Devils Tower

The Devil went up to Wyoming, not down to Georgia…

Continuing on my trip in South Dakota, had some time to kill. Devils Tower is an hour+ from Deadwood, SD (love the 80mph speed limit!).  So it’s another landmark to visit while in the general vicinity.

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Drove out there and after getting off the interstate, the general landscape is just breathtaking – reminds me why I left the East Coast for good, I love it out West. We were on this road for about half an hour. I kept pulling over to take pictures of the tower and surroundings. Of course, I would be right at the base before I knew it. Pulled up to the entry gate and love having a National Park Pass – ‘free’ entry!

Wasn’t too busy as I got there around 5:30pm. And, since this was in the summer, the sun wasn’t setting for several hours. There is a footpath around the base of the tower and staring at it is breathtaking. Devils Tower is 867 feet tall. It stands 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River and is 5,112 feet above sea level (thanks for the state NPS!). I kept wondering if any pieces of rock might fall while taking the stroll.

Some little tidbits about this magnificent location:

  • The name Devils Tower originated in 1875 during an expedition led by Colonel Richard Irving Dodge, when his interpreter reportedly misinterpreted a native name to mean “Bad God’s Tower”.
  • The movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind used Devils Tower during the shooting.
  • The magma which formed Devils Tower cooled and crystallized into a rock type known as phonolite porphyry. It is a light to dark-gray or greenish-gray igneous rock with conspicuous crystals of white feldspar.

And you can find more random stuff on Wikipedia (some of the above isn’t from there).

I have a cousin who is a rock climber and her husband is a hard core climber. I asked them about Devils Tower, and they have both climbed it. Dang! That thing is sheer vertical drop. I admire them and all climbers.

And more great pictures…

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An amazing sight to see if you’re in the SD/WY area. Note: Devils Towers is in the Eastern Edge of WY, it’s not in SD.

Badlands, SD

On my South Dakota roadtrip (this was to run a marathon in Deadwood), specifically took the road/route to drive through the Badlands in South Dakota.

Stopped at the very little (aka not really known) visitors center at the south end of the park. The view in this area is fascinating…just out there, the land goes into nowhere.

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Just thinking of how people might have navigated through this land to make their way across the country to settle. I completely, absolutely admire them! Based on that, a nice tidbit of info I found during research, according to us-parks.comTrappers and traders regularly traveled the 300 miles from Fort Pierre to Fort Laramie along a path which skirted the edge of what is now Badlands National Park.

In addition to the great Parks site, more little tidbits about the area can of course be found at the endless info site of Wikipedia. What would we do without it?

A video of some views

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To me, though, pictures speak 1,000 words. Would love to check out some of the hiking trails there sometime.

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Mount Rushmore

During my road trip to South Dakota, of course I had to visit Mt. Rushmore. Hadn’t been there since I was about 4 so had to check it out in a time I could truly appreciate it.

Didn’t do an official tour but just checked it out on my own. They have a great museum where you can take in so much information on your own at the pace you’d like to absorb it. In some of the information in the museum, it was amazing to learn how Mt. Rushmore was built — the climbing that was done, how the workers hung from the rocks to make it happen, the blasting, and the time they spent.

Outside of the museum, they also have a path to walk around on to see Mt. Rushmore and the presidents from different angles. Unfortunately part of the footpath was closed so not all of it could be taken it. However, it was all absolutely amazing and I was so lucky because it was a clear, sunny day. Pictures barely do this justice.

 

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Carhenge, Nebraska

Was on a road trip to South Dakota and taking the scenic way. As I was driving through Nebraska, I suddenly saw a sign for Carhenge (in Alliance, NE). I remember hearing about this, threw on the brakes and turned my car to check this place out.

Carhenge is a structure that replicates Stonehenge, just with the use of cars:

“Thirty-nine automobiles were placed to assume the same proportions as Stonehenge with the circle measuring approximately 96 feet (29m) in diameter. Some autos are held upright in pits five feet deep, trunk end down, while other cars are placed to form the arches and welded in place. All are covered with gray spray paint. The honor of depicting the heel stone goes to a 1962 Caddy.”

More on their site.

It was such a cool thing to walk around. So many cars, the perfect layout to appear just like Stonehenge, but with a little bit different feel. They they also have other cars they’ve added to the collection for different displays. Great way to get a break on a road trip and see something totally out of the ordinary.

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Antarctica…that’s a wrap

The final couple days on the trip to Antarctica were spend going back over the Drake Passage. We barely knew that’s where the ship was because the water was so calm, making it ‘Drake Lake.’ During this time we did lots of recap of the trip with our guides  and prepared to unfortunately finish the voyage.

At a certain time an unexpected announcement came over the PA system. Based on how fast we had been moving because of the very calm water, we were going to make a detour that is pretty rare. We were able to head over to Cape Horn! Stunning view, and it was amazing to have the water as calm as it was — many competitors in sailboat races would have loved these conditions.

