NAMI Walk 2015

Yesterday morning, for the third time, I think, I joined my wife, daughter, three of our five grandchildren, and some of my wife's coworkers from Access Counseling Services for the 2015 5K NAMI Walk to benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
It was a beautiful day for a walk, a bit chilly to start but plenty warm at the end. We started at the Fitton Center for the Arts in downtown Hamilton and enjoyed blue skies, the sparkling waters of the Great Miami River, and a good crowd the whole way to the lower dam, where we turned around. 
The grandkids behaved themselves admirably (as did I), and by a little after 11:00, we were headed home, glad once more to contribute to a worthy cause, and to support the lovely Robin and her good friends at Access.

Devils Tower

On our last full day of our recent sojourn in South Dakota last week, our hosts took the lovely Robin and me to Devils* Tower, in Wyoming. Devils Tower rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River in northeastern Wyoming. When we arrived on the grounds of the national monument (America's first, designated as such by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906), we stopped to visit with some of the year-round residents of the place, in a sprawling prairie dog village. When we got out of the car, they came running to see us (though it's harmful to the critters when people feed them, people obviously do). We also resisted the temptation to take one or two home with us, partly since they carry plague-causing fleas and partly because they wouldn't fit in our luggage.
Devils Tower itself--or Bear Lodge, which is what the tribes in the region have called this place for centuries--is amazing to see. A sacred spot to the Lakota and other tribes of the area and an enticement to rock climbers from around the world, it dominates the beautiful landscape for miles around. A Kiowa legend tells the story of seven little girls who while playing some distance from their village were chased by some bears. The bears were just about to catch them when the girls jumped on a low rock. One girl prayed to the rock, "Take pity on us!" The rock began to grow upwards, pushing the girls higher and higher. When the bears jumped to reach the girls, they scratched the rock, digging their claws into the sides. The rock rose higher and higher until the girls were pushed up into the sky, where they are still, seven little stars in a group (The Pleiades). In the winter, in the middle of the night, the seven stars are right over this high rock. The Kiowa call this rock "Tso-aa," "tree rock."
After a brief visit to the visitor center, we took the 2.7 mile Red Beds Trail, that took us through the countryside, showing us some breathtaking vistas and occasionally winding out of sight of the tower. We kept our eye out for rattlesnakes, and happened upon a docile rabbit but otherwise saw only birds and squirrels.
What a great hike. No elevation to speak of, and clearly marked all the way. I tried to talk my companions into giving a shove to the balancing rock (above) at one of the turns, but they had no adventure in them at all. 
We encountered a number of native American prayer cloths and prayer bundles tied to branches or outcroppings, a reminder of the sacredness of the place to more than twenty tribes.

I'm so glad we went, and so grateful to Randy and Kathy for taking us. 

*Note to my writer (and OCD) friends: When Devils Tower became a national monument, the official paperwork contained no apostrophe. So the official name is not Devil's Tower or Devils' Tower but Devils Tower. So there. Since numerous tribes and Wyoming legislators have backed an effort to rename it, it may soon become, officially, Mato Tipila, "Bear Lodge." Serves it right.  

Mount Rushmore

Just over a week ago, the lovely Robin and I had the joy of visiting--for the first time, for both of us--Mount Rushmore, the monumental sculpture carved into the face of the mountain known to the Lakota Sioux as Six Grandfathers. Our hosts, Kathy and Randy, first took us to a spot that was apparently directly opposite the K Bar S Lodge where we stayed that week, as we were able to view from there the opposite profile of George Washington from the outline we could see from the lobby of the Lodge.

From there we made our way to the parking garage and stately entrance to the memorial grounds. The sixty-foot sculptures of the four U.S. presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln) could be seen for the whole way up the flag-lined walk. Just magnificent. 

