We’ve enjoyed tours of both National Park caves in the Black Hills. We took the Historic Lantern tour of Jewel Cave. The park ranger was in Historic costume with a fitted coat and riding pants. That was the standard uniform of the 1930’s. We met at the log cabin rebuilt to the specifications of the cabin lived in by the first Park Ranger and his wife. Half the people were given kerosene lanterns to carry just like they did in the early days. We were warned that the tour was considered strenuous, we would climb up and down about 600 steep wooden steps (some ladder-like) and be required to bend and stoop in some areas.
Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the cave as well as providing plenty of information about the crystals on the walls and the various bats that inhabit the cave. It was interesting to see how the early cave explorers saw the caves and fascinating to think they could see so little of the path ahead as they went through the cave. I was very tired when we finished but glad I took the tour.
Our second cave was Wind Cave and we took the Fairgrounds Cave Tour. We enjoyed this hour and half tour. The cave continually equalizes the atmospheric pressure of the cave and outside air causing it to “breathe” in or out. Our tour was part of the upper and middle levels of the the cave. It is considered the most strenuous walking tour of the park with 450 stair steps along the 2/3 mile hike, but there are rails to hold on to. One flight has 89 steps going up. Our tour guide was a young lady in her first year with the Parks service. She was very knowledgeable about the cave, its history, and the formations. The major attraction of this cave is the Boxwork formations found in the middle level of the cave. We also saw popcorn and frostwork formations. This is an excellent tour and I recommend it for anyone who doesn’t mind a strenuous hike.
After a short move we arrived in Wall, S.D. We decided to have lunch at the famous Wall Drug that is advertised on hundreds of billboards along the highways across South Dakota. Even on the state highways between Pierre and Wall I saw about 40 signs for Wall Drug. The store is huge, taking up a city block. Even on a weekday afternoon it was full of people. We had their famous hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy, and of course, their much advertised free ice water. For dessert we had apple pie and a cup of the 5 cent coffee. Again it was excellent! I had seen how large the sandwich was so we split the meal and were satisfied. There is a wide variety of shops with every kind of tourist item you can think of. It is very family oriented place with a play area and free water park for kids along with an animated dinosaur that opens its mouth and roars every 12 minutes.
The Badlands National Park is a very different experience. We have an America the Beautiful Pass for those of us over 62 so we avoided paying the $20 entry fee. We arrived midmorning and it was already getting warm. There is a wide variety of wildlife here. We saw some Bighorn sheep, several prairie dog towns, an antelope, and a few birds. Although the loop road was busy we had no difficulty finding parking at the overlooks. We stopped at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, had our picnic lunch in a covered shelter, watched the movie, refilled our water bottle, made a few purchases, and headed on out.
On our way home from the Badlands National Park we stopped at the Minuteman Missile National historic Site. There is a variety of hands on displays showing the significance of these sites in the Cold War and the arms race. The memorabilia is a reminder of those who served and the effect of the Cold War on the civilian population. There are actually three sites in the area, but we only stopped at the visitor center.
As you can tell, we enjoyed our time in Wall and especially, Badlands National Park.
There’s a lot to see in the Twin Cities and we enjoyed our sightseeing. Honestly, there’s still more to see.
We enjoyed our visit to Historic Fort Snelling which was built in 1820 at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. It was established to protect the U.S. Fur trade. In doing so the Fort formalized the U.S. government’s presence and American expansion into Native American Dakota land. Later, from the Civil War through WWII, it was used for training of troops. Inside the gate is the parade ground surrounded by the buildings necessary the Fort to be successful. The oldest structure is the round tower which was used for defense. The munitions building has 6 foot walls and wood floors with pegs to guard against unintended sparks. We saw a long building where rooms were set aside for enlisted men and their families as well as rooms that housed single enlisted men. There is a Sutter’s store that was owned and run by a civilian. He sold items not provided by the post commissary to the solders, their families and local people. There were many people dressed in period clothing. Some women demonstrated how they did laundry outside by hand and how they cooked over an open fire in a hearth. Jackie’s favorite stop on the tour was the home of the Commander Snelling that has been restored and furnished with period furnishings. We also saw an area set up as the post Doctors quarters, and hospital. We finished our tour learning the history of the Dakota people and the effects of the Fort on them.
We had a fun evening at the zoo. We started with the special Australian exhibit of Kangaroos and emu. This is a temporary exhibit and the animals will be here until the fall when they will be returned to their home at a private park outside of San Antonio, Texas. The section on Minnesota animals was interesting. We saw a beaver pushing a small log over the dam and another swim out and back into their lodge. A moose walked right in front us before moving into the woods. The aviary was fun to walk through. We especially liked the exotic birds like the Hornbill and the Crowned Pigeon. Of course we had to see the reptiles including a huge python and a komodo dragon. I would recommend this zoo as a fun destination for everyone.
