Saturday, August 30, 2014

Time With Family

Yesterday, we drove from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Chatfield State Park in Littleton, Colorado. This feels like home. We have stayed here almost every year since 2008 and it is only about 10 miles from the house we lived in for years. More to the point, it is the closest state park to where our son Eric, and his family live. They joined us for hamburgers last night.

It is August and the temperature was supposed to be in the 80s. Instead, we had intermittent rain showers and lots of clouds. The temp was closer to 70. It wasn't long before we moved into our RV.

I can't tell you how many times they have joined us in one state park or another and we have had to crowd under the awning or come inside to keep warm and dry. And we are always in Colorado in the summer! Oh well, we all fit inside and it was so good to see them again. We were last together in March when they came to Arizona for Spring Break. We look forward to seeing a lot more of them in the coming month.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gold in South Dakota

In 1874, the United States sent Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer to explore the Black Hills in Dakota Territory and select a location for an additional fort to control the Sioux Indians in the area. At the same time Custer and the 7th Cavalry were scouting the territory, using the area around what would become the town of Custer as a base, civilians were scouring the area for gold. When reports were sent back east that gold had been found, settlers and prospectors flooded the area, increasing the conflict with the local Indians.

From our campground in Custer we could walk to Gordon's Stockade. A group of 28 people traveled west from Sioux City, Iowa, in search of gold. They eluded the US Army, which was trying to keep such people out of the Dakota Territory. In December 1874 they camped near what would become Custer and built a stockade, which was named after the group's leader, John Gordon.

The stockade has been restored. The outer enclosure is new. One row of cabins inside are the original buildings.

The other row of cabins are reproductions of the originals.

Wooden pegs hold sections together, such as this door.

The outer wall of the stockade has gun ports.

What interested me most were the cabin roofs. This is one of the original roofs. It has held up pretty well for 138 years.

Here is the roof of one of the new cabins. In essence, the roof is built in the same way clay tiles are used as roofing.

The area is rich in early settlement history.  Across the road from the stockade, an RV park has a circle of old wagons.

Several years ago, we volunteered for two months at a campground near Little Bighorn National Military Park, where Custer was soundly defeated. It was interesting to see a little of his earlier experiences.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Buffalo All Over

Right now, we are in Buffalo, Wyoming. We haven't seen any buffalo statues. We are both alumni of the University of Colorado--the Buffalos. Last week, we saw lots of buffalo in Custer State Park. And we also saw painted buffalo statues in downtown Custer, South Dakota. Let me share some of those with you.

Here you see both sides of one buffalo.

Two different kinds of presidential images. Below, two of the pictures have a blue cast.  I have no idea why.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Finally, A Train Ride

We love to ride trains, but we haven't been able to find one since we left on this trip in April. Until, that is, we arrived in Custer, SD, and learned about the 1880 Train that runs through the Black Hills between Hill City and Keystone. The trip is one hour each direction.

It wasn't just any old train, it was a steam train! The engine that pulled our train was an oil burner with a saddle tank.  We had lots of opportunity to take pictures of the train engine on the curves.

They also have a wood burning engine. It is even prettier.

We rode in an open car.

The countryside is beautiful and interesting and we had and sunny, dry day for the trip.

There is a lot of uphill grades along the line and, at one point, the engineer had to clean the boiler by blowing out steam.

When we got to Keystone, the was a big crowd waiting to board for the ride back to Hill City. One whole car was reserved for a group waiting to board.

The engine had to disconnect from the front of the train, change tracks, and back by us so it could attach to the other end of the train for the trip back to Hill City.

Apparently, train engines are just as powerful backing up as going forward. This isn't the first time we have ridden on a train with the engine going backwards.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Exploring Custer State Park

Custer State Park in South Dakota is larger than many national parks and feels and looks like one. We feel really comfortable there because the scenery reminds us of Colorado.

We spent several days exploring the park. And what makes the park special is the wildlife. There are wild donkeys.

And donkey jams.

Pronghorn that are so used to people they are easy to photograph.

Mountain goats with their young and blocking the road.

And wild turkey.

But the best of all are the buffalo.

The previous photos are of buffalo bulls. In one location we saw a group of mammas and babies (they are cinnamon colored) walking across a valley.

One bull was not at all bothered about the people and cars nearby. This video shows him walking toward us, then going between the vehicles in the buffalo jam and rolling in the dirt on the other side of the road. What fun!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Wind, Water and Time

Wall, SD, is the gateway to Badlands National Park. We went there to see the landscape and to take a hike. Long ago, this area was an inland sea. When the sea dried up, the sediment solidified in a gray-black sedimentary shale. Over the eons since then, wind and water have eroded that rock into moonscape-like formations.

When the land of South Dakota was opened to settlement by the US government, many saw the stretches of prairie land between the rocks as potential homesteads.

Here is a close-up view of the lone tree in the previous photograph. It is evidence of one of those homesteads. For many, the land was free but entirely unsuited for farming and ranching.

The rock of the Badlands is full of fossils, but we didn't take the time to look for any. There is quite a bit of wildlife, but we saw very little. What we did see was spectacular--look at these two big horn sheep we found in different canyons.

We hiked the Castle trail. That put us in the grass of the prairie lands.

Since John grew up in Castle Rock, CO, and we both lived here later, this was a natural hike for us to take. Here is the castle formation. (It's no nearly as impressive as the one in Colorado, IMHO)

Every time we visit a new national park or national monument, we are glad we came. They are always worth seeing. The badlands are different from Bryce Canyon or Zion, but they have their own interest and beauty.