Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Hot Springs, South Dakota


The south end of the Black Hills did not disappoint. We spent 4 nights camped at a small campground 30 minutes south of Custer State Park. If you’re rolling through Hot Springs, SD, stop at Sunrise Ridge Campground. Josh and Alicia are amazing hosts.

Hot Springs has a number of attractions, including the world famous Mammoth Site (home to hundreds of partially excavated mammoth bones).

We spent our first full day driving the Wildlife and Needles scenic routes inside Custer State Park. Hundreds of prairie dogs and buffalo greeted us as we entered the park from the south. Further along, we saw pronghorn and wild donkeys.

The drive to Sylvan lake on Needles road gave us fantastic views of the igneous rock formations visible throughout the Black Hills. Formed from molten magma, these igneous rocks crystallized at depth, as the magma pushed up through the sedimentary layers. The softer rocks eroded over time, leaving the rock spires the Black Hills are famous for. The Needles are a climber’s paradise, and while hiking around Sylvan lake, we met some friendly rock climbers from Quebec.

The other scenic drive in Custer State Park is Iron Mountain Road. We took this historic route (est. 1933) the next day and saw more great scenery and tunnels that framed Mt Rushmore in the distance.

On our last day we took a tour of Jewel Cave National Monument. With over 200 miles of tunnels, and still only 5% mapped, Jewel Cave may one day be confirmed as the largest cave system in the world.   

Sylvan Lake - Custer State Park

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Spearfish, South Dakota


Two and a half days of heavy rain cut into our stay in Spearfish, South Dakota, but we found time to visit a lot of interesting sites in the Northern Black Hills region.

Our favorite expedition was a drive through Spearfish Canyon. We loved the steep, wooded canyon walls dotted with very accessible waterfalls.

🪶Since we’ve visited the Rushmore memorial before, we decided to spend a day at the Crazy Horse memorial and the Indian Museum of North America. We learned a lot about the efforts to complete the monument from one of the board members that manages the foundation. They hope to see the monument finished in 20 years, and when complete, the sculpture will be about three times the size of Mt. Rushmore.

There are lots of interesting towns in the western Bad Lands / Black Hills area, thanks to the Custer expedition and the gold rush of the late 1800s.

🤠 We visited Deadwood. The final resting place of Wild Bill Hickok, and the source of hundreds of outlaw stories, some true.

🚜🌾The High Plains Western Heritage Center does a great job describing early frontier life for everyone who wasn’t an outlaw.

🐟🎣 The DC Booth fish hatchery is part of the National Park system. We learned a lot about the role the hatchery played in replenishing the Black Hills rivers from the knowledgeable volunteers. We highly recommend visiting this site.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Dickinson, North Dakota


Spending the night at Phat Fish Brewery - part of the Harvest Host network. 
While waiting for the brewery to open, we found the Ukrainian Cultural Institute a few blocks away. Amazing art and cultural material, and the curator was delightful to speak with. 
After that, we walked around the Dickinson State University campus and found a statue of Teddy Roosevelt at the courthouse. He gave his first speech there at age 27, during a 4th of July parade. It may be the only statue of a president that includes a six-shooter! 
Beer and pizza for dinner - perfect ending to a perfect day.

Downtime in North Dakota


After traveling 1600 miles in 5 days, we spent a relaxing long weekend in Jamestown, North Dakota visiting Charles’ cousin and family. It’s been seven years so we had a lot to catch up on. 

During our free time we played tourists. Jamestown is a small farming community 1.5 hours west of Fargo, and is best known for two things - a giant buffalo statue and being the birthplace of author, Louis L’Amour. 

We skipped the buffalo museum which reported to have a stuffed ‘white buffalo’ on exhibit, and went on an expedition to learn about the man who wrote over 100 novels and short story collections. 

The local library had a kiosk devoted to Louis L’Amour’s books and life but we quickly discovered there was more information on wikipedia. 

There were no life size cutouts for cheezy photo-ops. No film clips of John Wayne playing the lead character in one of L’Amour’s most popular works, Hondo. No rare original books behind locked glass. What a missed opportunity.

At the library we also learned Jamestown is the birthplace of singer Peggy Lee. We left the library a bit deflated as the words from a Peggy Lee song played in my head. 

“Is that all there is? If that’s all there is my dear, let’s keep driving…” 

Next stop - Teddy Roosevelt

National Park! 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

On the Road 2022!

Our first trip took us 450 miles North to a campground just south of Nashville, TN (https://stoneycreektravelpark.com/).

