Black Hills, South Dakota – Part V

Finally, the last post for the Black Hills in South Dakota with Rapid City, Jewel Cave, Deadwood, Devils Tower, and a few more sights.

Rapid City

None of the jewelry stores near Custer could replace watch batteries so off to Rapid City we drove. With a new battery and refreshing drinks in hand, we explored the downtown area. John Adams looked thirsty so Jon gave him a sip from his Frappuccino

Jon Making Friends with John Adams

Bronze statues of 43 US Presidents stand on almost every corner of the downtown city blocks earning Rapid City the honor of the “Most Patriotic Best Small Town in the United States.” We had fun guessing who the statues portrayed before we read the plaques. Visit the City of Presidents visitors center for to see the original statues, information on the presidents, and a map.

The City Park was hopping while we were there. On stage groups of children performed while family, friends, and neighbors beat the heat by playing in the water feature or huddling under umbrellas.

Keeping Cool in Rapid City Park

Independent bookstores have a tough time these days keeping the doors open. Diversifying the business model to include jewelry, music, and T-shirts seems to help this store make ends meet.

Again Books & Bazaar

The popularity of brewpubs has done wonders to revitalize run down buildings in older cities. Firehouse Brewery converted the old Rapid City Fire Department building, complete with a 9/11 tribute mural on the side.

Firehouse Brewing Co.

I’ve seen other breweries housed in old firehouses during our travels. Buildings renovated by breweries throughout the country include banks, churches, factories, and old hotels. What would have happened to all those buildings without the popularity of craft beer?

One of the most interesting parts of the city was Art Alley. A one-block alley filled with art painted on the walls of buildings, staircases, and dumpsters. Some of the art expressed a message.

Mural in Art Alley

Others contained cartoon characters in contemplation.

Contemplative Homer

As is often the case with any rules, not all artists obtained the required permit from participating businesses or honored the prohibition against painting stairwells and dumpsters.

Superheros and More
Art Alley Murals

Looks like the owner or tenant of this building gave up the idea of having a pristine canvas on the wall.


Is this considered art?


I liked the detail in this mural of a man.


Art Alley


Although we only stayed a couple of hours, we liked the feel of the town. We encountered friendly people, a thriving downtown scene, and other amenities a population of 73,000 might enjoy. I wouldn’t mind going back and spending more time.

Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave was the last place on our list to visit before leaving the southern end of the Black Hills. Tickets for the 80-minute scenic cave tour are distributed on a first come, first served basis. We arrived around 10 a.m. and the next available tickets were for the 12:40 p.m. tour. Jewel Cave is not as pretty as other caves we have toured. There aren’t as many stalactites or stalagmites. But the sparkling quartz gives Jewel its own unique beauty.

Quartz Formation in Jewel Cave
Different Formations On Same Wall
Cauliflower, Broccoli, or Jelly Fish?
Great Example of Bacon Drapery Formation

Other tours are available: A 20-minute program, a historic lantern tour, and a wild caving tour, and internship for students. Jewel Cave is the third longest cave in the world, only about 3% of which has been explored. Some people believe it is possible that Jewel Cave and Wind Cave, 20-miles away, are connected.

Roubaix Lake

On Monday, June 26, we drove a short distance to Roubaix Lake Campground in the Black Hills National Forest hoping to snag a campsite for a few nights.


The campground host directed us to the unreserved sites and I think we managed to get the best site in the campground. The large space that overlooked the rest of the campground made it easy to maneuver the fifth wheel in place for a patio view of the forest and no close neighbors.


Upon viewing the lake and learning that the Game Fish and Parks Department had recently stocked trout, Jon found a place to purchase a three-day fishing license.


While Jon went fishing for two days, I enjoyed sticking around the trailer. Although cellular service, Wi-Fi, and electricity were non-existent, I kept busy writing with pen and paper and catching up on my reading backlist. Jon was thrilled to have reeled in one of the biggest trout he has ever caught.


Deadwood and Sturgis

One afternoon we took in the sights at Deadwood and Sturgis. Deadwood was a typical western town complete with gift shops, restaurants, bars and grills, and even a cigar bar below street level.

View From Atop the Parking Structure
Another View from the Parking Structure
This Close to Sturgis a Motorcycle Shop is a Must
Below Street Level, End of Walkway is a Cigar Bar
Candid Street Shot

Sturgis did not impress us. Then again, we arrived on a slow day. Motorcycles, Camaros, or Mustangs did not fill the streets. Perhaps it’s not the city itself that is the attraction, but the rallies that occur several weeks out of the year and the people who attend. Or, maybe we went to the wrong part of town. Only one lone photo to prove we had been there.


Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway

Fall must be a magical time to drive through Spearfish Canyon. Ponderosa and spruce pines share the Spearfish Creek banks with aspen, birch, and oak trees. The damp rainy weather that accompanied us on our drive coated the leaves and branches with droplets of rain. Layers of limestone in beige or tan, mauve, pink or red hues, sit atop layers of brown sandstone.

Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway

I had picked out a couple hikes for us to try along the canyon. Unfortunately, the inclement weather kept us in our truck. That is until we came to Bridal Veil Falls where we had to make a stop long enough to dodge the plops of drops to snap a photo.

Bridal Veil Falls in Spearfish Canyon

Sundance, Wyoming, and Longhorn Saloon

After driving through Spearfish Canyon, we drove out to Sundance, Wyoming. This small town is where Harry Longabaugh spent eighteen months in jail for stealing a gun, horse, and saddle from a nearby ranch. Longabaugh continued his criminal activity and later earned the nickname the Sundance Kid. We ate the best burgers and service ever at the Longhorn Saloon and Grill.


Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument was our next stop. The tower was visible for miles as we approached. Several vehicles stopped at this viewpoint to take pictures.

View of Devil’s Tower from Scenic Overlook
Red Canyon Next to Scenic Overlook

We were glad we hadn’t towed our trailer to the monument. Parking was limited at the visitor’s center and not suitable for a truck and trailer rig.

The 1.3-mile loop trail around the base of the formation delivers views of the surrounding area, spots to check out the progress of climbers, and a multitude of perspectives of the tower. Sacred to the Northern Plains Indians and other tribes, it is a place requiring reverence.

Devils Tower

We made it back to the visitor center with only a few raindrops on our heads, but while I was in the restroom, a hailstorm let loose and bombarded me on my way back to the truck.

What caused the geological formation to rise from the landscape with such significance? Geologists agree on what formed the tower, but not how. Visit the National Park Service online for more information.

We had a great time in the Black Hills, but for now, it was time to move on. Next stop? Little Big Horn Battlefield.

Safe Travels

Black Hills, South Dakota – Part IV

Iron Mountain Road & Needles Highway

A trip to the Black Hills is not complete unless visitors drive the Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway. Designed for motorists to slow down and enjoy the view of the hills and the fresh pine scent of the forest, the 17-mile Iron Mountain Road, constructed in 1933, contains 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, 3 pigtails, 3 tunnels, and 2 splits. The slow pace kept my motion sickness at bay as the road corkscrewed in a 360-degree fashion through the pigtails and the 180-degree switchbacks.

Below is one of the pigtails. Note the asphalt below the bridge and how the road continues through the tunnel.

One of Three Pigtails

The tunnels were so tight I thought for sure we’d scrape the truck on the granite walls.

One of Three Tunnels

Stopping at the turnouts to catch a glimpse of the presidents or peer out at the expanse of forest is a requirement.

Mount Rushmore Seen From Iron Mountain Road
View From One of The Stops, With People Standing on the Foreground Rock

At one stop, we saw the driver of this motorhome considering whether to stuff his rig through the tunnel.

“Should We Try It?” “Sure, Dad. It Will Fit.” “I Don’t Know.”

The motorcyclists made encouraging comments, but the RV started a slow backup process around the curves he had just navigated.

Motorcyclists We Met At Tunnel

One of the motorcyclists said the motorhome found a place to turn around a few yards down the road. I guess the driver of the RV ignored the cannot-miss signs that warned against oversized vehicles, or maybe he didn’t realize how big his unit really was.

Needles Highway came next, another beautiful drive through the green forest, granite spires, and one-way tunnels, on a curvy narrow road.

View of Meadow With Mount Rushmore Rising Behind the Forest
I See A Dragon’s Back. What About You?
Climbers Creep Up Toward the Mouth of This Creature

The Needles Eye is a popular place for taking photos. There are a few parking spots, but they fill up fast during busy times.


Sylvan Lake

After winding our way through the scenic roads, Sylvan Lake surprised us at the end. Ah, a perfect place to stretch our legs.

Sylvan Lake
Sylvan Lake Spillway

The lake was created by Theodore Reder when he built a dam across Sunday Gulch in 1881 and it became part of Custer State Park in 1921. It wasn’t a large lake, but very popular for fishing, swimming, paddleboards, and kayaks. Sylvan Lake Campground offers sites nearby for hike-in, tents, and small RVs and trailers between 25’ and 27’ in length. Interested in something more elegant, try Sylvan Lake Lodge where a couple can also host a wedding.

