Friday, October 22, 2010

Homeward Bound

October 19, 2010 ~ My last morning in the park for the 2010 season was a beautiful one! I worked a few hours and then checked out of the park. I decided to drive down Officer's Row one last time...

I guess it was colder than it felt because the water from the irrigation line was freezing on the grass oOut in Paradise Valley.
The western view of the Absaroka Mountains from Paradise Valley, MT.

Headed north to Livingston, Montana and then took I-90 East across Montana and down through eastern Wyoming. Wyoming has the lonliest roads...
The view of Devil's Tower from I-90...

Nearing the South Dakota state line...
Spent the first night in Spearfish, SD. Got up early the next morning to drive to Mt. Rushmore. Decided to take the scenic route through Deadwood, SD.
It was really early in the morning and most businesses weren't open for business yet, but I pulled over and parked the car. I just had to get out and walk the same streets as Wild West legends Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok, and Wyatt Earp.
Nearby is Lead, SD, where gold was discovered in 1876. Gold mining continued in this town and is where Black Hills Gold jewelry comes from. This was the most productive gold mine in the western hemisphere until it closes in 2002.
A partial view of the mine:
Next stop, Mt. Rushmore. The gateway town of Keystone, SD:

The Black Hills of South Dakota:
I continued east on I-90 until I arrived in Wall. I just had to stop at the Wall Drug Store which spans a few blocks...
After a little shopping at Wall Drug Store, I decided to get off the interstate and take Hwy 14 to cross the state. I think it has Wyoming beat for the lonliest road in America...
Grain fields as far as the eye can see with some sunflower fields ever now and then.
I spent the entire day driving across South Dakota. The reason for driving across South Dakota was so that I could re-visit De Smet, SD made famous in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. De Smet and the surrounding area is the setting for the By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years books. I loved these books as a child and have read them dozens of times.
I drove out to Pa's Homestead claim just outside of town.
The building below is a visitor's center and gift shop on the homestead. It was closed by the time I got there (around 5 p.m.) but I was able to walk around the homestead and take pics.

This is a replica of the house on the homestead that started out as a claim shanty.
The stable:

The buildings aren't locked so I was able to go inside to take pictures (and pretend that I was Laura Ingalls)...

The parlor:
Sitting in the parlor looking into the kitchen:

Before the parlor was added, the 6 Ingalls family members spent all their time in this tiny kitchen and two small bedrooms:

The water well:
While there was never a dugout on the property in South Dakota in the books, a replica of the one the family lived in during their years in Minnesota has been added to the homestead. Thanks to Renae, I was afraid to get any closer than this for fear of a bearded, mid-westerner kiddnapping me! ;)
The view of the prairie from the kitchen:

During the summer, you can camp in one of these covered wagons like the Ingalls family used to travel west.
When Laura married Almonzo Wilder, they moved to a claim just north of town.

The site of Laura and Almonzo's claim:
I spent some time driving through the town of De Smet. The visitor center in town in the Surveyor's House where the Ingalls family lived in By the Shores of Silver Lake. The house has been moved to De Smet.
The street where the Ingalls Family lived in De Smet during The Long Winter.
After Laura married, Pa quit farming and sold the farm. They lived in this house in town.

Charles, Caroline and Mary Ingalls; Carrie Swanzey; Laura and Almonzo's unnamed baby son
Grace was buried in a different section:
Headed east to Brookings
Spent the second night in Brookings, SD. The third day was a long day spent driving south to Florine's house in Pleasanton, KS. It was so good to see Florine, especially after spending 3 days by myself in a car! She had dinner and dessert ready for me - it was delicious! After eating, we watched t.v. and visited. The next morning, she cooked a hearty breakfast and sent me on my way with homemade cinnamon rolls. I headed south and then cross Missouri to Paducah, KY. Paducah never looked so good:
I spent the fourth night in Paducah leaving only a half-day drive until home!

Signs that I'm getting closer to home:
Finally, I made it to good 'ole Hart Co! My niece and nephews were at the house and came running when I pulled in! They had grown so much! I picked up these Indian head dresses at Wall Drug and one of the first questions they had for me was if I had any gifts for them!

Journey's End...

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Crowds and employees are thinning out. Now, the elk are the source of entertainment each night.
This is elk rutting season and the males are gathering their harem of ladies. The crowds gather to watch and listen to the elk bugle and chase each other around. I gather to watch the Rangers try to keep the crowds away from harm's way...

Bull elk will fight each other and it causes quite the scene...

Even the guys at Juniper dorm get caught up in the excitement...