Thursday, October 6, 2016

Days 10 and 11: Rolling Home

Birch Island Lake

There isn't much to see between the Badlands National Park and home, but there are friends. We stopped in Worthington, MN, to see Jonathan and Lois Larson. He is pastor of Indian Lake Baptist Church. She was a high school friend of Steve's. Lois's mother (age 93) is a dear friend and neighbor of Mom's.

Worthington is an amazing community expecially in these days of xenophobia in America. Once an all-white northern European farming community, it now has a major hispanic population, a significant black population and large Asian population. Whites are the minority. Most of the Asians are Karen refugees from Burma who have arrived in the past 8 or 9 years. The Karen (Ka-WREN) people group were converted to Christianity in the nineteenth century by Adoniram Judson, a Baptist missionary. So where did the Karen decide to worship when they settled in Worthington? Indian Lake Baptist Church. The church and the community have embraced the newcomers. The Karen now have their own worship service since most of the adults don't speak much English. Their service goes on for hours. On Wednesday nights there is an extensive kids program. At Lois's invitation, I spoke to a dozen lively (and talkative!) Karen teens about living between cultures. Lois herself was born in China and grew up in Japan before coming to Cambridge at the age fo 14. The Karen teens were born in refugee camps in Thailand; their parents were mostly rural farmers in Burma. So all of us know what it is to feel like a stranger. I told stories about my own frustrations with places that are, as our daughter Erika expressed it in junior high, "all white and they speak English. It's so boring!" I ended with the Hebrews 11 verses about seeking a better country, not the one from which they came, but heaven. Those are the verses I focused on in my novel Between Two Worlds, and the kids seemed to identify. Meanwhile, Steve spoke to a group of white seniors who have seen their community change completely and discovered new opportunities to minister.

After a lingering breakfast, we headed northeast through Marshall, where Steve's dad grew up. His mom has been working on a family history we hope will be ready by Christmas, so it was fun to review stories, pass the family home, and find the site of the G. J. Hardy and Son Grocery where Hardy's Peanut Brittle was invented in the 1930s.

The current Bike Shop is the former G. J. Hardy and Son on Main Street.
We stopped for lunch at a Mike's Cafe on the way out of town. Inside we discovered that it had been founded in 1936 and originally located downtown. Although Mom didn't remember being there herself, she did remember people talking about going down to Mike's. While we studied the pictures of Marshall in the old days on the wall and tried to pick out the store, a man overheard us talking and introduced himself. He turned out to have been a friend of Steve's cousin "Jimmy." So it was a fun stop. The food was good, too. We were very glad we hadn't settled for Taco John's! 

Dropped Mom at her house and made it home a little after 6. Tonight we will sleep in our own bed! So until the next adventure...

Door Trail, Badlands

Thank you, Lord...
for good friends.
for the riches of many cultures.
for people you began preparing for Worthington two hundred years ago.
for the eager teens in Lois's Bible study.
that we "happened" to stop at Mike's for lunch.
for safe driving through many miles.
for keeping our home safe while we were gone.
for the colors that remain on the trees here at home.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Day 9: Badlands National Park

America's Best Value Inn
Kadoka, SD

I already have 75 pictures of the Badlands in my photo library. I really don't need to take more even if it is a beautiful day. Only if there is something really unique. That was my intention when we set out this morning. So I only took 35 more. Maybe I should say I only kept 35 more. I deleted some. But this place is so fascinating! Steve says the first time he was here as a child, he thought he had landed on the moon.

Here we are driving across endless grasslands.

Then all of a sudden they drop away to this.

We entered at the Pinacles Entrance south of I-90 and took the gravel road west past a prairie dog town that was more of a metropolis. In fact, it went on for so long with cute little rodents (yes, Pat, they ARE cute) sitting at the doors to their holes or scampering around after whatever it is they eat (seeds?), that it began to feel like driving up the east coast from Washington to Boston! Let's just say they have a large gene pool to draw on.

