05.17.2018 - 05.17.2018
on mrb430's travel map.
It's definitely Spring here, early Spring. Most trees are just in bud but the wildflowers are in full force. There are two flowers that we've been seeing throughout South Dakota but are really abundant in Wyoming that coat the hills in yellow. In the lower elevations in moist areas are the Sweet Peas. They make blankets of yellow.
And at higher, rockier elevations there is the Arrowleaf Balsamroot. It's such a lovely daisy.
And it's fun to go chase them down off the main roads.
There are miniatures of other flowers I know like Bluebells, Phlox, and Columbine.
And then here are all the rest I am yet to identify.
I need a rock garden guide I think. as they mainly grow on rocky outcroppings where the soil is shallow. One place we stopped to see them there was a historical marker for two men that had died as a part of Custer's Western Campaign. One was from Massachusetts - he died a long way from home.
And on our drive yesterday, we happened upon this Aspen Grove and it was just magical. More of this in my next video.
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05.15.2018 - 05.17.2018
on mrb430's travel map.
First, in case you are wondering why they are called the Black Hills, just look at these photos.
The drive from Deadwood, South Dakota to Spearfish travels through Spearfish Canyon, a limestone canyon carved by the Spearfish River. It's full of waterfalls, winding roads, Spruce, Aspen, Cottonwood, and Pine. It's one of the loveliest canyons I've ever seen. Check it out.
In Spearfish, we went to the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery. It was a really interesting place with a lot of history and some HUGE trout in the ponds.
Deadwood & Lead
Deadwood is a town with a ton of history, in fact the entire town is a National Historic Landmark. This is where Wild Bill Hickok was shot during a card game and buried. Calamity Jane also lived there and is buried next to him. It's mostly a gambling town now with the historic strip loaded with bars and casinos. In truth, it's been our least favorite stop in SD.
Above it, is the town of Lead, which is really interesting. The town is built around a mine on the top of a mountain and the streets rise and fall precipitously around it. The Homestake Mine is the largest, deepest, and most productive gold mine in the Western Hemisphere. It closed in 2002 and now houses the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory where they are testing for neutrinos (dark matter).
South Dakota has been a ton of fun and so beautiful. But we're off to Wyoming... Remember to subscribe so that you will get updates when I post something new and follow us on Instagram @arrradventures for (almost) daily photos and silliness.
05.11.2018 - 05.14.2018
on mrb430's travel map.
We love South Dakota! The quaint, historic towns...the friendly people...the laid back approach to life...the open country and canyons...and the MOST dog-friendliest place we've been.
FOG We left Wall, SD early, unusual for us, but we were excited to get to the Black Hills and Wall was cold and completely fogged in. Unfortunately, pretty much all of Western SD was also fogged in! We entered Custer State Park and drove part of the wildlife loop, cutting out the South end onto dirt roads that led to Wind Cave National Park, but most of the time we couldn't see more than 10-30 feet outside the car. Sylvan Lake before the fog lifted
It was fascinating in its own way but needless to say not much wildlife viewing happening there. The thing to notice in the video, that we did, are the wide open plains of the short grass prairie. It's similar but still really different from the long grass prairie of the Badlands. More rock, more Ponderosa Pine but the same wide open spaces.
So we headed on down to Hot Springs for lunch and to check out the town. It's a cute old town with a nice stream running through it and it was nice to have a hot meal on such a cold and wet day.
We continued to have cloudy, drizzly days for most of the next two days. One of them we decided to make a rest day and didn't leave our little house! Good thing they had an awesome DVD collection since there was NO WiFi and we each could only get one bar inside the house! Lesson learned - only stay in tiny metal houses if they come with WiFi. They are incredibly effective at blocking cellular signals!
HAIL & SNOW Yes we even saw a tiny mound of snow left over from 3 weeks ago when SD had its last snow storm.
And yes, yesterday, we did some amazing off road trails and got hailed on. Seriously, the sun was out one minute and it was hailing the next!
Speaking of off-roading, The Black Hills are a Mecca! Their maps are awesome and downloadable into a GPS enabled app so we can see exactly where we were at all times. They also have a ton of trail systems ranging from dirt and gravel roads accessible to anyone, trails for street-legal vehicles (cars/trucks), and trails for ATVs and motorcycles only. We spent the entire day yesterday in the woods and off asphalt. It was really awesome not only for the views but also for the wildflowers and wildlife. Hope you enjoy the video.