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After being around Cape Horn for a bit we returned up the Beagle channel to port in Ushuaia. After disembarkation we toured  the city a small bit and then went to Tierra del Fuego. Absolutely gorgeous day for it and a nice way to wrap up the trip.

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And a quick view of Ushuaia from the deck:

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This was definitely an amazing trip. Not something you do every year, nor that you would do every couple. So glad I was able to check Antarctica off my list and that I have visited all seven continents. My biggest question now…what’s next?

*If you are interested in checking out this continent, I would highly recommend going through Quark Expeditions. They were amazing. You need to plan/book pretty far in advance, or at least it really helps to. This trip was booked 10+ months prior, and you don’t have to pay all at once. Happy to give more info.

 

Antarctica, Day 10…wow.

This was our final day of exploring on the trip. The next day we headed back towards the Drake Passage and the trip was going to wrap up. This day was absolutely amazing, all sun, light breeze and awesome views. We landed on Deception Island by way of Neptune’s Bellows.

There were buildings there from an old Norwegian whaling station and a British Antarctic Survey base. We also got to hike up this great hill and see for miles. Wanted to stay there…BBQ anybody, let’s just kick back here for a bit!

We also got to see more seals and Chinstrap Penguins for the first time!

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And videos, of course:

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And where we were, Day 10, March 9:

Antarctica, Day 9…landed!

We continued North and were on Day 9 of the trip. We only had two days left for exploring the area. We still had to set foot on the actual continent of Antarctica. All the others times we’d been on land it was islands. Today was going to be the day.

In the morning we ‘only’ took zodiacs ride. Brutal, right…we just got to check out scenery that way. But we were so eager to step on land that it was tough. We did see amazing icebergs, though, that gave unique colors, and seals and whales.

In the afternoon we set foot on land. Finally, I made it to the 7th continent! And, we weren’t warmly welcomed by a seal. This video barely shows how we had to handle it (the guides are the ones you can see). We were told if approached by a seal to put arms in the air and stay away. This went on for several minutes here and yes, hiking/ski poles started coming out. He would back down then come back to action.

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The log, Day 9, Mar 8:

 

Antarctica, Day 8…killer!

The start of this day was absolutely astonishing…lighter clouds than before and beautiful sun. We could not wait to get started. The first place was visited was Danco Island. This picture is part of the foundation of one of the buildings the used to be on the island.

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We walked around Danco for awhile and just had breathtaking views of the water, the mountains and saw some whales, while surrounded by penguins. Not far away, across the water, we saw an avalanche occur as well. We just heard an odd noise and then saw a large white cloud. Pretty cool — and we know nobody was at risk of injury.

When we boarded the zodiac from the island the fun really started. You do get to see whales while in Antarctica, but they are normally Humpbacks. Well, as we’re cruising along, something killer happen…we saw Killer Whales! Ok, so we already acted like kids when we saw ‘normal’ whales, this was like a once in a lifetime experience (very rare) to see down here. The kids in us erupted. I was able to catch a quick photo. Incredible.

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And some other pics of the day:

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Videos, too:

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And a rundown of spots on Day 8, 3/7:

Antarctica, Day 7…A Whale of a Good Time

So we’re all adults here. We’re all in Antarctica for the experience, the education. But at some times, we acted like we were five year olds. On most of the days we were (always) on the lookout for whales, but on the 7th day of the trip they happened to be spotted right near the ship. So we were on diligent lookout for them on the zodiacs.

We got very very close to a school of 3 of them.

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We would just sit there, watching, endlessly. We also just wanted the whales to jump out of the water and breach. We never had huge view of this, but still some spectacular scenes.

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And when the whale would start to come up from the water, all of us would scream with excitement like little kids. It was crazy. The guides probably just rolled their eyes at us.

The rest of this day we saw some amazing icebergs and more stunning views, along with more wildlife. This day was also the Polar Plunge! Jumped into the Southern Ocean. The water temp was 32 degrees — very refreshing. We plunged in, jump right back out, ran through the mud room, had a shot of whiskey then ran upstairs and jumped into the 85 degree pool. So nice!

 

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A some videos:

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And a summary of the day, Mar 6:

 

 

Antarctica, Day 6…ahh, penguins

Ok, so we go to zoos, we see pictures. Penguins are SOOO cute. This is the day of the real thing. We get to (start) see(ing) penguins. The key word there is start. Over the course of the next week all we did was see penguins.

Anyway, there is a rule in penguin land. You can not be closer than 5 meters to a penguin. Let them be in their habitat, it is their space. But, it they approach you, that is fine, the 5 meter rule is gone. You just need to be sure to let them do what they want..and don’t pet them!

So we make landing and all you see are these darn things. It’s tough to not be 5 meters away, so glad the rule doesn’t apply if they are near you.

This day we also saw seals and whales. The seal that is in several of the pictures in the Leopard Seal, which we saw quite a few of, and the can be quite aggressive. A very involved day!

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And some videos from this day, all about penguins:

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Summary of the day, Day 6, March 5.