders that make up the "jewels" of Jewel Cave National Monument". Volunteer cavers are actively exploring the cave so it may continue to grow in length as new tunnels are discovered. The cave can only be viewed on a ranger led tour and you can only bring yourself and a camera --- no purses, no water, etc. The park is so serious about preserving the cave that tarps are placed under the walkways to catch hair and anything else that may fall off of the people touring the cave.

The afternoon included a hike up one of the hills bordering Custer and a trip into the state park for some hiking and a quick dip in a lake--- Zaph's pick!

In 2000 a forest fire burned in the area including that over the cave. The park was happy to know that the smoke from the fire did not penetrate or effect the cave in any way.

One of the many passages we walked down.

Some of the "jewels" in the cave, the mud like material in the centre is "flow stone".

The tour group admiring the cave, while the ranger points out features.

Look for the strip of bacon --- it is a ribbon formation and this one is the largest know ribbon in Jewel cave. Start at the brightest spot in the photo and follow it towards the top right corner.

Some of the beautiful draperies.

A view of Custer from the top of an overlook.

A mom and her babies on one of the lakes in Custer State Park.

Zaph seems to attract little girls and they all love to pet him.



Tunnels and faces

After a visit to the information center, Ed was armed with a long list of things to do and places to see in the area. We decided that we would start with the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, but inserted a detour to drive the Wildlife Drive in Custer Sate Park, then continue on the scenic drive stopping at Mount Rushmore before heading back to Custer. What an interesting drive, we passed through several tunnels (one of which was just over 8 feet wide), saw white-tailed deer, bison, prairie dogs and burros, some fantastic views and of course Mount Rushmore.

One of the tunnels we drove through in Custer State Park.

Custer State Park is home to about 1500 bison --- I think we seen about 10 of them.

A Pronghorn

Very friendly burros. A number of years ago the burros were brought into the park to pull carts to transport people and goods to the more rugged area of the park. When the burros were no longer needed they were released into the park and have thrived.

The visitor center another Civilian Conservation Corps project

The man who designed the road and thus tunnels leading to Mount Rushmore planned the tunnels to frame the presidents on Mount Rushmore.

A walkway leading to the viewing platform is lined with flags from all of the states.

The presidents are from left to right: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor, created this model of the sculpture. Mount Rushmore and the presidents can be seen out of the upper window.

Keystone, has become a real tourist town. Prior to 1900, Keystone was the centre a mining community, with local mines extracting mica, tin oxide, gold and other rare mineral. Keystone is the nearest town to Mount Rushmore and at one time supplied the electrical power required to create the faces on the mountain.



Off to the Black Hills and Custer

The town of Custer is about 125 miles from the Badlands National Park and it was our destination for today. We decided to drive the south highway and enjoyed some beautiful scenery as we skirted the south side of the badlands. As we neared the Black Hills, the scenery changed dramatically --- no more flat land with badlands thrown it but real hills with lots of granite, quartz and mica and lots of trees. Custer is a quaint town with lots of hotels and campgrounds in the area. A gentleman who is originally from northern Ontario owns the campground we’re staying at. Zaph needed to stretch his legs so we went for a walk around town and checked out the local sites.

We saw this critter just outside of the "badlands" --- interesting lawn ornament.

One of the old buildings in Custer.

It took a lot of cautious sniffing before Zaph would stand beside the Bison for his photo.

A park in downtown Custer, protected by the spirits of General Custer and Chief Sitting Bull.

A view of downtown Custer.

The Bison around town are painted --- this one tells the story of the effect of the train on the Bison herds.

Just in case you forget where you are there is a lighted sign on the hill behind town.



Exploring the Badlands

First stop today was the visitor’s center where we learned about the geology and history of the area. With our new knowledge in hand we started the 29-mile drive through the park. Along the drive we saw some great scenery, beautiful wildflowers including flowering cactus (I was surprised to see cactus as the winters can be pretty harsh here), mule deer, lots of rabbits, a couple of prairie dog towns complete with prairie dogs and Mountain Bluebirds.

The end of the drive is near the town of Wall, so having seen a million or so billboards (Ok probably only 50) for Wall Drug we decided to go and check it out. Wall Drug has been around since the early 30’s. The owner of the store was disappointed that a lot of the traffic passing by town didn’t stop, so they decided to advertise “free ice water”. Well, that changed things --- people started stopping and the store grew. The store is the size of a city block and continues to expand. They sell the normal drug store items and much more …. toys, gift items, souvenirs, art work, jewelry, western wear. It also has a restaurant where you can get your free ice water and a 5 cent coffee and they make their own cake donuts, delicious.

Returning to the park, we decided to do four short hikes. Two of the hikes took us to vantage points overlooking the badlands where the view reminded us of Bryce Canyon but on a much small scale. The third hike gave us a great view of the low lands. The last hike was longest and the most interesting. You walked among the hills then climbed a ladder to get to a higher level. Here you were able to see the different layers of rocks and veins of different types of rock. The trail ended with a view of the third trail and the low lands.

A field of flowers looking towards the badlands

White tailed deer grazing.

A unique hill --- note the strata lines.

A view of the badlands

Another view of the badlands with a couple of good lookers in the foreground.

One of the many prairie dogs in the prairie dog town.

This cute little guy sat near the truck for the 10 minutes we watched the prairie dogs.

The picture says it all.

One of the many rooms inside Wall Drug

Zaph wasn't available for posing so I stepped in.

Now that's a mighty big prairie dog!

Prickly Pear in bloom.

Another view of the badlands

Made it up the ladder --- going down is going to be harder!

An unusual camper --- we're pretty sure that it's from Germany.



On The Road …. Again

After two and a half days of driving (and Ed says the first two were LONG!!!) we arrived at Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The park is made up of a North Unit (where we were) and a South Unit (on an Indian Reservation). The north unit’s main feature is “the wall” --- the area between the high ground and low ground where the wind, rain and snow has eroded much of the soil away leaving sculptured mounds. The pictures will show this much more clearly. The campground is on low ground with a great view of the “badlands”.

Along the main highway was a rest stop that had a great view of the Missouri River and an exhibit on Lewis and Clark who explored this river.

A view of the Missouri River.

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