Custer State Park – Wildlife Loop

The best viewing for animals on Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park is around sunrise or sunset. We opted for another early morning to catch the animals before they hunkered down for the heat of the day. Six o’clock A.M. was slow going when watching the road for signs of deer that might bound out in front of the truck.

One of Many Deer Alongside the Road

Prairie dogs poked their heads out of their burrow or stood on their hind legs as if scouting the horizon for predators. I wondered if there was a hierarchy involved in determining which rodent lived in which neighborhood. And what about their governance structure? Who is in charge? Off to Wikipedia to learn more. I won’t go into the details. If you are interested, click here.

Prairie Dog

At one point, wild burros walked toward us on the road. In their group was one with a white coat. I don’t think I have ever seen a white burro before. Have you?

Gray Burro
White Burro

The buffalo were next. What a sight to watch them amble along a path only they knew existed, nibbling on grass as they traveled.

Herd of Buffalo

The young calves would run up toward the road and stop, look back, and scamper back to the adults. Then they’d repeat their antics, back and forth. They reminded me of our son when he was young. On our hikes, he would run ahead, run back to us, then run ahead again. He must have hiked twice as far as we did.

Young Calves Waiting for Mom and Dad

We watched the buffalo make their way across the road for about a half hour until a certain cow and bull finally made it to the other side. Then the young ones ran ahead. What a sight to watch these powerful beasts. They seemed so docile as they slowly moved forward to their destination until a couple males exerted their dominance and charged at each other. I was sure glad I was safely inside our truck.

Hey. Get Out of Here. That’s My Grass.

Not too far from the buffalo, we spotted a coyote up on a hill.

Coyote Shedding His Winter Coat

I fell in love with the Black Hills on this trip. However, there was one thing I did not care for. The helicopters.

IMG_2532The whop, whop, whop of the blades seemed to follow us everywhere and ruined the ambiance of the Black Hills experience. The aircraft flew overhead at Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, while we rode the 1880 Train, as we traveled Iron Mountain and Needles Highway, and at Sylvan Lake.

I don’t begrudge people who want to see the scenery from the air. I’m sure they gain a different perspective of the place. I only wish the helicopters could fly as quietly as an electric car. I prefer to experience nature without a side of whop, whop, whop in the air.

Next up is the final episode of our Black Hills adventure.

Safe Travels

Black Hills, South Dakota – Part III

Crazy Horse Memorial: Respected Tourist Attraction or Rip Off?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Crazy Horse Memorial. A woman had told us it was more of a tourist trap. “Why pay for something you can see from the road?” she said. “That family is ripping people off.” It’s true, you can see the memorial from the road, but I had no idea why the family raised the hackles on the back of her neck.


Everyone else told us we had to see it. So, we paid the price of admission, $22 for both of us and only $28.00 for a car with more than two people. Those prices seemed reasonable to me.

Had we only viewed the sculpture from the road, we would have missed learning about the man behind the sculpture, how the memorial came about, and of course the American Indian artifacts and the arts and crafts in the Indian Museum of North America. And I would never have been able to zoom in close enough to capture a view of the work on the mountain.

At 87 feet and 6 inches, Crazy Horse’s face dwarfs the construction equipment and crew. Between and below the red and yellow pieces of equipment, there is a dark speck. This is the spot where two men stand on one of the slanted ledges. Zooming in further, one of the men appears to be working with what looks like a jack hammer. Looks like a dangerous task to me.


The amount of work that has and will go into this creation, astounds me. From the infrastructure consisting of roads to allow access for heavy equipment to the safety measures required for handling explosives and working on the side of the mountain, it seems an impossible feat. All of this activity gave me a glimpse into the complexities of the making of Mount Rushmore.


In 1939, Henry Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota chief, commissioned Korczak Ziolkowski to sculpt a memorial that would honor Crazy Horse, an iconic Native American who fought against the U.S. military in the Battle of Little Bighorn in June 1876.


Drawing on Monument Superimposed on Photo of Thunder Mountain


Korczak Ziolkowski began working on the project in 1947 with the first blast on June 3, 1948. In 1950, he married Ruth Ross who came to the Black Hills to work on the memorial in 1948 with a group of young volunteers. Korczak and Ruth had five girls and five boys.

