"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A birthday weekend in South Dakota and Wyoming

For my birthday this year, I picked a destination I have wanted to check off my bucket list for quite a while now.  We FINALLY found a decent airfare up to Rapid City, South Dakota, for a long weekend visit of the area including stops at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Wind Cave National Park and Devils Tower National Monument over in nearby eastern Wyoming.

Thursday, April 17 - It was a beautiful late-afternoon flight out of Nashville on Delta Airlines that gave us this stunning view of downtown.  After connecting in Minneapolis, we landed in Rapid City late that evening.
Check out our $5-a-day upgrade!  The rental car company was out of full-size cars which is what we reserved, so they could give us a minivan and no extra charge or this sweet Infiniti QX80 SUV for five bucks more a day.  Easy decision!

Friday, April 18 - Pictures can't do it justice, folks.  Just go see it.  Simply amazing.  And the walking trail right around the bottom of the mountain offers tons of other breathtaking views from different perspectives.  As you can see, we got very lucky with weather for April in South Dakota.  It had snowed heavily here, just the previous week.
These beautiful mountain goats were grazing beside the road near Mt. Rushmore seemingly oblivious to the traffic.
We almost didn't stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial which is a long, long way from being finished, but glad we did.  It is quite an undertaking and an interesting story.  We also got a discounted fee to get in since it wasn't very busy.
Looking like fallen leaves on the ceiling, this is a very rare cave structure known as boxwork and 95% of it in the world is found here at Wind Cave National Park.  The hour-long tour we took was very interesting.

The buffalo weren't roaming much at Wind Cave National Park, but they sure were majestic.
Back in Rapid City, we had dinner and a huge sampler of beers at Firehouse Brewing.
Saturday, April 19 - We fueled up again the next morning for breakfast in Rapid City with a lot of locals at Tally's Silver Spoon.  That's my delicious order of migas (a Tex-Mex scramble of eggs, pepers, Chorizo sausage and potatoes over soft tortillas) in the foreground and Ashlee's bacon, over-easy eggs, hash browns and cobbler (yes, cobbler) in the back.

Did we mention it snowed the previous week here?  Well we found a large amount of the remnants of it despite 60-degree-plus temps as we hiked to Roughlock Falls in the beautiful Spearfish Canyon (an excellent scenic byway).

Roughlock Falls is a beauty.  It's about a mile hike off the main road and well worth the walk.
Back out on the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is Bridal Veil Falls as well.
It's the beginning of Big Sky Country out here and as we headed west into the eastern edge of Wyoming nothing stands bigger against that big sky than the awe-inspiring Devils Tower National Monument.  This is about 14 miles out.
Stunning, simply stunning.  Like Mt. Rushmore, this place is so worth an actual visit.  You will never grasp the size and scale of it from pictures.  You can hike all the way around its base, which we did.  And yes it's DEVILS Tower.  The apostrophe was omitted by mistake when the name was registered, so that is the correct spelling now.
See the climbers?  Several people were climbing the massive volcanic intrusion which must be quite the endeavor.
The park surrounding Devils Tower has a huge prairie dog town that you pass going in to the monolith's base.  These little guys are very active, not overly shy and a lot of fun to watch and listen to as they chatter among themselves.
Sunday, April 20 - Happy Birthday to me and Happy Easter as well !!  With our last day in this beautiful area, we focused on the Black Hills area south of Rapid City.  Our first destination was the incredible Iron Mountain Road with its 400 curves, 22 switchbacks and three "pig-tail bridges" in just a 17-mile stretch of Highway 16.    I never got a good picture of these amazing  and beautiful curved wooden bridges, but this shot from above of one of them (courtesy of Blackhillstravelblog.com) illustrates how they got their name and how cool they are to drive on.
While the Iron Mountain Road only has three tunnels, they are doozies (and narrow!!).
We even got to see the Rushmore boys again from this Iron Mountain vantage point.
We continued south from Iron Mountain through Custer State Park along the Needles Highway passing the amazing Cathedral Spires.  This granite pillars are huge and again this picture does them little justice vs. seeing them in person.

Looking like some distant alien planet, the area along Needles Highway is incredibly unique.

The Needles Eye formation along Needles Highway defies logic (and gravity).
My I-Phone navigation screen-shot here gives a good illustration of just how challenging it is to navigate down the curvy Needles Highway.  Ashlee did all the driving and did an excellent job.
We flew home late in the evening from the quiet little regional airport in Rapid City.  After thinking this might be a one-time place to visit, we could easily seeing ourselves coming back if the opportunity arises.  It's just too interesting and too beautiful not to want to see again.

No comments: