Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

Montana Grizzly Encounter, Bozeman MT

I feel that I have to start off by saying: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!!Lucy's padded feet

Seriously! Bears look cute and fuzzy and have those padded little (gigantic) feet! They look cuddly – and we have those Teddy Bears (remember, as discussed in my blog about Mt. Rushmore December 11, 2012 – they are named after Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt).  You might think it’s crazy (because it IS!) but there has been history of people getting out of the car to stand beside bears on the side of the road for a picture. TERRIBLE IDEA!
DO NOT DO THAT!!!

When we were in Yellowstone last time, there was a grizzly running along the road, and a bunch of tourists outside of their cars, setting up tri-pods, to get pictures! (The ambulance was parked, running, with its lights on…just in case.)  STUPID!

I guess there are some who think maybe these bears, when babies, would make good pets or something, and then find out that when they grow up, that they are dangerous! and expensive! and they end up being mistreated, malnourished, and crammed into little cages.  What is WRONG WITH PEOPLE!!?????
MT Grizzly Encounter
Enter Casey Anderson – the Grizzly Bear rescuer!

These bears have all been born in (often inhumane) captivity. At the Grizzly Bear Encounters site, they have a cage that is the size of one of the cages.  So sad. Heartbreakingly sad.  BUT these have been rescued! And they live in a beautiful habitat that Casey built for the care of the Grizzlies, and education of the people ~ Montana Grizzly Encounters, just outside of Bozeman, Montana.

Currently, there are 5 Grizzlies in the enclosure – and a schedule regulating who’s out in the public eye at which time. (Apparently, they aren’t all pals… but apparently…some of them are!)

Brutus the Bear is Casey’s best friend, from all I’ve read.  Brutus even stood up for Casey as his “best man” at his wedding AND he’s had dinner, at the table, with the rest of the family!! (The best pictures are shown in the interview with National Geographic – in my opinion – and you absolutely have to go look at them!!!! More (and some of the same) can be seen at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1174259/Meet-Brutus-800lb-grizzly-bear-likes-eat-meals-dinner-table.html)

Casey rescued Brutus when he was just a tiny little baby and they have been together ever since. Brutus Baby Brutuswas the size of a squirrel at the time, and now weighs about 800 pounds (363 kgs) and is almost 8 feet tall (2.36 meters).  (Brutus had a sibling that didn’t make it…)

Brutus is the “spokesperson” for Grizzly bears and has been featured (as I mentioned) in National Geographic, has appeared on the Oprah Show, and has had parts in education videos and two movies.

Two of the other bears are Sheena and Christi – they are twins and spent 15 years in a 6 foot by 4 foot cage. Reading this makes me cry.  I can’t talk about it.  They were 18 years old when they were adopted by Montana Grizzly Encounters and had to learn how to live in a “real” world, with space. They finally get to LIVE! live in a habitat for bears! Yes. I was right.Lucy I can’t talk about it.

Another pair are Jake and Maggi.  I don’t know anything about them. (There was information given about them when we were there visiting, but I don’t remember. I’m sorry.) They weren’t outside when we were there – and, I only had previously known about Brutus, and the website describing each bear is being updated with their details.  But, clearly, Jake & Maggi are compatible, or they wouldn’t be allowed out at the same time.

Finally, there’s Lucy.  Lucy was out when we were there, and she is the youngest and the newest. When we were there, she was still acclimatizing to her surroundings.

Montana Grizzly Encounter’s Facebook page has a video of Lucy, right after her arrival – and SHE IS SO CUTE!!!!! (It’s posted on their page December 11, 2012.) SO CUTE!! GO LOOK!!!

All of my pictures are of Lucy, except the picture I borrowed of Casey and Brutus, the baby bear.

Please! Take time to look at all Montana Grizzly Encounters has done! Take time to Google and find other articles and more pictures.

YOU WILL LOVE IT!!!!!!!  LOVE IT !!

(https://www.facebook.com/brutus.thebear.7 and http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Animal-Friendships)

Wednesday, we will be continuing on to Virginia City, Montana.

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The Battle of Little Bighorn (Crow Agency, Montana)

“It was a terrible battle…a hard battle because both sides were brave warriors.”  (Red Feather, Lakota)

The first time I went to The Battle of Little Bighorn (sometime in the 1980’s), it was called “Custer’s Last Stand.”