We mare it to the campground about 3:45 and the cats (Marby and Tucker) and the fish (Vivaldi) are doing great. 

Tomorrow is another long drive to Illinois where we’ll stay for 2 nights. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

A week around Canon City, Colorado

We had so much fun this past week we had to put it in a video.
Here's out VLOG on Youtube, we hope you enjoy it!

Monday, June 18, 2018

New Mexico

We're in Colorado now but the memories of our visit to New Mexico stay with us. 

The cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and fascinating history of the Pueblo Indians left us feeling like strangers in someone else’s land. For tens of thousands of years, they have called this area home. 

Exploring the cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument

We loved Santa Fe for its quirky charm. Such a mixed bag of cultures and interests combine to make it one of our favorite stops. 

We had the chance to enjoy the EAT fundraiser for the arts which led us through dozens of galleries over two evenings. Each gallery was open and inviting, featuring food from local restaurants making it a true feast for the senses. 

Robin at the Globe Gallery on Canyon Rd

Los Alamos was a must stop since we’re both major geeks. We loved learning about the history of the Manhattan project. 
Wherever you stand on nuclear weapons, it's an important part of American history.

Standing with Oppenheimer and Groves at Historic Los Alamos

The Manhattan Project came to Los Alamos in late 1943 with a group of about 200 people. Oppenheimer knew of the area because of the Los Alamos Ranch School. a "boys only" prep school to toughen up boys from back East. The existing buildings would give them a head start and the location on a thin mesa above two canyons made it easy to secure. General Groves agreed and the school was quickly shut down. 

Many scientists brought their families and over the span of one year over 50 babies were born in the small community. Evidently, the scientists did not just work 24/7 on the bomb. With super security clearance, no one outside the community knew what was going on up on the hill. Everyone even had the same mailing address: P.O. Box 1663. When Sears (think pre-Amazon) started getting dozens of catalog requests they thought it was a hoax and would only send one. That catalog got shared a lot.

In a little over a year, scientists had designed and were ready to test the first bomb. Oppenheimer chose the area around White Sands, NM and in July 1945 they had the first successful test of a nuclear weapon. A month later, US forces would drop bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki three days apart, ending the war in the Pacific.

This of course started the arms race with the Soviet Union with help from leaked information provided by a member of the British contingent of Manhattan Project. Since he was a member of our allied forces the US did not do a thorough security screening on him, assuming that the British had cleared him.

Today Los Alamos has a population of 12000 people and over 8000 work in the scientific fields there. It also has the highest density of PHDs and millionaires in the country. 

While north of Santa Fe we also took a drive out to see the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The 89000-acre park encompasses one of the 3  dormant supervolcanoes in the US (the others being Yellowstone in Wyoming and Long Valley in California’s. Erupting 1.2 million years ago, it scattered thousands of feet of volcanic tuff all over the New Mexico and Colorado and sent ash as far as Iowa. The eruption was hundreds of times more powerful than Mt St Helens. 
The preserve, operating since 2013, has hot springs, streams, fumaroles, and natural gas seeps. Volcanic domes dot the caldera floor, with a variety of igneous stone, from pumice to obsidian, bearing witness to a variety of volcanic activity in the past. The highest point in the caldera is Redondo Peak at 11,253-feet (3,430 m). It is a resurgent lava dome located entirely within the caldera. The preserve encompasses vast grasslands, supporting an abundance of wildlife, including 17 rare species and one of New Mexico’s largest elk herds at about 2500. 

While at the visitor center located inside the Caldera, we watched crew filming for an upcoming Nat Geo series "Prairie Dog Home Companion". They were documenting the research of biologist John Hoogland, an expert in the field of Prairie dogs.

Research and filming area at Valles Calderas

Taos was a perfect last stop for us - even more laid back than Santa Fe. We caught a live performance in the Taos Plaza the first night and took many nice strolls around town. We had our first "high altitude" hike to Williams Lake (10,000+ feet) and enjoyed a cold beer afterward at Taos Ski Valley. 

We made it to Williams Lake 10,000+ feet!

After two weeks around Santa Fe and Taos, we said goodbye and drove out along highway 64. Luckily for us, this road was just opened after a large fire. We saw ash everywhere and could still smell smoke in the air. 

We loved NE New Mexico but it's getting really hot and there is so much more too see. Check out more photos here in our FLICKR album.  Follow us on Fcebook and Instagram to see where we're at now!

Next stop Canon (pronounced canyon) City, Colorado.