We were in time for a reenactment of the four presidents who posed (above), and then enjoyed a sumptuous meal with our group at the Carver's Cafe, before browsing the museum and then gathering in the amphitheater for the final lighting ceremony and flag lowering of the season! What a privilege and a joy. 

Bear Country USA

Bear Country USA is a drive-through wildlife park in the Black Hills of South Dakota, near Rapid City.  The lovely Robin and I visited last week with a couple new and good friends--and loved it! We saw wolves, bears, elk, buffalo, and other wildlife on the three mile drive. One big black bear lumbered right in front of our car, probably just to let us know who was boss.  

The grounds also feature a "babyland," where young ocelots, beavers, porcupines, red foxes, coyotes, bears, bobcats, and more are cared for. We happened to be there when feeding time began, which was fascinating to watch. 
I loved watching the red foxes--three females--and otters, among others. I could have pulled up a chair and just watched and watched. But, you know, they had a gift shop and--well, I have a wife. And grandkids. So...

The Alpine Inn

Among the many fine meals the lovely Robin and I enjoyed on our recent six-day sojourn in South Dakota (sufficient sibilants for you?) was a lunch with friends at the Alpine Inn in Hill City, South Dakota.
Once the Harney Peak Hotel, built by the Harney Peak Tin Mining, Milling, and Manufacturing Company for use by its mining executives, this was a favorite spot for Sunday diners and for mining, timbering, and railroad men active in the area. Though the mining company ceased operations in 1892, the hotel and dining room remained in operation until 1934. When Waldraut (Wally, pronounced "Volly") Matush came to Hill City in 1970, he acquired the Harney Peak Hotel in 1974. After housing a variety of businesses, it became the Alpine Inn in 1984.
When I saw spaetzle on the menu, I got excited--but it wasn't the noodle dish I remember from our visits to Germany, but a dumpling dish. So I passed, and ordered the Wild Green Splendor salad (above), grilled chicken breast, Gorgonzola cheese, dried cranberries and pecans on a bed of--you guessed it--wild greens and served with a light raspberry vinaigrette dressing. It was perfect. 
It was a satisfying meal in fine surroundings shared with great company.

The Alpine Inn is located on the corner of Elm & Main Street in Hill City, South Dakota. I recommend it.

Chuckwagon Supper Show

On our recent sojourn in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the lovely Robin and I were blessed to join a group of friends for a visit to the Chuckwagon Supper Show near Rapid City.
We arrived a little early, but it was getting dark and cold and rainy so we ducked into a couple shops where tin plates and ropes were being made. Fascinating stuff. Then the dinner bell rang and we got in line for a chuckwagon dinner. It was probably not too different from a real chuckwagon dinner, too--nothing remarkable, but chicken, baked beans, a tater, and bread, with lemonade (my choice) to drink.
No time was wasted, as we were still talking and eating when the announcement came to instruct us what to do with our dishes, and soon after we had to redd up the table because the show was fixing to start. I wasn't thrilled about listening to a country music band, but these guys were excellent musicians and entertainers. They injected some silliness and in addition to medleys of country tunes, they presented an Elvis segment and--my favorite--a couple big band jazz numbers featuring a saxophone. It turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

The Chuckwagon Supper Show is located five miles south of Rapid City, South Dakota, on Highway 16 west.

Hole In the Wall Book Store

I could resist practically everything (except the five-cent cup of coffee) at the famous Wall Drugs in Wall, South Dakota. But I found it very hard to resist the Hole in the Wall Book Store contained therein (get it? Hole in the WALL? Oh, come on!).
From their Louis L'Amour offerings (though I own trade paperbacks of all his books) and the boxed set of four Zane Greys to The Life of jim Bridger, Tales of the Black Hills, and many other enticing volumes, I could have spent the day browsing the shelves. It isn't a large bookstore (what you see in the photo is almost the whole thing--or "hole thing," get it? Huh? Huh?), but I found it enthralling.

Maybe I'll go back sometime when it's just me. And I have actual money to spend.