Thursday, June 30, 2011

Carved Mountain Tops

The unfinished Crazy Horse Monument in Custer, South Dakota. As you can see in the inset photo, this has a long way to go. When completed the monument will stand 563 feet tall; what a magnificent sculpture it will be!

Martha says these flags are new from when she was here some forty years ago.

It's my first time at Mount Rushmore.

I like the monument from a distance, where you get a sense of scale.

Of course it's fun to stand underneath, looking up George's nose.

You can view Mt. Rushmore from the road if you don't want to drive in and pay the $11 parking fee.

Or, if you're quick, you can catch a glimpse while passing through one of the narrow tunnels on the Needles Highway.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Custer State Park

On our third trip to Custer Park we were able to see the calves much better. If you come here enough times, at different times of the day you're sure to see plenty of buffalo.

Now, big horn sheep are a lot harder to spot. We got lucky on our fourth trip here and found these:

See how they blend in so well. It was 100 degrees here today, both man and beast are moving slowly.

Here's lookin' at you kid!

Monday, June 27, 2011


Oh give me a home
where the buffalo roam
and the deer and the antelope play

Here in Custer Park, South Dakota the abundant buffalo herd is free to roam as they did 150 years ago.

There are a lot of calves that were born this spring as well.

Don't forget us prairie dogs; we live here too!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Oregon Trail

While passing through Guernsey, Wyoming we stumbled onto some historical markers that proved to be one of the most fascinating things we've ever seen. This rutted limestone is the result of tens of thousands of wagon wheels having left their mark over 150 years ago.

Despite the passage of time, weather and new growth, The Oregon Trail is easily recognized here in Guernsey.

Also here in Guernsey is Register Cliff, a rock wall in an encampment where pioneers on the trail left their mark.

Many of these adventurers took the time to create precise incised Roman style letters, with serifs. Look at this exquisite penmanship!

G.O. Willard here, left the safety and comfort of Boston for what must have been the adventure of a lifetime.
Soldiers too, left their mark. Some how all this makes history real for me. To learn this back in history class just didn't make an impression on me. Seeing these etched names and the deep wagon rut is proof that it all happened.

Guernsey State Park and reservoir was also a pleasant surprise. We checked out the many campgrounds and would definitely try to stay here the next time we pass through this area.

At lunch time we found a perch on the cliffs overlooking the Guernsey Reservoir.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Scotts Bluff, Nebraska

The Mitchell Pass on the Oregon Trail. For the more than 300,000 emigrants who headed west, this was the 1/3 of-the-way mark. Most thought the prairie they just crossed was the worse part of their 2000 mile journey. Few knew the most challenging part of the migration was still ahead of them; The Rocky Mountains. The next stop from here was Fort Laramie, Wyoming, where much needed supplies could be purchased, and they could enjoy the relative safety the fort afforded them.

An exact replica of a Conestoga Wagon complete with life-like oxen, sitting right on The Oregon Trail. There were other replicas too. It is a misconception to think of the trail as a one lane roadway. At times, when space allowed, the wagons spread out 10 wagons wide or more so as to avoid the dust created by the leading wagons. It was in fact only one lane in the narrow passes and canyons.

Also on the trail in period clothes, this volunteer is preparing sourdough biscuits in a cast iron dutch oven, on a fire of dried dung just as the settlers did on their journey. We were fortunate to arrive when the biscuits were done and got to try them; yummy! The Park Service has done a wonderful job at this National Monument and it has become one of our favorites.

From atop Scotts Bluff we could see windy road we came up on and one of the three tunnels here; the only tunnels in all of Nebraska.

Wi-fi is is also available at one of the most unusual welcome centers we've seen.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Driving Across the Tundra

From the National Park, which is about 7500' elev., we drove numerous switchbacks on Rte. 34 until we reached the mountaintop which is more than 12,000'. The road took us across the peaks and over the tundra for several miles. Today was Martha'a turn for the white knuckle driving that is inevitable when climbing to these altitudes. I would not have enjoyed driving the motor home up here with the crazy crosswinds and weather that can change on a dime.

The road was closed at first due to new snow that fell last night. Once the road was plowed and the sun melted the ice, the road reopened at 2:00 pm. We had hoped to drive up here on the old gravel road which would have made it a 30 mile loop, however that road doesn't open until at least July 4th.

Even below the tree line there is more than 10 feet of snow!

This was the most amazing thing to watch; the clouds blowing and flowing over the peaks like ocean waves. Click on photo to enlarge!

The visitor center, with frozen pipes and no restrooms. BTW The wood timbers on the roof are to prevent wind damage.

A Ranger told me they plow a much as 24 feet of snow. That must be in the winter, this time of year it's only 12 feet.

The Never Summer Mountains. We've enjoyed these snowy peaks from 5000' for a couple weeks now; what fun it is to now be among them.

A short hike earlier in the day to Nymph Lake, a mere 9700', proved to make us a bit winded and light headed.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Elk, we found 'em

We never found any Elk west of Denver but there are plenty here in the Estes Park area. The move to Loveland is probably our shortest move ever (50 miles), but it is so quiet compared to Denver. The fairgrounds were a good downtown, central location, but it was very noisy.

You can tell the Elk at The Rocky Mountain National Park are used to humans; you can get within six feet and they don't even look up at you.

I didn't let myself get too close to these bucks and those hat racks; you never know what they'll do.

Many trails still have snow on them like this six foot drift. Volunteers carved steps up and down each side so hikers can pass.

A dispersed Elk herd settling down for the night. Martha was so excited when we found this upper valley, she said it was better than anything we've seen in the last 8 months. I love it when this happens, as it has on 3 or 4 occasions.

What a great name for a road. The road must be true to its namesake, there was a grader getting ready to fix the gravel surface.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Little Golden Area Architecture

I just love this welcome sign; isn't it grand? "Howdy folks! Welcome to Golden-Where the West Lives"

The Armory is the largest cobblestone building in the USA. It was originally meant to be made out of brick, but due to cost cuts it was built out of free and plentiful cobblestones. 3300 wagon loads were hauled from the nearby Clear Creek in 1913.

Atop Lookout Mountain is the Boettcher Mansion built in 1917. Constructed with local timber and stone, it's as perfect an example of the Arts & Crafts period as you can find.

This unique fireplace niche in the Great Hall was intended as the Mansion's focal point.

The Mansion is furnished with a huge collection of original Stickley furniture, all in mint condition.

Many rooms enjoy spectacular Rocky Mountain views.