Sunday, May 17, 2009

Vacation time... Rapid City, South Dakota

Vacations are always times that you look forward too, but I'm impatient and really don't like to wait for the day to arrive. So I was quite pleased when we finally decided where we wanted to go and it was all able to fall into place so quickly (only about a week).

Terry wants to go to all of the National Parks and so that helped us to decide to go to Mount Rushmore National Park. We flew into Denver from Atlanta and then took a commuter plane up to Rapid City, South Dakota. Everything was just great and Rapid City is a really neat western city. The pace is much slower than Atlanta has become and a really wonderful relief. There is a park along the Rapid River that runs through town and it is really beautiful with these gorgeous yellow trees along the river. I never did find out what kind of trees they were. I'll try to show you some of the highlights.

First of all is Mount Rushmore, what everyone thinks of when you go to Rapid City, but there is alot more than that. It is a very nice park with trails that you can hike. We are probabaly spoiled with Stone Mountain's carving. Driving by it all of the time, I don't think about all that it took to do the carving. The same man that carved Stone Mountain did Mount Rushmore and Stone Mountain was first. ( Mount Rushmore National Memorial, near Keystone, South Dakota, is a monumental granite sculpture by Gutzon Borglum 1867–1941.)

The mountain goats have been in the Mount Rushmore park since the beginning. The graze around the bottom areas of grass below the carving. We hiked the trail ( a loop in front of the carving), but you can make special arrangements with the Park and take a hike with the Rangers up to the carving.

The next place we visited was Custer State Park and this is where herds of buffalo are. These two big bulls were almost standing guard. It says corral but the buffalo aren't corralled, they are able to roam free. They are really huge, strong animals that I wouldn't want to get in their way.

We have been to Yellowstone and the buffalo roam free there too, but for some reason I believe these are "wilder". I guess there are not as many people around them. We were lucky to see these buffalos fighting (or playing rough) . We got some really neat pictures of them fighting with the dust coming up. Looks just like the Old West!

The antelope and deer are everywhere too. You will see that one of our main ventures is to capture the animals. I usually will keep a journal and "count of animals" but I was really lazy this time. We saw multitudes of deer, antelope and wild turkeys, prairie dogs and these burros. The burros were wild and lived in the park. I think there job is to harrass the park visitors. They are really moochers and eat whatever you give them, even though you are not to feed the animals. They will also bite you if you don't feed them. The baby's were so cute!

Prairie dogs are also everywhere, they take over areas of the prairie covering it with mounds where they dig out their tunnels. They have "cities" and run from mound to mound playing and making their barking noises.

The exciting animal we spotted was the Big Horn Sheep. There are not alot of them in Custer State Park so we were excited when we found these four by the stream running in the park.

You can see in this picture that this ram was not real happy with us. He was really making some facial expressions to show his disapproval of us making his photograph. They are really beautiful animals. The horns are so neat! The ewes have the small little horns and aren't nearly as large.

Devil's Tower is another really unusual place. Terry says that it was his favorite place. The first picture is on the way to Devil's Tower that is in Wyoming. The snow was blowing and the clouds were fabulous and making that unusual light that peaks in and out of the clouds. When we got to the Tower it was freezing cold with pretty strong winds blowing and the snow flurries hitting you in the face.
Terry decided he wanted to climb the trail to the base of the mountain that circles around the tower. While he did that I got out my art supplies and started some pen and ink along with watercolors. I sat on a park bench bundled up with coat and gloves while I painted. It was really freezing. Finally when I finished my hands and nose were almost numb. I loved doing it though. I did find that the medium I was always afraid of (pen and ink) became something I truly enjoyed. Whenever we would stop for a picture and Terry would walk around. I would get out my pen and ink and draw like crazy till he would come back, usually 5 or 10 minutes at the most. It was a great art exercise that I really want to keep up. Instead of a painting a day, I should at least be able to do a drawing a day. Then maybe after I do this for awhile I can do a painting a day.

Devils Tower (Lakota: Mato Tipila, which means “Bear Tower”) is a monolithic igneous intrusion or volcanic neck located in the Black Hills near Hulett. It is a volcano where the outside of it has eroded away leaving the inside core which are lava tubes. The colors are beautiful in person.

The Needles Highway is another scenic route to take. When we went through this area we also had snow and wind. The views were really beautiful looking out at long vistas of mountains out
to the plains. The mountains are like skinny slabs turned sideways and then they'll have these very small tunnels to go through. I'm sure that some larger cars or campers are unable to make it through.
Spearfish Canyon was a beautiful drive with waterfalls and beautiful vistas.

Badlands National Park was very isolated and bordered the Indian Reservation. It was alot like the "hoodoos" at Bryce National Park.

The trip was really fun and we thoroughly enjoyed all of the different places we went. Terry took me to Deadwood where I gambled just a little, to Sturgis where all the motorcycles go to, and also went to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. We ended with our shopping trip for little things for the grandkids in Rapid City.

I would recommend the trip to any of you that like a more "nature" vacation with lots of beautiful sights to see.... Sally