However, in 1991, Congress authorized the name of the area and National Monument to be changed from Custer Battlefield to Little Bighorn National Monument, signed into law by former President George W. Bush.  (Public Law 102-201: “The public interest will best be served by establishing a memorial…to honor and recognize the Indians who fought to preserve their land and culture.”)

An Indian Memorial was also designed to honor the Native American participation in Battle (before there was just the Memorial for the 7th Cavalry soldiers.) Indian Memorial

The description of the Indian Memorial in the National Park pamphlet is better than on-line (unless I am just looking in the wrong place) but it describes the Memorial this way:  “The circular earth and stone work is gently carved from the prairie…for many tribes, the circle is sacred and symbolic of the journey of life. A weeping wall symbolizes the tears of the Indian People and the suffering that resulted from their battle here on the Greasy Grass to retain their nomadic way of life. The interior walls commemorate the five tribes that fought there: Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow and Arikara.”   The Memorial’s  theme is “Peace through Unity”, and it was dedicated in June, 2003.7th Cavalry Memorial

Basically, this marks the location of a TERRIBLE battle (well, the same could be said about any battle, actually, couldn’t it?), which took place June 25 and 26, 1876 near the Little Bighorn River, in eastern Montana Territory, when General Alfred H. Terry sent Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer to the Rosebud and Little Bighorn area, to force the Indians back onto their reservations.

As we’ve previously briefly discussed (see Blog December 8th, about Crazy Horse), there was ALOT of anger and discontent, as treaties were made and broken, with the Native Americans, resulting in the Indians losing much of their sacred ground (every time something good was discovered on their land….like gold, in the Black Hills.)

The National Park Services information pamphlet describes that this conflict against the “relentless invasion of the white man” “reached its peak in the decade following the Civil War, when settlers resumed their vigorous westward movement. These western emigrants, possessing little or no understanding of the Indian way of life, showed slight regard for the sanctity of hunting grounds or the terms of former treaties.  The Indians’ resistance to those encroachments on their domain only served to intensify hostilities.”

In 1868, a treaty was signed by the US Government and the Lakota, Cheyenne and other tribes of the Great Plains, designating a large area as permanent Indian reservation., promising to protect the Indians “against the commission of all depredations by people of the United States.”

But…then… in 1874 someone struck Gold in the Black Hills, which was in the heart of the reservation AND the Lakota’s sacred ground, and their treaty was ignored and their protection was … gone?   So, in an effort to protect themselves and their land, the Lakota & Cheyenne left their reservation and raided settlements and travelers along the fringes of their land.

When they diCuster postcardd not comply with the order to return to their reservation, the army was called in.

Which gets us (eventually) to the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Once there, Custer divided his forces (of about 600 men, including officers) into three groups – one under his command, and the other two under Maj. Marcus Reno and one under Capt. Frederick Benteen. Benteen was to go to the South, and Custer and Reno were to go to the North. Custer and Reno then split up and Reno advanced down the valley

What they didn’t know, though, is that in the meantime, Chief Sitting Bull (who was already recognized as a strong and accomplished warrior, protecting his Lakota people, his culture, and his land, and who considered the US Army as an invasion of Lakota way of life) had formed an alliance with other neighboring tribes (the Cheyenne, Arapaho and other Agency Indians) – and so they had alot more warriors than the U.S. Army calculated.

A large force of Lakota warriors intercepted Reno, and Reno was eventually forced to retreat.  He was joined by Benteen, and after hearing heaving gunfire to the north, marched on to help Custer.

However, by the time they arrived, the firing at the “Custer battlefield” had stopped.  Reno and Benteen soon found themselves under attack, as well, and were forced to withdraw.

The battle continued – the army held their defenses, and the siege ended with the Indians withdrew.  (They withdrew, not because Benteen and Reno were winning, but because they heard that General Alfred H. Terry and Col. John Gibbon were coming; General Crook had been delayed in battle at Rosebud, by Crazy Horse (as previously discussed in the December 8 blog about Crazy Horse.)

The Battle was only 2 days long, but Custer and his entire company were killed (about 210 men),  Reno and Benteen lost about 53,  and about 100 Indians also died.

Mrs. Spotted Horn Bull (of the Lakota tribe) is quoted: “Since the Sioux first fought the men (white men) who are our friends now, they had not won so great a battle…so it was that the Sioux defeated Long Hair and his soldiers in the valley of the Greasy Grass River, which my people remember with regret, but without shame.”

