Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kayaks, Bikes and Caves (Spearfish, SD)

About two weeks have passed since we last spoke but we're back.  Let's start with a picture of  the "Walking Warriors" (WW).  The ladies have remained enormously motivated!  Dependent upon who is available at 8am, some combination of the WW walks nearly everyday.  I can only speak for Debbie but I know that on some days she adds her walking tapes as well as additional walking on her own.  The other day she totaled 11 miles!  Let's hear a big cheer!  The ladies will miss each other as they go their separate ways beginning in a few weeks.  I'm pleased for Debbie so thank you for listening.

"Walking Warriors" (Left to Right: Gloria, Rena, Belinda, Debbie)

We recently had a wonderful kayaking outing.  This past winter while in Florida we bought an inflatable kayak.  We believe it's a good quality little boat.  It's rated to hold 650 pounds.  Shortly after we bought it I launched it on its maiden voyage in  the ocean.  The boat and I did well but we never used it again.  Too many alligators in Florida waters.  A  recent hike took us around a beautiful little lake.  So we joined our new friends Pat and Steve (they also have a kayak) for a boating event.  We got in and out of the boat without falling in (a major accomplishment) and enjoyed a fun filled afternoon paddling.  The truth is that most of the time we sat in the middle of the lake yakking and laughing with Steve and Pat.  Steve was even attempting to fish  among our  hilarity.  He did manage to haul in "some big ones."  We wrapped up the day with the four of us at the Bum Steer for dinner and then later a laughter filled game of "Hand and Foot".  Great food!  Great fun!!  Great friends!!!

Getting ready

Duane and Steve

Pat and Steve in their sit on top with foot pedals (no paddles..cool!)   

Notice who's paddling!

Pat's always smiling!

Steve catching the "big one"
Please recall that a few weeks ago my fellow volunteer friend Bill and I attempted a significant 32 mile cycling outing that ended after about 2 miles due to my flat tire.  Bummer.  Well we got back on the Mickelson Trail on Aug. 26 and completed the ride without incident.

The wonderfully pleasant weather was only surpassed by the great scenery! 

Debbie and Rena met us at our destination, Hill City.  We then enjoyed a unique dining event at the well-known Alpine Inn that included German cuisine.  My meal, as well as Bill and Rena's, included wienerschnitzel, red cabbage, sauerkraut, German potato salad and some sort of dumpling dish.  Debbie opted for a great looking salad. I'm just really surprised by how much I enjoyed this meal. Bon Appetite!

Two days later we headed south with Bill and Rena to Jewel Cave National Monument. The cave included an enormous interior with multiple rock formations.

You'll have to ask Bill about this "formation"

OK, the cave.  Probably too many photos, but we saw so many unique formations, it was difficult to pick and choose which photos to include.

Lots of wide open spaces in Jewel Cave 

From there we moved on to Wind Cave National Park.  This cave was far more compact than Jewel Cave..  This is the original natural opening to the cave, but fortunately not the way we entered!

The highlight was a terrifically unique display of "boxwork."


Both caves include a 100+ miles of tunnels.  Both tours included about half a mile and were about an hour and a quarter.  We got in free to both caves with our VIP cards.  Good deal!

From there we took a long leisurely drive along the Wildlife Loop Drive in the Custer State Park.  We had followed this route before but this day it was particularly outstanding.  We barely got started when we came upon a herd of a few hundred buffalo that were adjacent to the road. 

Stay away from the buffalo!!!!!!

But what if they won't stay away from you!!!

First time we've so many buffalo in one place.


We sat there for 45 minutes or more and had a blast.  We moved along and came to 6-8 burros.  They are well acquainted with visitors and instantly came right up to the car.  It was hilarious!!

Duane enticing the burros with a carrot.  Guess he forgot Bill was in between!

They came to check out Rena too!!

We continued our drive and enjoyed wild turkeys,

pronghorn antelope,

prairie dogs,

and some very cute barn swallows.

Really nice.  Eventually we left Custer State Park and headed home.  We drove through an area where there is a warning sign about bighorn sheep.  Sure enough.  Right there by the road was a trio of wild bighorn sheep.  Too great! 

