Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chief Joseph Scenic Highway

We left the Black Hills on Saturday, May 3rd, and drove across Wyoming, avoiding the Big Horn Mountains.  This added a little more mileage to our trip, but we had heard about the difficulties of driving through that mountain pass and decided to just go around it.

So instead we drove through a lot of the remote areas of Wyoming.  And by remote, I mean REMOTE!  The entire state of Wyoming, even though it is so large a land area, has a total population of only about a half-million people, and most of them live in the cities.  You know you are driving through some rather non-populated land when you come across a "town" with a population of only four people - and it shows on the map! (Lost Springs, Wyoming - look it up!)

We overnighted in the city of Casper, then continued on our way the next morning.  Along the way to Yellowstone, we drove through a portion of the Wind River Reservation, which is home of Arapaho and Shoshone Native Americans, and is also where the Lewis & Clark Shoshone guide Sacagawea is buried.  We didn't see her grave site, but we knew it was there as we passed by the reservation.

We also drove through the Wind River Canyon, which stunned us with its beauty.  Who couldn't resist the opportunity to stop along the way to grab a picture?

We arrived in Cody, Wyoming, around lunchtime on Sunday, May 4th.  We grabbed some lunch, then decided to drive along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway to arrive at the northeast entrance to Yellowstone.  It was quite scenic, no doubt!  At one point, the winding mountain switchbacks started to make me a little bit motion-sick, but it was worth it for the scenery.

Chief Joseph was a Nez Perce leader who resisted relocation by the Americans.  He led his people on a 1170-mile "fighting resistance" in an attempt to reach Canada for political asylum (like Sioux Chief Sitting Bull had done), but ultimately he surrendered in 1877 only 40 miles from the Canadian border.  Following arrest, he plead his case to many American dignitaries, but ultimately his request to return his people to their homeland in the Pacific Northwest was ignored.  Chief Joseph died in 1904 never realizing his dream.

Our drive along the Chief Joseph scenic highway was not completely successful.  We never reached the northeast entrance to Yellowstone!  We drove 70 miles along that route before we came to a road closure.  We were only about ten miles from the entrance to Yellowstone, but we could not pass.  We considered pressing on, but we could see that the road ahead of us had patches of snow and ice.  We felt it was better to be safe.  So we turned around and drove the 70 miles back to Cody to our campground.  Better luck next time!

(And who knew there were literate deer in Wyoming?)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Black Hills - Chapel in the Hills, Mount Rushmore (again)

After surviving several days cooped up in the camper due to cold temperatures, spitting snow, and high winds - it's not all bad; we got a lot of schoolwork done! - we took one last day to see the last few things we wanted to see before we left the area.

So on Thursday, May 1st, my 16yo son and I drove into Rapid City to see the Chapel in the Hills, also known as "Stav Kirke".  This Norwegian-style wooden chapel is a replica of the oldest and best preserved stave church still standing in Norway, built in 1150.  The chapel in Rapid City was dedicated in 1969 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The grounds have three distinct buildings.  Of course, the most notable is the chapel itself.  It had detailed woodwork in medieval style.

There was also a museum that was a restored 1800's log cabin originally owned by Norwegian settlers.  The third building was a sod-roofed gift shop.

Later that same day, we drove to Mount Rushmore again, this time to see it lit up at night.  It was neat to see, but we all agree that it is better to see it in the daytime.

The next day we prepared to leave the area, and Steve's airplane was supposed to arrive in Rapid City that night.  However, due to inclement weather in Colorado, he ended up sleeping in the Denver airport and arriving in Rapid City the next morning.  Regardless of the rough night, we still packed up and headed out of the Black Hills on Saturday, May 3rd.