We lunched at the Conata Picnic Area. It was so windy, I got to use the South African table cloth weights I have been carrying in the picnic basket for ages. The wind was sharp enough that we chose the sunny end of the table, although I think you were supposed to be able to turn the table in whatever direction you needed for shade.

We have been here before (witness the 75 pictures already in my Badlands file), but mostly we have driven and stopped at overlooks. This time I told Steve I really wanted to do some of the short hikes at the east end of the park. Mom stayed in the car where she had a good view, and we took off. Cliff Shelf Nature Trail circles the top of a slump that slid off one of the cliffs some time in the remote past and created a basin where trees grow. By circling clockwise instead of counter clockwise we had fewer stairs to climb. The area is pretty lively with tourists, but we still heeded the signs.

The end of the Window Trail was within sight of the car, but still quite a view.

The best was the Door Trail at the far end of the same parking lot. Steve says it was worth the price of admission, which for seniors like us, isn't much. Let's say instead that it is definitley worth the time. (The sign says to allow an hour. We spent about that, but could have spent more.) It is a door right into this incredible moonscape. Visitors are free to scamper where they will, but numbered poles guided us across the labyrinth to an this view. 

It's one thing to view from the road; it is quite another to be down there, a part of the landscape. The walk is level. Although the ground is riddled with eroded ditches, there is no place to fall more than a few feet. I couldn't stop thinking of my grandsons scampering here and there exploring to their hearts content. (Yes, Bella, I know you would explore too, but here we wouldn't have to worry about the boys breaking bones! Just rattlesnakes.)

Back at the parking lot, when I turned around, there was this.

Time to move on.

Thank you, Lord ...
for awesome views.
for a husband who gets excited about beauty.
for a mother-in-law who doesn't mind waiting in the car.
for the colored layers of rock.
for the guys who built the road.
for neat places to walk.
for partial sun throughout the day.
that my life is not as difficult as the homesteaders who came here in the 19th c.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Day 8: Custer State Park

Comfort Inn
Custer (Crazy Horse), South Dakota

Rain or mist all day. It wasn't supposed to be that way by the forecast, but that's the way it was. We started with the movie at the visitors center. Spirit of Tatanka, narrated by Kevin Costner, has fabulous photography, some of it filmed by drone. We have loved seeing the park in fall, but some of the spring meadow pictures (buffalos rushing through the wildflowers) made me want to come back in spring.

The buffalo roundup was this past weekend, so most were corralled in the south of the park. (The film showed a previous roundup, which would have been fabulous to see, but we would hate the crowds.) We took the wildlife loop anyway. The scenery was beautiful, and we saw deer and prairie dogs. The buffalo corrals are huge, and we did see them there.

The film also showed kids feeding apples to wild donkeys. We didn't feed them apples, but we did come upon a whole herd of donkeys. (There are at least another half dozen among the trees to our right.)

Returning to 16a, we took the Needles Highway. Views were not what they would have been with sunshine.

We picnicked outside Hole-in-wall Cave, perfect size for a four-year-old to explore, if I had had one with me. :-)

The higher we went, the more we were closed in with fog. That was it's own mysterious experience.

A car comes through the tunnel at the Needles.
We looped around on 89, retraced our route on 16a and went up Iron Mountain Highway. Neither one of these road goes anywhere anyone NEEDS to go. They were designed specifically to view the fabulous terrain. The tunnels and curly-cue turns on the Iron Mountain Road are fun. The clouds had lifted somewhat, and we glimpsed Mount Rushmore from Norbeck Overlook. (Wish we could get that man back as a senator to do conservation and reign in Wall Street as he did in the '30s.)

By the time we got down the mountain, it was raining steadily, and we decided to give it up. Steve went and soaked in the hot tub. Mom and I took naps.

Steve also looked on-line for a place to eat supper. We had passed too many closed places on Main Street. We decided on Pizza Works and couldn't have been happier. The pizza was delicious although not nearly as much cheese as Wisconsin people put on their pizza. The building was a former opera house turned movie theater turned pizza place in the 1990s. They had historic pictures all the way around the room, and the staff takes an annual picture in costume at one of the old-time photo shops. Here is one of the then-and-now posters. At the left you see the court house. The next building is the opera house/Pizza Works.

