Headed West – Again – Day 14

17 Sep

There is a long-term mammoth dig site in Hot Springs, South Dakota. The dig, in a sinkhole that trapped unwary mammoths, mostly Columbian, but also a few woolies, continues, though the site is now enclosed. It is a tourist spot as well. Lee and I took the tour. Many of the bone are still where they were found. The tour guide said that most were young males who had left the matriarchal herd. They should have listened to Mama and stayed away from the sinkhole!IMG_1537

Headless mammoth skeleton, Murray Antoinette.

Headless mammoth skeleton, Murray Antoinette.


From Hot Springs we made our way to Lusk, Wyoming where they have the usual small-town museum stuff but also one of the original stage coaches that made the run between Cheyenne and Deadwood. It impressed me. They also had a dress worn by a madam from Lusk’s wilder past. There is also a plaster cast of a Tyrannosaurus Rex – dinosars are big around here. There is a memorial to another madam about 10 miles out into the wilds that surround Lusk. Surprisingly, we did not go to see it. IMG_1575IMG_1573IMG_1578
Finally, we reached Cheyenne. We took in Buryville, the art environment of Mel Gould, a self-taught engineer who retired to tinkering around and building mobile sculptures. Neat stuff. We gave up a climb to the top of Mt. Everest to stop by the folk art.SONY DSCSONY DSCIMG_1604
We also went by the giant teapot, the downtown Depot Park and the State Capitol.SONY DSCIMG_1635IMG_1625IMG_1617IMG_1639 Denver tomorrow.
Here are today’s birds to identify. We took the first photo on the Capitol grounds. The second photo is from an Estes Park, Colorado parking lot that may be underwater today. They may be the same bird.SONY DSCSONY DSC

Headed West – Again – Day 13

16 Sep

In its downtown area, Rapid City, South Dakota, has a statue of every American President. President Obama’s statue will be added after he leaves office. I tried to decide which President’s statue to post so that no one could complain about politics. I’ve always had a soft spot for Taft because of his heftiness and because he was a baseball player and fan. He was the first President to throw out the Opening Day pitch.IMG_1530 But do I need to balance Republican Taft with a Democrat? Gotta go with Jimmy Carter who has been to Calhoun.IMG_1489
Rapid City has also preserved two old parks that probably hold memories for many South Dakota locals. Storybook Village was originally an amusement park. The City and the Rotary Club have preserved it. Unfortunately, it has closed for the season, and we could only look through the fence.IMG_1415IMG_1424IMG_1422
Dinosaur Park was built by the WPA in the 1930’s. The dinosaurs are at the top of a hill overlooking Rapid City. They are painted with a cartoonish look but worth the climb.IMG_1493IMG_1499IMG_1502
Just for Nick, we walked down Artist’s Alley in downtown Rapid City, where all the walls and even the dumpsters are covered with a variety of art, everything from spray painted graffiti to more sophisticated murals.IMG_1485IMG_1480IMG_1471
Finally, there’s a replica of a 12th century Norwegian church. I asked the volunteer about the original denomination. He said it was Lutheran. I guess that Lutherans used this particular building, but the original church, in Norway, was built several centuries before Luther’s birth. The volunteer and I both wondered if it was Catholic or is there something we don’t know.IMG_1429IMG_1434
No animals today. So identify this President. IMG_1535
Headed for Cheyenne tomorrow. I’m signed up for bull-riding in the rodeo.

Headed West – Again – Day 12

15 Sep

The hotel where we are staying is hosting the Yoga Therapy Summit. I thought I might go down and show them a thing or two, but I left my yoga pants in Calhoun.
On this trip we drove Trail Ridge Road in the Rockies and the Beartooth Scenic Highway in Montana. Today we drove the Needles Highway and the Iron Mountain Road in Custer State Park, South Dakota. These roads differ from the other two because they are not so high and they are much narrower. The roads in Custer are as impressive in their own way as Trail Ridge or Beartooth. These roads run through an area near Mt. Rushmore that is filled with rock cliffs and spires.IMG_1354SONY DSC
The roads have one-way tunnels through rock, and pigtail bridges, on which you drive over the road and back ounder it like the famous Loop-Over on the Tennessee side of Newfound Gap Road in the Smokies.SONY DSCIMG_1388
The tunnels on the east side of the Park were engineered to give views of Mt. Rushmore.IMG_1379
We also made it to Mt. Rushmore today – photos to spare. We met Nick Clifford, who worked on the carving of the four Presidents. Mr. Clifford worked on the project in 1938, eight years before I was born.SONY DSCSONY DSC
Here’s a small mammal to identify. I ought to say that you must identify to genus and species. Somebody forgot to tell this crew that they were not to beg for food.SONY DSC
Leaving Mt. Rushmore, you go through Keystone, South Dakota, a little town that answers the question, “Where in Hell did they get that?’ Rednecks don’t live only in Pigeon Forge.SONY DSCSONY DSC