Last stop was the Pizza Ranch.  Way off the diet but way enjoyable.   In total we traveled about 245 miles that day.  Bill did all the driving.  Thanks again Bill!!

We only have a couple  more weeks left at our volunteer job in beautiful Spearfish.  I'm sure we'll figure out a few more adventures to pursue before leaving though, so please stay tuned.

Till next time,



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bears and Hiking (Spearfish, SD)

Howdy folks!   I imagine you're surprised to see another blog from us so quickly.  We feel the need to try to keep the blog up to date so we just wanted to briefly mention a few things we've done since posting a few days ago. My last post took us through the 9th of Aug and now I'm ready to continue with the 10th.  Tell me it's not your lucky day!

On the10th we went to Rapid City to do the Linex  thing on the new truck and shop the commissary. Additionally, we visited Bear Country USA. This is a drive through wildlife park that's well stocked with bears of course, and lots of other various wildlife. We visited Bear Country a couple weeks ago but didn't enjoy ourselves as much as we knew we could.  On the first visit Debbie forgot her camera.  Additionally, we were in the early days of our diet, had failed to eat adequately and we were ravenously hungry.  You know, we could have eaten a bear!  So we returned with great  success.  Debbie had a wonderful time with her camera.  Hopefully you'll agree!

Before we even arrived at the Bears, we had observed these guys:

Artic Wolf
Big Horn Sheep

Rocky Mountain Goat
And finally we spot the bears.  This one was coming right up the road to greet us.

Then there were bears just hanging around everywhere!

After completion of the drive-thru portion, you have the opportunity to park your vehicle and take a walk around "Babyland", where in addition to some very cute baby bear cubs,

we saw:
Red Fox



Then there was a separate enclosure for the grizzly bears.  They seemed to love performing for the crowd.

And "scaring" us!


 Oh yeah, of course there was this bear too.

Not sure of the price of Bear Country USA (we got in free with our VIP card) but I would say this was a most enjoyable attraction.  Not exactly like seeing these animals in the wild, but great for a close-up look without the bars.

After Bear Country we went on to the Crazy Horse sculpture. Respectfully, we're not all that impressed with Crazy Horse. I could imagine it will be spectacular when it's finished but that raises the great question.  Work began on the sculpture in 1948.  At the current pace, we don't believe the creation will be completed in the next 100 years. One of our fellow volunteers commented that  he'd been to the sculpture site 20 years ago and barely saw any difference on a recent visit. By choice, the project receives no public funding but there's LOTS of activity related to generating revenue via gift shops (plural), restaurants and crafters. Additionally, the entrance fee is $27 a car load. One of the crafters selling jewelry cornered Debbie and just wouldn't let her get away. This is tough to imagine because Debbie is great at telling salespeople "no", but the young lady was mighty persistent!  It was challenging but Debbie eventually got away.  Phew!  So given the above, it strikes us as a "wanna be" attraction.  We may be in the minority, but that's our humble review.  Of course some said Mt Rushmore couldn't be done so what do we know?  Here's a picture of what the carving looks like now and what the planned finished product will look like.

Yesterday Debbie and I had a date.  Debbie started her day with her 5.5 mile walk with the girls.  We then drove about 45 minutes into Wyoming to do a hike in another area of the Black Hills National Forest.   Actually we hiked two trails, Cook Lake and Cliff Swallow Trails.  Combined, they totaled 6 miles.  Debbie was excited because the sign describing the Cliff Swallow hike mentioned the possibility of seeing beavers.

As some of you may know, Debbie has never seen a beaver in the wild and is kind of fixated on making that happen. Well, it's still a goal.  No beavers.   The hike was comparatively easy with nice scenery and a mild elevation change.  The weather was superb with temps in the low 70's, BLUE skies and a gentle breeze. We had a wonderfully pleasant time.  We moved at a leisurely pace, took plenty of pictures, and just enjoyed each others company.

But who is the real CHAMP!? Do the math! Debbie totaled 11.5 miles yesterday. The first portion in the morning at an aerobic pace and the second in the afternoon hiking. She's MOTIVATED! I'm pleased and proud!

Loved the great Wyoming scenery to and from the hike also.

My goal was to get "us" up to date.  I believe I have.  We "work" the next few days.  Talk to you soon.