Steve checks out one of the posters

Hard to avoid reflections on this photo of the hall as an opera house.

Thank you, Lord ...
for safe driving in rain and fog.
for the beauty of the photography in the movie.
for cute little prairie dogs.
that this is not our first visit here and we can picture it in sunshine.
for the chance to view these rocky spires in fog.
for pizza in a unique place.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Day 7: Jackson, WY, to Custer, South Dakota

Comfort Inn
Custer (Crazy Horse), SD

Raining. I’m very glad yesterday was our only day in the Tetons, not today. We can see snow on the upper peaks. Dark clouds can make cool pictures, but it takes sunshine AND dark clouds to work. None of that this morning. As we came over the continental divide the raindrops on our windshield made the kind of splat that says they weren't liquid whne they left the cloud.

A few miles out on US 26, when we could still see the mountains looming behind us, we came upon police cars, lights flashing. A wrecker was pulling a dead bison from the ditch. Just ahead was a black SUV with the front bashed in. Steve pointed out that it was the same area where we saw a police car pull someone over yesterday, presumably for speeding. Although it’s hard to imagine not seeing something as large as a bison in the road, in the gray of morning rain it is just possible.

Yesterday’s scenic route south was pleasant, but not exciting. Today’s end of the same route—east on US 26—was spectacular, driving through a canyon with rugged hills all around. Theoretically the scenic part ended in Dubois (still don’t know how the locals pronounce it), but the land around and beyond was stark, carved cliffs with layers of yellow, gray and red stone. Rain and no scenic pullouts mean no pictures.

The weather cleared mid-morning and we had sunshine for our amble across grasslands. We chose to go north and take in the bit of Black Hills north of I-90. We had never seen Devil’s Tower although Steve’s sister Patty had raved about it. It rises out of the grassland and rolling hills, visible for miles.

 We didn’t go into the monument grounds. No time for the walk around the base. Have to go back. It really does look like a huge tree stump.

The land just beyond on 24 was worth seeing, but after that our route was nothing special, just a connection to the beauty of Spearfish Canyon, which we didn’t have time for since it was getting late. Our hotel reservation was way to the south in Custer. We drove as long as it was light and then stopped for supper just north of Hill city in a place with lots of cars—Horse Creek Inn. Melt-in-your-mouth prime rib in a golden-panelled hill-country atmosphere. Just what you would hope for in a restaurant here, as Mom said. She and I split an prime rib and added a salad. Perfect. 

Tomorrow it is off to explore the Black Hills scenic drives. We have been here before so there is no pressure to see it all and no hurry to get out in the morning.

Thank you, Lord…
for safe driving in the rain.
for layers of rock colors.
for grasslands.
for lots of antelope sightings.

for a fabulous dinner.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Day 6, afternoon: Hiking Lake Jenny

It was pretty gray and drizzly when I left Steve and Mom at the hotel in Jackson and headed back up hill to the park. It was still threatening when I reached the southern end, but by the time I got to the south end of Lake Jenny, it was looking more hopeful. Then I found construction like we hit at Inspiration Point in Yellowstone. The trail was routed away from the lake around whatever refurbishing they are doing.

I left the car at 2:40 thinking I would aim for Inspiration Point and then see where I was time wise . The trail around the construction crossed a bridge and a gravel parking lot, but soon came back to the lake where I found lots of wonderful glimpses through the trees.

Lots of fellow hikers at this point, including families with young kids. A hiker I met later said the south side of the lake (where the road is) isn't nearly as nice because views are blocked by trees except the Lake Jenny Turnout where we (and everyone's brother and cousin) stopped yesterday).

After about an hour I came to a waterfall.

