Tatanka: Story of the Bison

IMG_0009Last Saturday, I was going to go explore Deadwood again. Unbeknownst to me, there was a car rally going on. While I’m a fan of cars, especially antique cars, I did not come all the way to South Dakota for a car show. I can see those anywhere.

So, ditching Deadwood, I decided to go to Tatanka. Having passed the entrance to it several times when I first got to the area, I had been wanting to see what it was all about anyway. Saturday with the beautiful weather made a perfect day for it.

Arriving at the center. I entered and was greeted by a young woman collecting the entrance fee of $7.50. I browsed the gift shop to a great extinct and explored the interpretative center. I kept wandering back to a pair of buffalo hide moccasin boots and finally ended up getting them. They are remarkably comfortable and I wore them for the rest of the day.

I felt safer knowing Tatanka has its own fire department. Though small, I could see how wondrously efficient it would be.

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I then went outside to see the bronze sculpture. It consists of 14 bison being pursued by three Native Americans riding horseback, amazing in detail and it causes you to reflect on the dangers warriors faced when hunting these massive creatures.

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While the sculpture is an incredible piece of art, my eyes kept drifting to the surrounding area. The view was incredible. There was a slight breeze in the air and a feeling of well-being came over me as I gazed around.

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Even the warning of rattlesnakes could not keep me from enjoying the area. And I did stay on the pathway, albeit it wasn’t the concrete pathway the sign probably referred to.

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Going around the sculpture led to a dwelling. I loved the set-up and sat a little while just thinking about the smell of the campfire, how many bison hides it would take to make a tipi, how the hide would be soaked in the bison brain to lubricate it, and a number of other things you can read about by going to Tatanka: Story of the Bison’s website.

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After enjoying the scenery and sculpture, I found myself back inside the center where I enjoyed my first buffalo burger with chips.

I’m glad I ditched Deadwood for the day and decided to check out Tatanka. Not only was the visit informative, but the food was great, and the people were very pleasant.

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Country’s Center

IMG_0031Although sick this weekend, I decided to get out and see some stuff especially since it has been my only weekend off since starting this nursing assignment in South Dakota. Plus once the weekend was over, I have a seven day work stretch ahead of me and knew that I had to take the time when it was presented…sick or not.

My hotel room hadn’t been serviced since I got here because I took care of just washing the sheets and all when I did my personal laundry. So, I felt like the room needed it and requested service while I was out yesterday.

I took Thade to see the Center of the Country while the cleaning was done. Belle Fourche has this particular site set up nicely. There’s a Tri-State Museum located on grounds, but being a Sunday it was closed. I did, however, get to read this little tidbit of information on Belle Fourche.

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Regardless, there is also a little log cabin built in 1876 on grounds and it was pretty neat.

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Descending the steps to the marker, you’re surrounded by different flora and it is very pretty and well maintained.

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The marker itself is amazing and I love the directional pieces of it. The pathway is bordered by different flags from around the country. Thade was more impressed with the trees he could pee on than anything else.

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And yes, I stood on the little marker for a minute or two…just to say I was dead geo center of the country.

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A well-maintained pathway leads off to the riverwalk, which we walked on for a bit before returning to the car. I plan to walk the full riverwalk before leaving the area, time permitting of course.

I especially liked this piece of art.  The only thing that may make it better is to have a fountain around it and have water running down the “river” and falling into a pool below. Lord knows we need all the peace we can get in this country right now.

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It was pretty interesting to see the center of the country and Thade was able to get a bit of exercise before we returned to the room, where I had to leave him before heading out on my hike up Bear Butte.

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Not Just Bears

Regal, Proud. Out of all the pics I made from Bear Country USA trip, this one remains my favorite.
Regal, Proud. Out of all the pics I made from Bear Country USA trip, this one remains my favorite.

Recently I was able to enjoy a tour of the infamous Bear County USA located in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Opened in the 70’s it started out as a small park by a man and his wife to 1 black bear, one cougar, one wolf, three buffalo and one large bull elk and has expanded to what it is today.

After paying admission at the gate and hearing the warning to “keep your windows up at all times”, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The park is one you drive through, at your leisure, or take the tour bus offered. If you’re interested in taking pictures, I suggest either having someone drive for you or taking the tour bus so you’re free to photograph as much as you want.