What attracted the twenty-two-year-old woman from Connecticut to the Black Hills of South Dakota when the area lacked basic infrastructures? Why would she leave the comfort of her home for the wilds of the west? According to Wikipedia, Ruth first met Ziolkowski when she was thirteen. Had Ruth harbored a love for Korczak for nine years? Or did their love grow after her arrival?

When Korczak died in 1982, Ruth and her children took over the construction and many of the family members still work on the project keeping Korczak’s dream alive. The family completed Crazy Horse’s face in 1998 and work continues today.

Except for the gift shop, which is operated by a private company, the memorial, visitor complex, and all activities are conducted under Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. The organization files an IRS Form 990 and is audited annually. No federal or state funds are used to finance the construction of the monument. The cost of construction comes mainly from contributions and admission receipts.

Included with Admission

Admission includes a return trip at night to view the laser show. For an additional fee of $4.00, visitors can take a bus tour to the base of the mountain. Or, become a Crazy Horse Story Teller for $125.00 and travel to the construction site to see the work in progress. We opted out of the bus tour and visit to the construction site. We found plenty to look at in the visitor complex which includes the sculptor’s log home, studio, bronze showroom, and the artist’s workshop. Also, there is an orientation film and a 1/34 scale model of what the finished memorial will eventually look like if it is ever completed.

Dancing and Singing Demonstration on the Patio
This Frame Shows Colors From Nature Used in Weaving 
Native American Beaded Dress


A certain amount of controversy surrounds the monument, although not discussed at the visitor center, or at least not that I saw. Of utmost concern is the amount of time the memorial has taken to construct. Since 1948, the warrior’s face is the only portion of the monument that the Ziolkowski family has completed thus far. Work is currently underway on the outstretched hand and the horse’s mane and there does not seem to be an end date for completion of the entire structure.

The second controversy is the way Ziolkowski depicted the outstretched hand in the model with a pointing finger. In his article, Mistake on the Mountain, David B. Conrad stipulates “the traditional American Indian . . . does not point with the solitary index finger.” He cites three sources as evidence that Oglala Sioux, the same tribe as Crazy Horse, would point using his thumb, not a forefinger. Perhaps Conrad’s article had the desired effect of inspiring individuals to contact the Ziolkowski family so they could make the necessary corrections.

Model of Crazy Horse Monument with Thunder Mountain in the Background

Although Korczak Ziolkowski selected Crazy Horse as the model for the monument, photographs of the man do not exist so there is no way the memorial will represent his likeness. Ruth Ziolkowski emphasized the monument is a memorial to a race of people and not to just one man.

The fourth controversy is that descendants of Crazy Horse object to the use of their ancestor. They claim Chief Henry Standing Bear had no right to ask Ziolkowski to create the monument and feel that carving up the hills as a memorial is a desecration of their Indian culture.


After reading the stories of controversy, I understood why the woman I met might not have fond feelings toward the memorial or the family. But what about the “ripping off” comment? I dusted off my CPA hat and read the 2014 IRS Form 990. Yes, family members receive compensation for work they do for the organization. However, I did not see anyone receiving compensation that was out of line for the position they held within the organization or due to the size of the Foundation compared to non-profits of similar size. In addition, several outside directors determined compensation for the more highly compensated individuals. I was also pleased to see the organization receives regular audits of its financial statements.

Black Hills Nature Gates Captured our Curiosity
Close Up View of Nature Gates

We were glad we had visited the Crazy Horse Memorial. It is so much more than the carving on the mountain. The dedication of the family to see their father’s dream come alive was inspiring, the Native American arts and crafts were interesting, and the artifacts and historical significance were thought-provoking. I believe it is best at this point that the family continues their work. The partially carved up mountain would only be an eyesore in the beautiful Black Hills if they were to abandon Korczak’s dream. In the future, I’ll be watching the slow artistic progress as it unfolds on Thunderhead Mountain.

Safe Travels

Black Hills, South Dakota – Part I

Welcome to the Black Hills of South Dakota, home to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments and so much more.

Yeah! We Made it to the Black Hills.

We selected Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort in Custer, South Dakota, our base camp in the Southern Hills for eight nights starting on June 18, 2017. We never know what we are getting when we make reservations. As we drove up a small hill on the gravel road, I wasn’t sure we had chosen wisely. All doubts flew away, however, when we crested the hill to see the large expanse of grassy knolls and RVs tucked up under a stand of large pines. Buffalo Ridge is also a great place for tent campers with cabana/shelters, picnic tables, fire rings, and plenty of grass between sites.

I couldn’t resist including this sunrise at Buffalo Ridge.