Headed West – Again – Day 11

14 Sep

On our way to Devils Tower, we stopped in Gillette, Wyoming just long enough to see their Rockpile Museum – you can see why it’s called that- and a Rock, Paper, Scissors sculpture. At 10 AM on a Saturday, the Museum parking lot was full. There seemed to be a Senior Citizens’ gathering- we would have fit right in.IMG_1219IMG_1214
If you need a photo of Devils Tower, I’ve got extras, from all angles. We walked around this large rock today, taking pictures at every opportunity. It’s hard to know what to say about this amazing place. It makes Stone Mountain look like the 98 lb. weakling.SONY DSCIMG_1252IMG_1255
We thought we heard sandhill cranes this morning, but all we found were geese. We did see another small mammal. This one should be easy.SONY DSC
On our way to Deadwood, we drove through Sundance, Wyoming. The town has a claim to fame. According to locals, Harry Longbaugh spent some time in the local jail. There he picked up his nickname, the Sundance Kid. A statue outside the local museum provides photo ops. There were also a couple of interesting businesses in town.IMG_1257SONY DSCSONY DSCIMG_1259
After Sundance, Deadwood was a bit of a letdown. The HBO show, Deadwood, is one of my all time favorites. I would give you my favorite quote from the show, but, as you may or may not know, the show was so filled with, uh, colorful language, that no quote from the show is suitable for the refined sensibilities of my readers. The actual town is something of a disappointment. Deadwood has burned five times since the 1870’s, so little of the original is left. Wild Bill Hickock’s and Calamity Jane’s graves in Mt. Moriah Cemetery are still here, if you are willing to walk uphill to see them. IMG_1289

Bill's grave

Bill’s grave

Jane's grave

Jane’s grave

View of Deadwood from the cemetery

View of Deadwood from the cemetery


If you want to see a bad re-enactment of Wild Bill’s murder in a building at the wrong address, or if you want a seemingly unlimited number of casinos, Deadwood is for you. Otherwise it is interesting to see the gulch and remember the TV show, but the town does not deserve much time.

Headed West – Again – Day 10

13 Sep

We left Yellowstone today. We went out through the Lamar Valley to Cooke City, Montana, and, from there, over the Beartooth Highway to Billings.

Lamar Valley 7:30 AM

Lamar Valley 7:30 AM


The Beartooth is spectacular; Charles Kuralt called it the most beautiful road in America. Of roads I have driven, it’s in the top ten, but Trail Ridge Road in the Rockies, Highway 12 in Utah, The Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and a few other National Park drives are ahead of it, for me.IMG_1146SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSC
By the way there was a traffic light at over 9000 feet and a hold up of 30 minutes for construction. We saw the following little creature at the top, almost 11,000 feet. (Hint – it’s not a rodent.) With no birds today, we’ll ask for some mammal identification. The Kerseys are ahead of Ranger Jastram in bird ID’s.IMG_1148
Who am I?

Who am I?


In the afternoon we stopped at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. I was never taught that Custer was a hero. In fact, I remember one teacher telling the class that Custer got what he deserved; the teacher probably muttered, “Damnyankee” as well. It is too easy for Custer’s advocates to forget that he attacked the Indians, not the other way around. Nonetheless, the place is affecting. On a beautiful day with blue sky and a pleasant breeze, I found it hard not to imagine a soldier standing in the same place, on a similar day in 1876, under quite different circumstances. IMG_1201IMG_1194
Originally, the site was viewed as the location of a horrible massacre of US troops. Time has changed that attitude. There is now an Indian Memorial (being worked on today) and both US and Indian death sites have markers. The official video sees the battle as tragic for both sides. Ideas and interpretations change in time.IMG_1191SONY DSC
Our last stop was at a monument on a lonely ridge in Wyoming. The monument is for what was known as the Fetterman Massacre. Everyone has heard of Custer; Fetterman is mostly unknown. History is capricious. SONY DSC
Tomorrow we head for Devil’s Tower and Deadwood.

Headed West – Again – Day 9

12 Sep

I do not recall ever seeing a mudpot, fumarole, geyser or any other hydrothermal features before we came to Yellowstone. If it gurgles, bubbles, spits or spouts, I’ve seen it now. (Come to think of it, these things sound a lot like Clara.) We did have to miss the Norris Geyser Basin because of crowds and rain, but we saw most of the other major spots. We even walked to the top of the Mammoth Hot Springs.

Dragon's Mouth

Dragon’s Mouth

Artists' Paint Pots

Artists’ Paint Pots

Artist's Paint Pots

Artist’s Paint Pots

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs


We saw more buffalo and elk today but no wolves, bears or moose. We did, however, see some new birds. Two of them were large and quite a distance away. Here’s a picture, but even Ranger Jastram probably can’t get these. Here are some more birds.
Large gray birds

Large gray birds

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Everywhere we went, we took the same pictures as everyone else.
Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River


Frequently, we had to wait our turn at the more popular spots, but tonight we went to Wraith Falls and had it to ourselves.IMG_1124
Tomorrow we will drive out of Yellowstone through Lamar Valley — our last hope to see a moose or a wolf or a bear. Then we will drive the Beartooth Highway. Charles Kuralt called this road the most beautiful in America. Will let you know.

Headed West – Again – Day 8

11 Sep

We got in late today, too tired to blog. Delays on Yellowstone’s roads included construction and two buffalo jams. The first pictures showIMG_0893IMG_0898 a herd leisurely strolling down the road, backing cars up about a mile. Fortunately we were on the other side!
The second buffalo jam brought out the stupid in some motorists, including the man shown here, who got out of his RV as it was stopped in the middle of the road. I wish I had a picture of the Ranger running down the road blowing his whistle to get traffic moving.SONY DSC
Ranger Jastram, here’s your bird of the day.SONY DSC