Despite the overwhelming victory, this marked the beginning of the end of the Indian Wars, and Sitting Bull exiled to Canada. Later, due to hunger and cold, he eventually was forced to return to Fort Buford, Montana, and surrendered.

After spending time here and there at various Forts, he and his band were allowed to return to the Standing Rock Agency, in 1883.  From there, In 1884, Sitting Bull was allowed to leave the reservation and joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (see my blog of November 27th, 2012 – “Nebraska, the Cornhusker State“).  He was with the show for 4 months, and then returned, again, to the Standing Rock Agency.

Because of Sitting Bull’s enthusiasm for his culture and people, by 1890, the government started to fear an uprising, and decided to have him arrested.  A group of Sioux rallied around him to prevent the arrest. A shoot-out followed and Sitting Bull was shot in the head…  an all too familiar story…

….
Back to the Little Bighorn Battlefield site:  You are allowed to tour around the Battlefield, but you must stay on the designated areas.

Markers are scattered around the site, and they are placed where bodies had fallen. The white markers represent soldiers and the brown markers represent Indian warriors.

There’s also a Visitors’ Center and the National Cemetery.   There is an entrance fee (at the time we were there, it was $10 per vehicle.)

You should go.

….

Sunday, we are going to be visiting
the Montana Grizzly Encounter,
in Bozeman, Montana.

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Devils Tower, Wyoming

stormOur next stop along the way, is Devils Tower, WY. This is the first National monument, decreed by  (guess who!) President Roosevelt,  in 1906. You need to stop in a town before (we stopped at Gillette WY our first couple of trips, coming from the west, and Sturgis this time, coming from the east) to stock up on groceries, etc. (There’s a little store at Devils Tower, if you forget something important.)Close Encounters

Devils Tower is the focal point of the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind“.

The KOA campground there is situated on the filming site and they show the movie pretty much every night. I was very excited! I was a little creeped out, too, to have the show on the side of the barn, Tower looming on the horizon with eerie glowing moonlight outlining it… it was really cold, though, that night, and I skipped the movie…

I always imagined we’d go back there, and see it next time. Peter loved it at Devils Tower, and since we were considering the entire road trip a “sample platter”, I had it in my mind that we’d come back.  And, we did! This was our third time there!  (The second time,  the movie was cancelled because of a ferocious rain and lightning storm.) This time, the showing was inside the restaurant…which I understand, but it was disappointing… life lesson to do something the first time around, and not assume you’ll get another chance.

Devils Tower is a huge outcropping – you drive along and think “shouldn’t I see it by now, if it’s really that big?” (Its 1267 feet above its surrounding terrain). But you drive and drive and drive (a worthwhile drive, though slightly off the beaten track) and suddenly someone in the car says “GASP! THERE IT IS!” And there it is! right there! out there in the middle of nothing!Devils TowerI guess it really was originally named something like “Bear Lodge” or “Bear House”, and was (is) a sacred place of the Lakota and other tribes. In 1875, an English-speaking person misinterpreted it and called it “Bad God’s Tower”, which eventually was shorted to “Devils Tower” (no apostrophe, due to a very official …geographical naming standard?). That’s what they say. It’s too late to change it, apparently, because tourists would no longer know how to find it…

In the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Richard Dreyfuss’ character made models of this mountain out of mashed potatoes and piles of mud from his yard.

In real life, there are some questions about its origin. What they know is that it’s made from phonolite porphyry…I looked that up and every site talks about Devils Tower.  It’s similar to granite, but lacks quartz.  The website says “Phonolite refers to the ringing of the rock when a small slab is struck, and its ability to reflect sound. Porphyry refers to its texture, large crystals of feldspar embedded in a mass of smaller crystals.” …which means: next time I go back (and there will be a next time), I’m going to ring the rocks!!  How come I didn’t know that before? I’m surprised I didn’t do it by accident already!

Fallen pieceSome wondered if this was a volcano that formed a mountain and then eroded away, leaving just the core.  However, it is more commonly accepted that it all happened underground, and later exposed by way of erosion. (This is my understanding, anyway).  The magma, as it cooled (underground), formed columns (from four to seven sides.)   These columns are bundled together, like a bundle of pencils, for a total summit area of approximately  1.5 acres (200 x 400 feet), and the base is about 1 mile around. (Keep in mind that each of columns are about 7 feet (2 meters) across at the base, and about 4 feet (1.2 meters) at the top.)

