Yellowstone for the day... fantastic!

I've decided to mainly use photos to tell you about our incredible day in Yellowstone, the world's first national park (1872).  We entered from the east.  Drove for hours completing the loop around the park and exited the east gate and returned home to our camp in Cody, WY.

Waterfalls, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Old Faithful Geyser, the Continental Divide, and amazingly weird geological features...With half of the earth's geothermal features, Yellowstone holds the planet's most diverse and intact collection of geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles. Its more than 300 geysers make up two thirds of all those found on earth. Combine this with more than 10,000 thermal features comprised of brilliantly colored hot springs, bubbling mudpots, and steaming fumaroles, and you have a place like no other.

Our National Park adventures continue to delight me and I'm pretty certain Kegan is impressed.  Theodore Roosevelt summed it up best,
"The establishment of the National Park Service is justified by considerations of good administration, of the value of natural beauty as a National asset, and of the effectiveness of outdoor life and recreation in the production of good citizenship."  We are so being good citizenship!

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Bison, elk and a bear...oh my!

The bison were totally roaming free today and each time we saw them I got so excited.  It is encouraging to see their numbers.  Yellowstone is home to more than 60 species of mammals and we were delighted to just see the ones we saw.  Incredible.

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Cody, WY...Buffalo Bill's 1895 creation...

Our day was spent learning about Buffalo Bill...One of the most colorful figures of the Old West became the best known spokesman for the New West. He was born William Frederick Cody in Iowa in 1846. At 22, in Kansas, he was rechristened "Buffalo Bill". He had been a trapper, a bullwhacker, a Colorado "Fifty-Niner", Pony Express rider, wagonmaster, stagecoach driver, Civil War soldier, and even hotel manager. He earned his nickname for his skill while supplying Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat. He was about to embark on a career as one of the most illustrious prairie scouts of the Indian Wars.

This town is all about Buffalo Bill and we spent most of the day at his museum, a very informative collection and exhibition about this man who was 'the most famous American in the world during his lifetime.'  After absorbing all we could, we had lunch at the Buffalo Bill's 1902 Irma Hotel.  Shopping and strolling finished our day.

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Winding roads and waterfalls...

We meandered through the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming and turned a bend to discover Shell Creek Falls.  One hundred and fifty feet tall with 3,600 gallons of water flowing a second, we stood gazing at these falls in amazement.  The water's roar complemented the songbirds wonderfully.  A nice introduction to Wyoming!

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Devils Tower... monumental!

Devils Tower rises 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River.  This 1347 acre park is covered with pine forests, woodlands, and grasslands. Deer, prairie dogs, and other wildlife roam everywhere. Also known as Bears Lodge, it is a sacred site for many American Indians. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the first national monument in 1906.

Devils Tower boasts a rich and colorful climbing history that dates back to the late 1800s when it was first climbed by two local ranchers using a wooden ladder. Climbers from all over the world consider Devils Tower to be a unique and premier climbing area.  While we had no desire whatsoever to climb this majestic peak, we did enjoy admiring it from a distance and up close.

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Deadwood for dinner and dallying...

The day ended in Deadwood... an entire city on the National Historic Register... a historically significant city carefully, accurately restored. While the gold rush of 1876 brought the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, it also provided the wealth to construct a thriving commercial center in the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota.

A town known for its lawlessness and famous legends.  A town who outlawed gambling in 1947 just to bring it back in 1989 (for economic reasons) and whose last prostitution house didn't close until 1980.  Wild history.

We dined in a treasure, Diamond Lil's in the Midnight Star Casino, part of an entire building owned by the actor Kevin Costner.
The casino is named after the saloon in his breakout film, Silverado, and its restaurant and sports bar are named after characters in the movie.  We dined amongst memorabilia of the movies he has starred in.  Being a fan, this was pretty cool for me.

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Mt. Rushmore still impresses...

While our morning was spent learning about an Indian hero, we spent our afternoon admiring four of our American heroes and an incredible sculptor, Guzton Borglum whose vision was no less than "the formal rendering of the philosophy of our government into granite on a mountain peak." 