The animals seemed to be well fed, taken care of, and generally “at home”. However, I cannot help but feel a bit saddened by the fact that there are still fences, etc. that keep them confined….even if the areas look wide open to us. I even had the nagging feeling of a Jurassic Park feel to it as we followed the paved pathway around the park.

Regardless, I was greeted to some of the most beautiful animals I have seen in a long time. There were many bears there, but there were also other animals basking in the warm sun or enjoying shade in the nearby wooded areas.

IMG_0050 IMG_0046 IMG_0033 IMG_0036 IMG_0031 IMG_0027 IMG_0025 IMG_0023 IMG_0020 IMG_0016 IMG_0002 IMG_0001Some of the animals were not into having their photos made and that’s okay. I can definitely relate to them.IMG_0039 IMG_0018 IMG_0004

I really was impressed with the man-made dens for the animals. There are many of these various structures throughout the park.IMG_0035And I guess we know where the reindeer vacation now.IMG_0012 IMG_0011 IMG_0009

 

 

 

 

This bear reminded me of how I feel about going to work after having a day or two off. He inspired me to make a collage for the week. You can check it out at the end of this blog.

IMG_0028At the end of the tour, you come to a gift shop, but I did not see anything there I could not live without or that could not be found on any number of online sites. However, there also is the baby section of the park which boasts even more animals to capture your heart.

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So, if you’re in the area and have a couple of hours to kill…go visit the animals. Try to keep your windows up at all times. I failed miserably at that rule.

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Chapel in the Hills

After seeing the Dances with Wolves film set and the Crazy Horse Memorial, I decided to take the rest of the day and see the Chapel in the Hills located in Rapid City, South Dakota. I knew a little about the chapel from reading the brochure I had picked up from my hotel. However, it didn’t prepare me for what I would see and experience at this little chapel.

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A Stabbur with a grass roof greets you at the start of the journey and is used for a gift shop. There were several things I liked in the gift shop, but they were out of my budget. I finally decided on two packs of note cards. One pack has the chapel drawn on it and the other pack has a rosemaling drawing on it. Rosemaling is a traditional Norwegian art form.

Rosemaling - Traditional Norwegian Art form
Rosemaling – Traditional Norwegian Art form
Church in the Hills Note Card
Church in the Hills Note Card

The chapel, or Stavkirke, was built in 1969. It is a replica of the Borgund Church of Norway, which happens to be 850 years old. The intricate carvings framing the doorway caught my interest immediately. The detail in those and the dragon heads gracing the top of the chapel intrigued me. I was later to learn that the carvings around the doorway depict the battle between good and evil.

Intricate carvings depicting the battle between good and evil.
Intricate carvings depicting the battle between good and evil.

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There is a covered walkway that goes all the way around the church and this is referred to as the ambulatory.  An ambulatory is a dry place for people to wait for the church to open and it protected the foundation of the church. Additionally, the men would leave their weapons there while they worshipped. I videoed the walk around it and the inside of the chapel. You can view it here:

Inside the chapel, there are carved Apostle heads and crosses. The pegged construction inside amazed me as much as the carvings outside. The altar is a simple stone structure with a cross, the bible, and candles. They do have services Vesper services every evening at 7:30 pm from the second Sunday in June through the last Sunday in August.

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Behind the chapel, there is a prayer/meditation walk. It is a pathway lined on either side with a statue and small prayer posting. I walked the pathway twice, once to take advantage of the walk and have a moment’s peace and again to take the photos.

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"Come to me and rest" - Jesus O Lord I long for your perfect peace, You are my resting place.
“Come to me and rest” – Jesus
O Lord I long for your perfect peace, You are my resting place.
"Lord teach me to pray" O Lord to you I lift up my soul, Listen to me.
“Lord teach me to pray”
O Lord, to you I lift up my soul, Listen to me.
"Trust God with child-like faith" O Lord, I surrender my fears to you, Walk with me.
“Trust God with child-like faith”
O Lord, I surrender my fears to you, Walk with me.
"Pray for children and families" O Lord, bring your presence to my Marriage, my home, my family.
“Pray for children and families”
O Lord, bring your presence to my Marriage, my home, my family.
"Trust God to provide what we need" O Lord, I feel your gentle quietness, Replace my worries with Confident trust.
“Trust God to provide what we need”
O Lord, I feel your gentle quietness, Replace my worries with Confident trust.
"Pray for world peace" O Lord, you love the world and all the people, bring citizens of earth into one caring family.
“Pray for world peace”
O Lord, you love the world and all the people, bring citizens of earth into one caring family.
"Amen, God hears our prayers" O Lord, I rest in you, You hear my words and the thoughts of my heart.
“Amen, God hears our prayers”
O Lord, I rest in you, You hear my words and the thoughts of my heart.

