4 Great Men in a Rock

image

A couple days ago, Mike and I ventured over to the town of Keystone to see Mount Rushmore. We were quite impressed on a number of levels:

1) The craftsmanship that went into such a masterpiece. Sculptures produced by chipping stone away never cease to amaze me.

image

photo of a photo - shows the scale compared to a human

2) The scale. See the above photo. Enough said.

3) The fact that it is probably the least touristy tourist spot that I’ve ever been to. There are no outside vendors hawking cheap souvenirs. When you reach the summit of the hike, there is no one offering to take your photo and then sell it back to you. No sponsor logos plastered on anything. The entrance fee was a modest $11 total for the car and good through the end of the year. There is a discreet bookstore inside the museum and a souvenir shop by the entrance, that’s it.

4) The museum is just enough information to be informative and answer any questions that you may have, but not overwhelming.

5) The fact that the design for Mount Rushmore changed majorly twice after production had already begun!

I 100% recommend a visit at some point. The sight and accompanying information really provide you with more of an appreciation for this National Monument.

Advertisements

The Badlands… More Like The Awesomelands

I’ve been wanting to experience the Badlands for a few years now. I’ve seen several photos and heard nothing but good reviews, but that didn’t make the view upon entry into the park any less awe-inspiring. They are absolutely breathtaking. And they’re so much more than that first viewpoint when you enter the park that you usually see photos of.

image

a viewpoint closer to the Sage Creek campsite

Sometimes they appear to be carved down into the earth, and other times they tower up like mountains. Some are graced with dusty pink stripes, others are a rich yellow and still others seem almost white.

image

the yellow mounds

They are jagged and rocky, smooth and rounded, flat topped and grassy. Some are dotted with animals while others are barren alien lands. Sometimes it’s so quiet that the only noises that you hear are your own footsteps, there are times when the wind is so violent that it’s all you can hear, and at dusk and dawn the silence is punctuated with the songs of the coyotes.

As a photographer this range frustrated and inspired me. I love to tell the story of a place, journey or person to my audience, but here there is no definitive view and what you can get into the viewfinder on your camera is never enough to give the full picture. It’s a land that needs to be experienced. It cannot be contained in a single image.

image

along the Castle trail

The national park is filled with opportunities to immerse yourself, if you take them. Driving all the way out to the campsite at Sage Creek takes you through a range of landscapes and hiking the 15+ miles of trails allows you deep into their heart. Mike and I took every one of those opportunities so we could learn, explore and enjoy the Badlands.

image

image

image

On the Road Again

Yesterday at 6:15 in the morning Mike and I were wheels up and headed west. For the first time in a couple years we are finally taking a vacation together, just the two of us. We are loosely labeling this a honeymoon, however, as I write this we are in a tiny cabin, each in small separate beds wrapped in individual mummy sleeping bags haha.
I’m getting ahead of myself, back to the open road…
Our journey began in Dubuque, so we had to get there first.

image

on our way to the Great River Road

I was tasked with planning the route (a bold move on Mike’s part), and in order to follow the scenic Great River Road up to La Crosse, we needed to go off the GPS and just follow my instructions. After a happy accident of 133 being a different road than I thought it was, it turned out to be the right road. So that was lucky. Once on 35 we were rewarded with beautiful mountains (Mike called them hills until he realized that he trained for Tough Mudder one town over, then they were more than just hills haha) on one side and the Mississippi river on the other. A view that I came to miss once we were on highway 90.

image

the Great River Road

After a leisurely lunch at Del’s Cafe in St. Charles, MN (the only stop that we made all day), we were back on 90 headed through the entire state of Minnesota.

image

our favorite ad on the menu, sorry I can't rotate it - I'm writing via my phone.

image

a photo taken for a birthday text to the lovely Meg Hoppe

I was amazed with how fast we made it through Minnesota. It took as long as expected, but the time flew. In fact all 10 hours of driving flew past! It was mixed with flowing conversation and comfortable silences, and only one 30 minute nap on my part.

image

wind farms everywhere!

Very shortly after entering South Dakota, we were exiting 90 and almost to our first destination, the Palisades State Park. There was no one at the entrance of the park to break our $20 bill, so we headed into the town of Garretson to get change, grab some food for breakfast the next morning and have an early dinner. At the grocery store (I use that term loosely), we inquired as to our dining options. The cashier said there was only one place to eat, the bar at the end of the street. As we were headed back outside, we were confused, there was a steak place right across the street. Operative word being WAS. So the bar it was for dinner.

image

We were greeted with good food and $1 bottles of beer.

image

After dinner, we headed back to the park to pay our entrance fee and find our cabin. There was no one else there, and by there we mean anywhere. Except for the cabin that had a light on but no car near it, so probably a killer. A killer that I deemed the Campsite Killer. We’re both still alive as of right now, so that was probably a gross generalization of the lone occupant of the other cabin.

image

image

image

image

Heat and electricity, perfect for spending the night.

image

view from our cabin porch

After bringing our bags in, we decided to hike around a bit. We saw massive birds that we first deemed a turkey, then it flew so it was decided that hit was a hawk. Then we saw a bunch of them and they became vultures. Lastly we decided on pheasants. We hiked until it got dark. Since we still had some time before bed we played cards: war and no name.Β  While we played, we talked about my how my grandparents played no name every night and their strategies. And Mike finally beat me at no name! (Mimi, watch out – when you come to visit, Mike has gotten better!)
I was getting tired, so we called it a night at 9:30, and now here I am, awake at 4.

I forgot to mention, we have 2 house sitters, so bad guys who somehow know where we live, our house is not empty πŸ™‚