Another adventure included driving into the city and taking the Metro train. Our first stop on the light rail was Minnihaha Falls. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gave this Minneapolis waterfall national fame in the Song of Hiawatha, written in 1853. It is a short walk from the light rail stop and well worth the time and effort to see. The view from the bottom of the falls is great but entails a lot of steps, so be prepared. We caught the next train on into town and got off at Nicolette Mall. Sadly that area is under construction so we had lunch looked around some and headed back out. It was a fun and easy way to see parts of the city.
The Mall of America lived up to its reviews. We were here a few years ago but this time we covered all the floors. I had read about the new Crayola store. We made that our first stop. There is every color of crayon and marker available there. One entire wall from floor to ceiling was filled with crayons and markers. A person could choose a box or basket and fill it with your choice of crayon or marker and pay for them at check-out. There are toys, jewelry, stuffed animals coloring books for all ages, as well as clothing. A really fun place to see. As we walked we found stores offering everything you have seen in any mall. Along with the stores the mall offers an Indoor amusement park with rollercoasters and other rides. We saw a water ride, a mini golf course and the aquarium. After walking all four floors and doing a little shopping we headed home.
Beyond all the sightseeing, we enjoyed the cooler summer weather, especially during the later part of our stay.
I’ve enjoyed our third stay in southwestern Ohio. We drove a short 40 minutes to visit nearby Clifton which was settled in 1802. The Historic Clifton Mill is one of the few working water powered grist mills in the U.S. It contains a gift shop and restaurant. Not far from there we visited Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve. We hiked one of the trails down by the river to the falls. We really liked the area and hope to go back another time.
A fun local event was the Corwin, Ohio Tractor show. We got to town around 11:30 for the tractor parade and saw people putting their chairs under a tree so we joined them and found that it was a family of several generations that live in the area and came to see their friends and neighbors on their tractors. We saw a lot of old tractors that have been refurbished and look like they did when they were new. I saw one that I had never seen before and found out it was a cultivator tractor built in 1948 for use on truck farms. The engine was behind the driver so they could see the furrows in front of them. Following the parade there was a meal of pulled pork, coleslaw, green beans with new potatoes, desserts and drinks. The tractors were parked all around so we could get a closer look. A fun way to spend a sunny Saturday morning.
Being as close to the Museum of the Air Force in Dayton as we were Scott couldn’t resist making another visit. A new section has been added since our last visit so we made a bee line to it. We focused on just that hanger and one other rather than trying to see the entire place – an exhausting effort! We especially enjoyed seeing the Presidential planes as well as many experimental, one-of-a-kind planes. We did an earlier review of the Museum here.
The gulf coast of Alabama is a terrific place to visit. In addition to major league attractions like the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL and Battleship Alabama in Mobile, AL (both already reviewed) there are many fun and interesting things to see and do.
We enjoyed the Arts and Crafts show in Fairhope where we saw some extremely nice art work and hand crafts. Several young women were dressed in beautiful colorful Southern Belle dresses with large hat and lots of ruffles posing for photos with tourists and promoting the area. It was a beautiful day for a drive and day out after colder weather. I bought a silver and turquoise necklace that matches my turquoise set from my Grandmother Smith.
Another fun event was the Elberta, AL German Sausage Festival. There was a variety of craft and food booths. One booth was selling cheese curds – yum! Of course, the main attraction was the sausage we had for lunch. Mine had sauerkraut and Scott had spicy brown mustard on his. We sat listened to music and did a lot of people watching while we ate. Overall, it was a fun family event.
A free local attraction is the Foley Model Railroad Museum. It is at the local park right off the main highway through town. It is an ‘O’ Gage model railroad layout that is 24 by 60 feet, representing 12 different railroads of the time. The “town” is a 50’s era community with business, a church, fire station (with an animated truck and fireman), and a drive-in- theatre with a movie running on the screen. The miniature town has a full city park with a small train carrying children around the park, and much more to see. A favorite of small children is Thomas the Train running on its track along with a wide variety of trains going around the town and through the tunnel under the mountains. Outside in the park is a miniature train set up for children to play on with a bell to ring. The park itself is lovely and a nice place to take a break.
Of course, the main attraction of the area is the beautiful while “sugar sand” beaches. We enjoyed strolls along the beach – getting our feet wet and the sound of the surf. In addition to all the above, there are several great restaurants in the area, a big outlet mall and much more. We spent a month on the Alabama gulf and enjoyed all it has to offer. Chances are good that we’ll be back!