We've seen Elk, Wild Turkeys, Bison, Burros, Deer, and Antelope! The Elk were a special treat. We saw a huge herd up in the hills, only visible with binoculars, on our second attempt at the Custer wildlife loop but then we saw a few again way back in the woods on an off-roading trail. Boy are they skittish! Photos were a challenge. Elk (sort of)
Turkeys - four ran across the road!
We also ended an off-road trip at Silver City, which has a beautiful creek and saw a Bald Eagle. Too far away for photos but it was a treat. And we saw it's nest, which at first I mistook for an Osprey nest but after Florida I knew the babies calls weren't Osprey's!
Oh and just cuz I missed it in the last post, here are some Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep from the Badlands.
MOUNT RUSHMORE & THE CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL
Finally the fog lifted and we got to see Mount Rushmore. It is truly an amazing sight. It's one of the few places we've been where busloads of foreigners were visiting, too. It does hold a special place in Americana.
We were also really moved by the Crazy Horse Memorial. The story of this place is worth reading about if you don't know it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crazy_Horse_Memorial The singular purpose and vision of Korczak Ziolkowski and Ruth Ross, and now their family, is amazing and incredibly inspiring. Definitely worth a visit and a contribution.
NEEDLES PARKWAY & IRON MOUNTAIN ROAD
So the Black Hills ROCK not only because of all of this but also literally because of all the rock. There are two amazing drives that really showcase the granite formations. The architects and builders of these roads were amazing! Especially the Iron Mountain Road. It had:
The four presidents are because each of the three tunnels was lined up perfectly so you could see Mount Rushmore THROUGH THEM!
The tunnels in the fog reminded us of doorways to heaven and the pig-tail bridges were just amazing.
Next, on to the Limestone Canyons of the Spearfish Canyon and the National Historic Landmark of Deadwood... Don't forget to follow us on Instagram @arrradventures for (almost) daily photos and silliness.
05.08.2018 - 05.10.2018
on mrb430's travel map.
We spent the last two days exploring the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. I have memories of driving through as a child but it was so special to spend some real time there and share it with Scott.
Interior South Dakota
We stayed in Interior just south of the park in a wonderful little motel.
It's not very big. One gas station, two bars, and a grocery store.
We ate at the bar and grill. They had six things on the menu (burger, bison burger, crispy chicken, hot dog, steak sandwich, and pizza) and three sides (fried cheese curds, onion rings, and French fries) for a possible of 18 different combinations. There was no veggie option, needless to say. While it may not seem very attractive as a destination, it's three minutes from the park and it's out in the open plains. It feels authentic and real. The first night we stopped into the gas station, which also has a few tables and sells beer and a few snacks, and there was a group of young people, cowboys (yes the real deal) and some women and they were planning for the 4th of July Rodeo over Bud long necks. You don't get that by staying in a chain motel off the Interstate and eating at Applebees.
Badlands National Park and the Baja Off-road Area
We spent the first day driving through the park, doing some hikes, and doing some off-roading in the Baja off-road area. We saw beautiful spring flowers, wildlife (the prairie dogs were my favorite), and vast open country. Early May is a great time to visit. We had the park virtually to ourselves. But it was soooo dry. The ground was parched and cracked. Overnight it rained a bit and the land changed so much. The colors were so much more vibrant and the mud stuck to your shoes like stepping in slimy concrete. Check out this video, the last part is the second day and you can really see the difference.
Buffalo Gap National Grasslands
We ended going through the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. The wind was blowing 20-30 mph. Check out this video and make sure you have the sound on. The wind was whipping! Only the hardy survive out here.
Then we detoured through Scenic SD. It's virtually a dead town. No wonder I couldn't find a place to stay there!
This is a fascinating place to visit. It's about as far from Washington DC as I can imagine getting. It was a great introduction to what's to come.
But as always, we moved on. Today is kinda cloudy and cold so we took ourselves to a nice lunch in Rapid City (I absolutely had to have a vegetable or two that wasn't fried and a glass - or two - of decent wine) and are passing the afternoon in a coffee shop aka my office.
05.08.2018 - 05.08.2018
on mrb430's travel map.
Yesterday we drove the backroad, Highway 44, from Sioux Falls to Interior, just outside Badlands National Park. It took twice as long but was twice as beautiful as the interstate would have been. Southern South Dakota is a stunning landscape. Towns are scarce, people are scarcer, and the sky goes on forever. In the middle, we crossed the Missouri River. After that, the flat lands of farms gives way to the rolling hills and cattle ranches. And finally, we started to see some of the features of the Badlands. More on that today!
Palisades State Park
Before leaving Sioux Falls, we visited Palisades State Park. Like in Sioux Falls itself, the Sioux Quartzite has been exposed to provide a dramatic valley.