The first photo shows how the mountain looked before the work began in 1925.  An amazing transformation occurred .  The last photo is a postcard that just made me smile.  Each time I return to Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, I am amazed and as thoroughly impressed as my first visit.  I think that is truly the magic of this place.

"The Noble countenances emerge from Rushmore as though the spirit of the mountain heard a human plan and itself became a human countenance." -Frank Lloyd Wright

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A cruise through Custer State Park

The scenic route to Mt. Rushmore was through the 71,000 acre Custer State Park where Custer's expedition first discovered gold in 1874.  The drive was breathtaking as well as awe-inspiring.  A surprise to us was the State Game Lodge which served as the "Summer White House" for President Calvin Coolidge in 1927 and was visited by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  How wild is that?

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Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills

We began our day with a visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial with a curiousness to see how this monumental undertaking had progressed since we were there 15 years ago.  Funded solely by the interested  public... not the taxpayer, it progresses slowly. 

Conceived by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear, Crazy Horse was officially started on June 3, 1948 (nine years after the completion of Mt. Rushmore National Memorial). The Memorial's mission is to honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians.  As you can see by the photos with the model of what it will look like completed, this is a project that will take generations to complete.  Korczak knew "that the project was larger than any one person's lifetime." 

Chief Standing Bear wrote, "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, also."  It is a place of pretty powerful emotions and inspiring convictions.

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The Badlands were pretty good...

Today was primarily a driving day but we detoured off I 90 to meander through the Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  It is really difficult to describe the 244,000 acres of rugged beauty before us.

The Badlands came to be regarded as a geologic wonder worthy of preservation in 1929.  It became a National Monument in 1939 via a proclamation by President Roosevelt in order to preserve the scenery, to protect the fossils and wildlife, and to conserve the mixed-grass prairie.  Congress elevated the status to National Park in 1978, underscoring the value of the Badlands to present and future generations.

Steve and I were here last September and to see it again, in all its spring splendor was incredible.  A great deal of what we learned at the Visitors' Center added what Kegan had learned last quarter.  It is a breathtaking place that demands deep exploration and true appreciation.

"I was totally unprepared
for that revelation called the Dakota Bad Lands,"
Frank Lloyd Wright

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South Dakota friends and more corn...

Today was a driving day but we were fortunate to be in Sioux Falls, SD when my girlfriend, Ginny, was available to meet us for lunch.  We met many years ago, at a Sister Cities International Conference, and have enjoyed our long distance friendship ever since.  Her daughter, Heidi, joined us as well.  Every town holds treasures.

Our next, very quick stop, was the Corn Palace
The original Corn Palace, called "The Corn Belt Exposition" was established in 1892. Early settlers displayed the fruits of their harvest on the building exterior in order to prove the fertility of South Dakota soil. The third and present building was completed for it first festival at the present location in 1921. The exterior decorations are completely stripped down and new murals are created each year. The theme is selected by the Corn Palace Festival Committee and murals are designed by a local artist.  

Steve and I stopped here last September and I wanted Kegan to see it.  While less than thrilled, I am certain the experience will benefit him in some weird way, some day in his life... all experiences always do!

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Killer corn, Spam and Minnesota... What a day!

Tonight we are settled in Minnesota... a state we have never visited.  We arrived via the Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway.  "Time passes slowly along this road with change coming nearly imperceptibly to both the natural landscape and the lifestyle of its residents. Impressive limestone bluffs rise over enduring hardwood forests, while the water of the region etches out magnificent caverns beneath the earth. Visitors can lose themselves in timeless sights and activities amidst natural wonders and rural communities." 

The road less traveled is always preferred yet once we returned to the interstate we delighted in a quick tour of The SPAM® Museum... dedicated to the delicious meat first created at the Hormel Foods Corporation plant in 1937. It's a fun and informational destination with interactive and educational elements. Truly one of the more interesting, fun museums we've visited and it was free.  A must-see when in Austin, MN!  YUM.

We are camped in Myre-Big Island State, prairie, songbirds and forests.  It's where we should be for the night.

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