People are allowed to climb it year round (except June, due to religious ceremonies held by the Native Americans ~ considering history, maybe it’s a good idea to just think that they lent the Tower to the public for  the other 11 months of the year).

The first people to climb were two cowboys named William Rogers and W.L. Ripley, in 1893. Two years later, Ripley’s wife, Alice,A piece down became the first woman to make it to the summit. (Rogers & Ripley pounded wooden stakes into the cracks, making a ladder, and Alice used that same ladder to climb.)

Since then, many have climbed, and it normally takes 4-6 hours. (I really hope that people who don’t know what they are doing attempt it – it gives me vertigo just standing directly below it and looking up!!! There must be some sort of criteria to be allowed to climb…)  The fastest climb recorded, though, was by the late Todd Skinner  who climbed Devils Tower in 18 minutes in the 1980s!!!! I can’t even imagine that!! 18 MINUTES compared to 4-6 HOURS!!!!?

You can visit the Monument 24 hours a day, all year around. There is a fee ($10 for a car, $5 for a motorcycle), and some days are free to visit. (There are different fees for commercial tour vehicles.)

Oh goodness! I just Google-Earth’d it – THAT was worthwhile! It first takes you to the General Store, but follow the road around (that’s the best way – the best surprise – to see it!!)

Wednesday – Battle of Little Big Horn (previously mentioned in my blog about Crazy Horse, December 8, 2012.)

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Sturgis – Home of the world famous Motorcycle Rally

Streets of SturgisWe drove through the Home of World Famous Motorcycle Rally on a day that there was, not only not a Rally, but nothing going on at all. There wasn’t even traffic.  THIS is actually a picture of the day we were there:

Since we don’t have bikes, and we’ve only just passed through, and there was nothing going on that day, I’m going to hand the blog over to a guest writer for the day – an expert visitor of the Famous Sturgis! I feel that it’ll be better represented by someone who’s experienced Sturgis in all of its splendor.

Please give your attention to Corrine!

Bike Week in Sturgis South Dakota, or as many say, “Mecca of Bike Rallies” is held every year the first full week of August ~ an event that was started by the Jackpine Gypsies in 1938 and registered as a State Rally in 1940.Roger and friends

Transport back to 1987 – our first year when attendance was about 75,000 bikes. 2 blocks of Main Street were lined with bikes and the streets filled with “Bikers” including the iconic Hells Angels mingling together in the common interest of biking.  We spent 3 days taking in the sounds (constant roar of motorcycle engines) the sights (the biker gear ranged from the ordinary leather to the 70-year-old grandmothers in tube tops and daisy dukes!) and of course the bikes (choppers/custom bikes and of course the old “Rat” bikes)Roger and Corrine Mount Rushmore

We came home with many stories of our awesome first time experience with plans already in place to attend next year.  We stayed by ourselves in a motel in Spearfish the first couple of years and then we found our home away from home at Kemps Kamp in Keystone – Home of Mount Rushmore. It is here we meet our family friend for our annual reunion.  We camped with a tent for many years, but have grown up to the comfort of a cabin with indoor plumbing.

Our most memorable year was 1996.  Our anniversary just happens to fall during bike week so for our 25th, the owners of the campground and our family friends gave us an anniversary celebration (even had a wedding cake!) with more people attending than we actually had at our wedding. It was a beautiful /loving event.

The year we could have skipped was 1990.  That was the year of Sturgis’ 50th Anniversary.  There were approximately one million people attending which equates to about 750,000 bikes.  Today, Sturgis is a town of about 6,500 residents, so in 1990 this town  became a major city!!

Rally Week

Traffic on the highway was like driving down a residential street for a good 5 miles from the 2 entrance/exits into town.  Main street ran the whole length of the town to accommodate all the bikes and people.  The down side – it took 1 hour to do anything (there were many a pee-pee dances going on in front of the numerous porta potties). The upside – the economy for a one hundred mile radius of the Rally was absolutely booming.

Having attended the Rally for more than 20 years, my husband and I now go to meet up with the many friends that we now  consider family, rather than the Rally itself. We don’t even make the trek into Sturgis from Keystone very often anymore; however it is always a joy when we bring a “Sturgis Newbie” to the Rally and watch their jaw drop in awe when we turn the corner onto Main Street – what a sight!!!!Crowded 2

……
Thank you, very much, to Corrine – she said she could’ve gone on and on about Sturgis! One thing I have determined, after reading her account and after seeing some of her pictures: When I DO go visit Sturgis during Rally Week and am the “Sturgis Newbie”, I think I would like her or her husband, Roger, to hold my hand…

Wildlifery=480d

Sunday, we’ll be visiting
Devils Tower, Wyoming!