Sunrise at Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort

Hill City

Hill City, established in 1876, is a cute little town with restaurants, shops, art galleries and of course a Harley Davidson store.

Restaurant in Hill City
Hill City Harley Davidson 

Once a thriving tin mining town, industries that support the city today include timber, tourism, and telecommunications. The art scene is also on the rise in the town, like this sculpture by John Lopez.

John Lopez Horse Sculpture

How many objects can you identify in the sculpture?

The Alpine Inn served up a delicious French dip with fruit on the side and we didn’t even have to wait. We had heard that since the restaurant does not take reservations, the lines could grow long. Oh, and you can leave your credit card at home, they only accept cash and checks.

Get Your Name on the List Early to Avoid Long Waits at the Alpine Inn

With all of the usual types of gift and souvenir shops, one store stood out. Art Forms Gallery, a co-op of twenty Black Hill artists offer a great variety of paintings, jewelry, woodwork, hand woven scarves, photography art books, and other artistic items for sale. It was nice to have a selection of goods made by local artists to browse through.

The 1880 Train

The Black Hills Central Railroad and the 1880 Train is what drew us to Hill City. We were too late to ride the train the first day we visited, so we returned a few days later. The steam locomotive, which takes three hours to prepare, pulls the train up and down 4% to 6% grades to Keystone over the course of the two-hour twenty-mile round trip.

Locomotive Spewing Steam
Engineer Patiently Waiting for Locomotive to Warm Up
Water Tower Used to Refill Locomotive

The Black Hills Central Railroad does a fantastic job renovating the cars and locomotives. Prefer a cushy seat? Grab a leather one in one of the enclosed cars. All of the windows open and close easily.

The Seat Backs Flip From One Side to the Next. No Matter the Direction, Riders Face Forward.

We saw Tin Mill Hill, Black Elk Peak, Elkhorn Mountain, and Old Baldy Mountain from the windows of the train cars among the farms, abandoned properties, and deer grazing in the fields. Here is a sampling of sights seen on the train ride from Hill City to Keystone.

Bambi in the Grass
Cold Storage Built Into Hill
One of the Many Curves on the Route
Farm Seen From Train
Abandoned Buildings
Wooden Cabin
Did the Boulder Fall on the Building or Was the Building Built Under the Boulder?
Another Abandoned Building


We got off the train to browse the shops selling T-shirts, hats, Native American art, leather goods, jewelry, and candy and check out which restaurant might satisfy us for lunch.

Motorcyclists are Common in the Black Hills
The Keystone Mercantile Sells Just About Everything

The Ruby House looked like a good bet and when I crossed the threshold, I thought time had shifted to the 1880s. The gold and red velvet wallpaper lining the walls, brass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and the paintings of cowboys, Indians, and portraits of people in their latest fashions of the day hung on the walls created an immersive atmosphere.

Ruby House Restaurant a Great Place to Eat.
Ruby House Restaurant Interior

After exploring the stores and filling our bellies, we arrived early at the train depot and watched the locomotive pull into the station.

Train Arriving At Keystone Depot

Be sure to sit on the opposite side of the train when returning to Hill City so you can see what you missed on the way to Keystone.

Stay tuned for future posts which will detail Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Needles Highway, and other sights.

Safe Travels

Rawlins and Douglas, Wyoming

We pulled into Western Hills RV Park in Rawlins, Wyoming on June 15, 2017, for a one-night stay. The doors nearly flew out of our hands when we opened them to step out. Sand pelted my bare legs as Jon and I set up the trailer. What was up with all the wind? Good thing we weren’t staying more than one night.

On to Douglas KOA in Douglas, Wyoming and more wind. The wind was great when it pushed us down the road, not so much when it hit us broadside. After driving for about an hour, I realized we were going the wrong way. That will teach us to rely on only the GPS. Back to using a paper map.

When we stepped out of the truck at the Douglas KOA, the most wonderful perfume greeted us to the RV park. Was that scent coming from those dusty leafed trees with yellow flowers?

Campsites at Douglas KOA
Russian Olive Tree Blossoms

Yep, they were Russian olive trees. Once used as a drought resistant windbreak, the state now considers them a noxious weed, banned from sale by nurseries. Also, county weed and pest control departments throughout the state are required to determine whether removal or control is warranted. Although I wanted to bottle the smell and take it home with me, I had to be satisfied with enjoying the aroma while in Douglas and then say goodbye.

