As we crossed from Colorado to Nebraska to South Dakota and Wyoming it became clear. Karen and I were on a mission to look at a bunch of rocks. Before we hit the “rock-free” monument at Carhenge, we saw our first National Park Passport Stamp spot in the panhandle of Nebraska – Scott’s Bluff.
The Park has conveniently placed these 3 styles of covered wagons in front of the monument so each visitor can attempt to recreate the painting in the lobby of the visitors center. Pretty darned authentic if you ignore the plastic oxen.
This spot is littered with markings of the Oregon Trail. Unfortunately it is impossible to get a shot of the bluff without wagons in view. We arrived right at closing and talked the rangers into letting us get stamps and then we hit the trails to take these two images and several hundred shots of bunnies.
Day 2 of our drive was a rock bonanza – we got to Wind Cave where there were no rocks or formations above ground, but apparently there is a rather large hole in the rocks below. We got our stamp, checked the cave schedule and decided we needed to head to Jewel Cave because they were closing soon. We nearly ended up with a bison inside our car on the way out of the park and got to Jewel Cave in time for stamps and an elevator ride down 200 feet to the second largest cave in the US. We went inside the rock!
The elevator was a tight fit – about 25 of us in one small box.
The ranger made a big deal of letting us know that you had to fit into a hole only 7 1/2 inches tall to explore the deepest recesses of the cave. Apparently he could fit in the space. He also let us know that the rangers don’t get paid to explore. He also told us that there was a mineral in the cave that could make your dryer explode if you got it on your clothes – this was a very effective strategy for getting us to keep our hands off the cave. I also decided to just throw the clothes I was wearing away, just in case.
This is a surveyors pin that was used to map the cave – apparently your GPS won’t work down here.
We knew we wanted to get to Rushmore, but I told Karen that I had seen a special on TV about Crazy Horse – it was on the way so we went there next.
Apparently Crazy Horses Head is so large that Mount Rushmore’s heads could fit into the section that will contain his face and war bonnet. This project has been in the works for over 60 years and has been spearheaded by one family – 10 drillers are working on it now. Could be another 60 years before it’s done.
This is a scale model of how the finished mountain will look – they are working on the finger now.
As we headed towards Rushmore, we saw a lot of cars pulled off – we thought we might finally see the elusive mountain goat – but no, it was just the side of George’s face…
We got to the park in time to get our stamps and take a seat for the flag ceremony. A ranger came out and talked about integrity. He told stories of unsung signers of the Declaration of Independence. One gave his entire fortune of 2 million dollars to the cause and eventually died in debtors prison with no regrets. Amazing! Another hid in the woods while the British searched his house. His sick wife died and his children were scattered – but he was safe in the woods ready to fight for the cause. He came home and died of a broken heart. Sad story, but I didn’t get the connection. Anyway, they showed a movie about the monument and got us in a really patriotic mood and then….
They light up that big rock!
We knew we would have to come back in the morning to get the stamp at the sculptors studio in the daylight.
In the studio you can see an early model – I think Jefferson looks a bit clingy. I’m kinda glad the rock wouldn’t support the extra appendages.
On the way back up I stopped at an open vantage point to get shots of the fab four.
Karen was nearly busted for leaving the trail – I snapped this in case I had to bail her out. The ranger was the only one we saw who was armed on our entire trip. Karen was risking her freedom to shoot this flower…
This is Nick Clifford – an original driller on the mountain. He started working at 17 on the mountain. He was recruited for the baseball team. I got his autograph in my Parks Passport as well as a baseball card – probably the coolest souvenir from the trip.
As we left Rushmore we headed west – towards another huge rock with some stops along the way…
Not much to look at when there are no bikers there.
Sundance, Wyoming – where the “Kid” got his name, and apparently the Jail is always open.
After a good nights sleep in a hotel with actual room keys we headed to Devil’s Tower – one HUGE rock.
I’m relived that the passport station was not up there.
From the western side.
After this there was only one rock left to see…Rocky Mountain National Park!
One off-duty ranger was taking his 1916 Model T around the summit loop – this car was 3 years older than the park.
Overlooking Forest Park Summit
Looking down on the top of the world
Frozen lake at over 12,000 feet
The Continental Divide 2000 feet below the summit
A frozen lake thaws at the Divide.
I think we managed to visit every large rock in 4 states, and we have the stamps to prove it!