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The Ingalls Family and Black Hills Miscellany

Our goal was to get to Rapid City, SD, where we would stay, relax, and visit with some friends from once-upon-a-time.  We drove straight there, with no stops.

However, there were places to stop, especially if you are travelling with children, so this blog is going to be about places we missed.  If, by chance, we are ever back in this area again, we might even stop at a couple of the places… like… The Wind Cave.

THE WIND CAVE 
is about 2.5 hours from Alliance NE North, or 45 mins South of Crazy Horse.  It is a sacred place for the Lakota Sioux, and has been known to them for centuries! It was found again by Jesse and Tom Bingham in 1881, when they heard the air whistling out of the cave. Apparently, the wind coming out of the cave blew Tom’s hat off his head, and later, the wind switched directions and sucked his hat into the cave. Flowstone

Wind Cave is one of the longest caves in the world (more than 100 miles/161 kms long) and the first cave to be designated a national park (in 1903, by Theodore Roosevelt, of course). The Limestone Cave is the 5th largest in the world,  and made up of a variety of cave formations, including

The Cave is still being explored, but you can take guided tours, even in the winter!  There are a variety of tour options, with different levels of strenuity (strenuousness?) – depending on length, stairs, accessibility.  Check their website for options and costs!

The National Park website says the best times to visit are early mornings or weekends, and that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the busiest…which…is weird, I think. I wonder why that is?

Mammoth On the way to the Wind Cave (from Alliance NE), you will pass the MAMMOTH SITE, at Hot Springs.  We actually did stop there (thanks to the sign on the road and the guise of “Big Ball of String” touring), and historically, scientifically, and paleontologically, I think THIS would be fascinating. But we were tired, and we wanted to get to Crazy Horse, etc., and visiting here was a last-minute idea… so when we got there, and it was a museum with guided tours, we just went in the front door into the lobby and into the gift shop, but not into the museum.

The Mammoth Site is the largest site in the world, and is still an active paleontological dig site (which you can tour).  According to the website, they have found (to date) 60 mammoth remains (57 Columbian and 3 woolly)!

This mammoth grave yard was discovered by accident in 1974, when an earth-mover unburied a set of bones, trying to excavate for a housing development.

Since then, as mentioned, 60 mammoths have been uncovered, but also (the website confirms) a “giant short-faced bear, camel, llama, prairie dog, wolf, fish, and numerous invertebrates.”

You can take a 30 minute guided tour year round, but they suggest you budget at least an hour, so you can also visit the dig site area on your own (rules about staying on the sidewalk).

30 minutes NORTH of the Wind Cave, take a sharp left at Flintstone Bedrock City onto Hwy US 16), and continue another 20 minutes West to JEWEL CAVES NATIONAL  MONUMENT, which is the second longest cave in the word, about 160 miles (257 km) of mapped passageways.drapery

Roosevelt made these caves a National Monument in 1908. It’s open year round, and also has a variety of tours, including a spelunking tour!

THIS Cave’s formations include:

For more information on visiting the Jewel Caves, visit the National Park’s website.  Even more information can be found at  http://www.blackhillsbadlands.com/home/thingstodo/parksmonuments/nationalparks/jewelcavenationalmonument

Back the way we came, to FLINTSTONE’S BEDROCK CITY!

FlintstonesApparently, there is more than one “Bedrock City”, but this particular one happens to be the oldest (opened in 1966).  And, afterall, The Flintstones were a “modern stone age family”.   The “modern” Flintstones production was originally broadcast from September 30, 1960 to April 1, 1966… seems to be too coincidental, to be anything but true! Therefore, I’d surmise that THIS particular Bedrock City is the real Bedrock City! 😀

While visiting Fred & Barney (who are there for meet-and-greets during the summertime), you can eat Brontoburgers & Dino Dogs at The Flintstones™ Bedrock City Drive-in/Cafeteria, ride in the Flintstone’s Flintmobile, take the Iron Horse Train on a tour, and visit the little town of Bedrock City – see Fred & Wilma’s house, Barney & Betty’s house, the Jail House, the Hair Salon, and other sites around town!