Two nights in Douglas allowed us to explore a few places in the area. First up was the Douglas Railroad Interpretive Museum. They had a restored train engine and a few cars on display.

Douglas Railroad Interpretive Museum
Train Cars and Depot at Douglas Railroad Interpretative Museum
Caboose and Depot at the Douglas Railroad Interpretive Museum

The dining car was impressive as was the gleaming stainless steel galley.

JT is Ready for his Meal in the Restored Dining Car at the Douglas Railroad Interpretive Museum
Tables Set for Customers
Galley in Dining Car at the Douglas Railroad Interpretive Museum

Many towns claim to have the original Jackalope and Douglas is known as the first town to claim such a creature. The city’s version is this statue.

Jackalope Statue

We walked the North Platte River Pathway Trail taking in the views of the river, admiring the wildflowers, and enjoying the aroma of the Russian olive trees along the riverbank.

Bridge Over North Platte River
North Platte River View from Trail
Oak Tree Along Platte River

Fort Fetterman is a Wyoming historic site preserving the military post, which was established in 1867. The museum and ordinance warehouse are the only buildings remaining, but visitors can walk the grounds where the different buildings that did exist are identified. A gazebo at the end of the trail has great views of the Platte River valley below from the plateau.

Fort Fetterman State Historic Site and Museum
Historic Wagon Chassis
Ordinance Warehouse
Donated Building Waiting for Restoration
Trail To and From Museum and Gazebo
View of River Valley from Gazebo

We found out why so many vehicles drove around town covered in red mud when we tried to drive out to Ayres Natural Bridge. Caterpillars and construction signs warned us this might not be an easy drive. We didn’t expect the bumpy muddy mess to continue for three miles, but that appeared to be the case. Although we wanted to see the natural bridge, it wasn’t worth getting stuck in the muck. Other cars and trucks continued on the road as if they were driving on a freeway. The first car wash was our next stop. Letting the clay-like red earth dry out would not have been wise.

We also spent time at the Wyoming Pioneer Memorial Museum. Located at the county fairgrounds, it holds several collections including guns and memorabilia from the Johnson County War between the regulators and rustlers near Buffalo, Wyoming in 1892, art depicting life in the West, Native American decorative arts, the 1864 Sioux style teepee used in the 1990 production of “Dances with Wolves,” and much more.

Another interesting place in Douglas is the Camp Douglas Officers’ Club State Historic Site. The camp housed 2,000 Italian and 3,000 German POWs and 500 army personnel during 1943 through 1946. A few of the POWs even returned to Douglas to live after the war. Only the officers’ club building has survived. Fortunately, much of its original construction remains intact and restorations are completed when funds are available. Original murals created by three Italian prisoners still grace the walls, many of which are re-creations from movies and western artists of the time. Examples of wooden boxes, laminate wooden bowls, and colored pencil artwork are also displayed.

Douglas, Wyoming turned out to be a great place to stay for a few days and soak up the history of the area. We also recommend the Douglas KOA as a place to stay.

Black Hills South Dakota, here we come.

Safe Travels.

Salt Lake City – Part II

Antelope Island State Park

Antelope Island, the largest of ten islands within the Great Salt Lake, was next on our list of places to visit while in Salt Lake City (SLC). A sign at the entrance gate announcing no refunds due to biting gnats almost caused us to make a U-turn and find something else to occupy our time. When the lady at the entrance booth assured us the rain had chased the gnats away, we drove on to the visitor center where another lady gave us a quick history and a few ideas of what to see.

This elk statue greeted us at the visitor center. I wish he had been real. The Davis County Causeway is to the left of the statue. It is the only road on and off the island.


Antelope Greeter at Visitor Center


Our first stop was the Fielding Garr Ranch House where we spent an hour or so walking around the ranch buildings and grounds where historic farming equipment was stored.


Fielding Garr Ranch House


The house served as the home of not only Fielding Garr, but later the managers that operated the ranch. The house is the oldest Anglo-built house in Utah still on its original foundation. Fielding Garr was the first permanent residence on the island in 1848.

Historic farm equipment was arranged around the barnyard with signs that told what they were and how they were used.


Farm Equipment at Fielding Garr Ranch


Inside the barn, is a place where the ranchers sheared sheep. The stalls ran from the rear of the barn to the front. I’m not an expert at shearing sheep, but it looked like they were herded down the back side of the row, entered a shearing stall where their wool was removed, then exited the other end of the station. It must have been sweaty dirty work for the men who stood in the stalls shearing sheep after sheep for hours at a time.