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When I returned to the stone walkway, there was a man, woman, and young boy trying to take pictures of each other in front of the chapel. I took a moment to take the pictures of them all in front of the chapel, the bell tower, and then the heather that was blooming.

The woman chided him for asking me to take the three different pictures, but I assured her I had time. Noticing  she was also using a walker and overhearing the comment that she wouldn’t be able to walk the prayer trail due to it being uneven, I offered to sit with her and show her the pictures I had taken of it just a few minutes earlier.  She had tears in her eyes when she finished looking through them and my heart was full.

After the encounter, I decided to walk once more around the church. I had only taken a few steps when this little guy decided to grace me with his presence. As I took a step forward, he seemed to tense so I dropped my stuff where I stood and eased to a sitting position.

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He watched me a few seconds and went back to eating. I sat and watched the little guy for some time, thinking about life, about my family and friends, about what I should and shouldn’t be doing, about many things and I came to terms with some things.

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All in all, it was a great experience and I was thankful I decided to visit the Chapel in the Hills.

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Crazy Horse Memorial

Who was Crazy Horse? What happened to him? What did he say about his lands when asked? All of these questions can be answered when you decide to visit the Crazy Horse Memorial located in South Dakota.

Crazy Horse Memorial
(Note how small the little white truck and the other vehicles are on what will be the outstretched arm. That will give you an idea of the sheer magnitude of this piece of art.)

Yesterday, I decided to make this my destination on my “tourist” list while I’m on assignment in the area. The drive was just over an hour from my accommodations to the memorial. Along the way, I was able to relax and reflect on many things. In fact, it was a very enlightening drive; especially the latter part of the journey.

As I passed the turn off to Mt. Rushmore and traveled further up the mountain, I became even more relaxed and had such a feeling of peace surrounding me. I didn’t want to see the president’s faces since I had seen them before and I’m just not that impressed with America now. But I digress and really do not want to get into politics.

This bridge is on the exit to Mt. Rushmore.
This bridge is on the exit to Mt. Rushmore.

I wanted to see the Lakota Leader who never once signed a treaty. The leader who fought so he would not be confined to a reservation. Was he right or wrong? I say he was right and the lands should never have been stolen from the Native Americans.  But, that’s just my opinion, and being a wee gypsy probably doesn’t mean much to a lot of people.

Entering the park, I was stunned by the sheer size this memorial is. The four president’s heads of Mt Rushmore would fit into the posterior portion of the head of Crazy Horse. I have demonstrated where it would fit by positioning my watermark in the photo below.

Wow! Mt Rushmore can fit where my watermark (name) is.
Wow! Mt Rushmore can fit where my watermark (name) is.

The museum had lots of things to offer as far as history. There was a few vendors set-up and I got three autographed books for myself, including Mother Earth Spirituality, as well as a few souvenirs for Brooke and the kids.

Walking through the American Heritage building, I found a piece of home that made me smile at the thought of our glorious mascot for Florida State.

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I then watched a hoop performance by the beautiful, Lisa Odjig. There are several videos on Youtube if you wish to view some of the dancing.

Amazing Hoop Dancing
Amazing Hoop Dancing

Afterward, I dropped into the Laughing Waters Restaurant on the grounds and had an amazing Sirloin Steak Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing. Kevin, the waiter, is from Pennsylvania and he is great at his job.

As I ate my meal, read some of my book, and gazed out at a carving that was started in 1948 by a single sculptor, Korezak Ziolkowski, I could almost hear Crazy Horse proclaiming, “My lands are where my dead lie buried”. And I felt sadness that he would die, after surrendering, by being murdered by stabbing by a soldier.

Through the dining room window.
Through the dining room window.

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One thing I know from visiting this site is that the phrase, “Dreams do come true” is a fact. We just have to believe and not give up on those dreams.

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I came away from the memorial, wishing I had known Crazy Horse and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear and the other chiefs. I would love to be able to sit with them a while to get their thoughts and stories on life.

Should you go? Yes, I think it is well worth the time and effort to see this phenomenal work in progress. I don’t know how long it will take to complete, but the history alone is worth the trip. If you’re not able to take the trip, take a minute to read this short article on this amazing warrior!

 

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