That was where the trail to Inspiration Point was supposed to take off, but--it was closed for reconstruction. Sigh. I walked a bit further and came to an alternate route via Cascade Canyon. How could I resist? I could see a rocky outcropping just a bit above me, so I figured that was probably it. After 15 or 20 minutes of climbing I figured that wasn't where I was going, but there was another outcropping, a bit higher and quite a bit bigger ahead, so that must be it. You know the curve of a mountain hide the top so you keep thinking you are almost there, but you aren't? But by that time you have invested so much energy that you can't just give up and quit. Well, that's how it was. BTW, while the walk around Lake Jenny was slight ups and downs, Cascade Canyon was only up. Steeply up. Too steep for someone who turned 65 last week. (I realized later that I saw an Aussie couple who were maybe 50, but otherwise all hikers were the age of my kids or younger!)

I came around a corner and was surprised to find two deer. One moved away just out of sight (I could still hear her), but the other was totally unphased by my presence.

After a while I was flagging. I asked someone coming down how much further. 10-15 minutes. 10 minutes later I asked someone else. About 20 minutes. There was something wrong there, but like I said, by then I had invested too much to turn back.

I was on the flat about a quarter mile out when it started to rain. Not much, but I knew I needed to hoof it. It had taken me two full hours to this point. I took one quick picture  to prove I had made it.

By this time, the rain was definitely coming down. A major clap of thunder reverberated between the peaks on either side of the canyon. I dug out my fleece and wind breaker from my backpack and hunched over my phone to call Steve. "I'm gonna be late. You and Mom go get supper and bring me a doggie bag."

"You've got the car."

"Oh, yeah."

I told myself I wouldn't stop on the way back, the faster to get home. But then the sun came out.

And when the sun comes out after rain, there are rainbows.

It didn't take me two hours to get back, but it was evening by the time I was walking along the lake. The views had a whole different feel.

The way was muddy in places, but it didn't start to rain again until I was crossing the parking lot to the car. God is good. Very good. Major thunder clap to remind me so.

7:20 PM before I got back to the hotel. Good thing we had another round of Completes for dinner in the room.

Thank you, Lord...
for holding off the rain.
for enchanting lake views.
for the strength to climb.
that it didn't rain the whole way down.
for rainbows.
that I didn't slip in the mud.
for an understanding husband.

Day 6, morning: Grand Teton National Park

Jackson was totally fogged in when we set out. Glad we did. The fog lingered in Jackson well into the day although it was clear further north. We took the road toward Kelly along the Gross Ventre River. This is an elk reserve, but we didn’t see any elk. We did see what we later learned was prong-horned antelope. The fog lingered here and there in crevasses and over the stream.

We turned north on Mormon Row. There was once (1880s?) a thriving Mormon community here. According the the guide book this is where some of the classic pictures of the Tetons are taken with old barns.

There was certainly a large group of photographers around to catch the early morning light. I was struck with how, instead of jostling like the tourists at Lake Jenny, these patiently waited their turn while one of there number got down on his stomach to catch a reflection in a puddle. They even backed up to be sure their long shadows didn’t get in his picture. Note to self: this is definitely a place to come in the morning for the light, but maybe a little later when my own shadow isn’t to long. Or else bring a zoom lense that will let you reach beyond that long shadow.

The other picture spot the guidebook mentioned was Schwabacher Road. Wow! I couldn’t stop shooting. Every few steps there was another angle, another view.

Also got great reflections at Oxbow Bend Turn out. The fall colors add so much.

We had driven the Park Road yesterday, so we could stop in different places today. Potholes turn out had a plaque explaining that as the last ice age ended, icebergs left behind formed potholes. Some filled with water and some turned into little islands of trees. This broken off pine was on the edge of one of those islands.

We went back to Kelly and drove up Gross Ventre Rd. It climbed a narrow valley with yellow aspens in the bottom. We picnicked along side the road. No table, but a beautiful spot.

It was threatening rain, but we drove south on one of the scenic byways in our book. Nice, but the most spectacular part of the route was definitely around the park.

In the afternoon I left Mom and Steve to watch the football game and went off hiking. So again today we have two blogs. :-)

Thank you, Lord ...
for sunlight on fog.
for stirring vistas.
for reflections.
for authumn leaves.
for a patient husband.