Various tools and gear were arranged in the barn as if ready for use.

The ranch property presented views of the Wasatch Mountains across Buffalo Bay.


Wasatch Mountains and Salt Lake City Across Buffalo Bay


We arrived on the island too late in the day to see all the wildlife that call the island home. A few bison congregated below the road near the marina as we approached the visitor center, but there was nowhere to pull off and snap a photo. The island supports a herd of 550-700, selling off the excess each year.  Other wildlife in the ecosystem includes pronghorn antelope, mule deer, bighorn sheep as well as coyotes, badgers, bobcats, owls, hawks, and falcons.  I did manage to capture a squadron of pelicans flying in formation.


Pelicans in Flight


We checked out the campgrounds for future reference. All campgrounds are barren and primitive with no water or electricity and vault toilets. Bridger Bay Campground was the nicest with shade pavilions, picnic tables, concrete pads, and drive through loops.  Trees had been planted near some of the sites, but they weren’t big enough to provide any relief from the scorching sun. The water looked crystal clear and as blue as the sky toward the west.


Salt Lake, Bridger  Bay Campground.


The lady at the visitor center recommended hiking up Buffalo Ridge because of its beautiful view. We started out with no problem but as we ventured higher up the hill, we had to swat a few gnats away. They weren’t too bad so we continued. Then the gnats increased with each inch in elevation until we flapped our arms and brushed our heads to keep the gnats off. When a family coming down the trail told us the gnats were even worse at the top, we turned around. No view is worth bites by gnats who laugh at any amount of DEET a person might douse on themselves. I still managed to capture a few views from higher elevations out of reach of the gnats.


View of Lake Looking Southeast
View of Park Road and Towns Across Buffalo Bay


Park City

It was wonderful weather on our final day in SLC for a trip to Park City. No gnats, no wind, and no rain, only sunshine with high temps reaching 70 in Park City and 80 in SLC. The beautiful drive through green mountains populated with pines was reminiscent of many other mountain resorts we have visited. Although Park City seemed a bit more city-like than other resort communities with their newly paved streets, gutters, and restored historic buildings. This is probably due to Park City hosting the Sundance Film Festival each year and the Winter Olympics in 2002. Our favorite part of any town is always the main street and Park City doesn’t disappoint with its restored historic buildings.

Park City, Utah Street View

We passed one historic building undergoing significant foundation work. Other buildings were new construction in a modern style that looked like stacked rectangular boxes.


Historic Park City Business Buildings



Historic Park City Residences



Modern Looking Building


The silver mining town flourished from the 1860s until 1950 when it became a virtual ghost town. In an effort to save their town, the remaining miners developed a ski resort, which opened in 1963. A population of 8,000 supports the nearly 4 million tourists that visit each year. Main Street is home to 64 Victorian buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Egyptian Theater Originally Built in 1926


We stepped into Shirt Off My Back to purchase T-shirts. Southwest Indian Traders had a large selection of magnets and ornaments with Park City engraved on them. And Sock City sold colorful and funny socks for humans of any age. A dish of gelato inside La Niche Gourmet and Gifts was a cool treat after walking the streets.

We must have arrived before the crowds because, by the time our feet grew tired, we had to side step visitors walking toward us or dodge dogs tugging leashes attached to their owners. We took a break at Bridges where they served up a tasty pork sandwich and salad. I must have been hungry because I ate the whole thing even though there was too much bread, wilted lettuce, and tomatoes with a few spots of skin that had taken on the look of crepe paper.

Revived from our lunch we joined the crowds and made our way back to the truck. I thought the green balls hanging outside on one building were interesting. Then I saw another business with red balls, and another with orange balls. Do the balls have a connection? Just decoration? Some significance? Does anyone know?

A little park next to the public restrooms is dedicated to the mining industry that built the town. A plaque placed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 2000 tells the story of the Elmco Rocker Shovel Loader, Model 12B patented on October 25, 1938. It was the “first successful device to replace human labor in removing the rubble resulting from blasting in underground hard-rock mines.”


Elmco Rocker Shovel Loader


Every new technology has the potential to displace workers. I wonder how many humans lost their jobs when the loader arrived at the mine.

Returning to our RV site, we found ourselves surrounded by new neighbors, again. Each morning there was a mass exodus of motorhomes, travel trailers, and fifth wheels leaving the RV park, and each evening the spots filled up again. We occasionally stay only one night in a spot, too, even though we prefer longer stays. After four nights in Salt Lake City, it was time to make progress toward the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Next stop? Rawlins and Douglas, Wyoming.

Safe Travels

Salt Lake City, Utah – Part I

We left Elko on Sunday, June 11 for Salt Lake City, Utah and drove through territory we had never traveled before. The terrain did not change much from Elko with snow capped mountains, green hills, valleys rich with sagebrush and green grass, and full rivers flowing occasionally alongside the freeway. Up and down the mountain passes we went with much the same scenery until we crested the mountain outside of Wendover, Utah.

Bonneville Salt Flats

Our jaws dropped when the Bonneville Salt Flats spread out before us as far as we could see. I really got a feel for the size of Bonneville Lake before it broke through causing a mother of all floods that created the Snake River on its path toward the Pacific Ocean. What a geological wonder.

We stopped at the Salt Flats Rest Area where a raised platform allowed visitors to take in the expanse of the salt flats.

Salt Flats Rest Area

The salt was glaring white as snow and bare of any plants or trees. Here is the view from the platform looking west.

View Looking Toward the West

As I walked up the steps to the overlook four or five teenagers discussed what they should graffiti on the roof support walls. A modern day ‘register rock’ or wall where travelers document their presence. 

Graffiti on Platform Support

A few people ventured out onto the salt flats. A woman stood at the foot wash rinsing her feet.

Couple Walking out to Salt Flats
View North

We continued on to Pony Express RV Resort where we had reservations for four nights. I had overlooked this park when researching available locations until my first pick claimed they were booked solid. Pony Express turned out to be the perfect place for us, except for the constant wind blowing, and the freeway noise.

Utah Capitol Building

Windy, cold, and rainy weather greeted us on Monday. Undeterred, we headed downtown with the intent to hang out at the planetarium until the rain subsided. We arrived too early, so we drove up the hill to the Utah State Capitol Building and wandered around gawking at all the marble columns, walls, and intricate details.

Utah State Capitol Building
Use of Marble Inside the Capitol Building is Extensive
Looking from Supreme Court toward House of Representatives

In the Hall of Governors, portraits of the governors are displayed and statues of historical Utahans are given prominent floor space on the fourth-floor gallery, and murals depicting Utah life and industry are abundant. 

Philo T. Farnsworth “Father of Television”
I was Impressed with the Eyes on Unca Sam, a Ute Indian, Hunter, and Fur Trader.

Symbolism seemed to be everywhere, from the beehive, which is the state’s emblem and represents industry and unity, to laurel wreaths which represent victory, vitality, and success. We forgot all about the planetarium.

Then there were the creatures standing guard high up in the four corners of the fourth-floor gallery. A lion with wings? Does anyone know what they symbolize? Perhaps protection?

I Wonder about the Symbolism in this Creature.

The chandelier hanging in the rotunda was especially impressive.

Rotunda Chandelier

In the Governor’s office used for public activities, sits a desk that was built with wood recovered from one of the trees felled during a tornado.

Governor’s Office. Notice the Tornado Desk.

The magnificent building seemed overkill for a legislature that is in session for only 45 days out of the year. However, besides the governor, lieutenant governor, senate, house, and the state supreme court, the building also houses the highway patrol and the state treasurer’s office. So it seems they make good use of the property. And who can fault the state for wanting to showcase the many riches the state has to offer? 

Mormon Temple and Square

A trip to Salt Lake City would not be complete without a visit to the Mormon Temple Square.

Mormon Temple

We joined a tour where two ‘sisters’ volleyed their presentation, which consisted of a bit of history, the faith’s origin story, and detail of the temple’s building, and a bit of proselytizing thrown in. They also cleared up a few rumors about some of the Mormon practices, such as baptizing dead people. They don’t, people who have died can be baptized through a proxy. In other words, a family member is baptized in the name of the deceased. The sisters did not push or insist that their religion was the only religion, but encouraged those of us on the tour to ask questions, research, and take one of the free Book of Mormons for more information. The best part of the tour was the organ, which contains 11,623 pipes. The organ pipes and Tabernacle Choir tiers dwarfed the person who played the organ.

Tabernacle Choir Organ

One of the most interesting bits of history that I never thought of was how many of the Mormons traveled across the country to Utah with only a hand cart to haul their belongings. I thought the emigrants in covered wagons were hearty folk. I can’t imagine the hardships endured by the people who pulled handcarts.IMG_2266

We may have never made it to the planetarium, but we enjoyed seeing the capitol building and taking the tour of the Mormon Temple Square. Next week’s post will include Antelope Island and Park City, Utah.

Until then, safe travels.