I had hoped that the Camping Cabins were the Flintstone style house, but they are nice cedar cabins – sleeping cabins (has beds & mattresses, but you bring your own bedding; has heat & electricity but no water).  There’s also tenting areas and RV parking, with full hook-up.

For more information on rates, reservations and dates opened, please refer to
 http://www.flintstonesbedrockcity.com/.

15 minutes north of Bedrock City is the Crazy Horse Memorial (discussed in my blog, December 8, 2012) and then another 1/2 hour northeast is Mount Rushmore National Memorial (discussed in my blog, December 11, 2012).

Just 10 minutes further is KEYSTONE. Keystone is a perfect little Western Town, and all I could remember from the first time through, was Ice Cream… wooden sidewalks.  It was REALLY busy at the time, full of children, bikers (Sturgis is nearby – will discuss in an upcoming blog), and motorhomes.

It turns out that Keystone is more than just ice cream and wooden sidewalks! It’s brimming with history! Brimming!Keystone

For one thing – did you know that Carrie Ingalls lived there as an adult? (OK, well…I didn’t know who Carrie was right off the bat, either, but! it turns out she is the younger sister of Mary & Laura – who are, of course, the “Little House on the Prairie” girls… and in case you thought that was fiction, the story is actually based on Laura’s childhood memories – an autobiographical memoir, presented as fiction.)

Carrie was born in August, 1870, in Montgomery County, Kansas, and in 1879, the whole family moved to South Dakota.  She moved to Keystone and had a career in the newspaper business, working at The Keystone Recorder and The Hill City Star.  In 1912, she married David N. Swanzey, who had two children, Mary and Harold. (David was a widower).

To bring my blogs full-circle: when Charles Rushmore (mentioned in my Dec. 11th blog) was on the expedition to choose a mountain to carve, and asked what the name of “that” mountain was, in my blog, I said “to be shmoozy, they told him that since the mountain didn’t have a name, they’d call it Mount Rushmore“… One of the men in that expedition was David Swanzey… and later, his son, Harold, would be one of the carvers of the Mountain.

Carrie died June 2, 1946, of complications from diabetes, in Keystone. She was 75.

By wonderful coincidence and surprise! Little House on the Prairie is on TV right now! An episode called “Remember Me” (1975).  Look at that! We do remember! Awwwww.

I had more to say about the Keystone area, but I now I have to watch Little House on the Prairie.  If you want to know more – there’s also a cave called Rushmore Cave, a Reptile Garden, and some waterslides, near Rapid City!  There’s more, too – just those are the things I wanted to talk about.

Wednesday, we’ll be talking about Sturgis – the Motorcycle Capital of the World.

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Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Once Upon a Time, there was a mountain that looked like this: 6 Grandfathers

and it was called “Six Grandfathers” by the Lakota Sioux.

In 1885, it was renamed “Mount Rushmore” after a lawyer, from New York- Charles Rushmore. Mr. Rushmore was in the Blackhills area, helping people with their mining claims.  When he asked what the name of this mountain was, to be schmoozy*, they told him that since it didn’t have a name, they’d call it Mount Rushmore.

(*Since I don’t know how “schmoozy” translates, the dictionary says “To converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.”)

The giant sculpture was an idea dreamed up by Doan Robinson, who was a South Dakota State Historian. He originally wanted to have something sculptured into the section of the mountains called the Needles, but when he invited the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, out to examine the possibilities, Borglum determined that the granite of the Needles was of poor quality and that the spires weren’t strong enough (too thin) to support the sculptures, which were going to be of famous people, “parade of Indian leaders and American explorers who shaped the frontier.”  However, Borglum chose the four Presidents, to “elevate the memorial from a regional enterprise to a national cause”. (http://www.travelsd.com/Attractions/Mount-Rushmore/History)

 Construction began in August, 1927, and ended October 31, 1941. Although I can’t tell, I guess if you are “in the know”,  it’s obvious that the carving is not finished.  Mt. Rushmore

Anyway, a couple things happened: 1) Mr. Borglum passed away on March 6, 1941, and 2) World War II started and the government funding stopped.  Lincoln Borglum (Gutzon’s son) and crew continued working on the sculpture, until the money rand out, October 31.  At that time, Lincoln ended the project, and there it continues till today. (That is, other than it’s erosion rate of approximately 1 inch every 10,000 years.)

The Presidents are, from left to right: George Washington (1st president of the United States, commander of the Revolutionary War), Thomas Jefferson (3rd president, author of the Declaration of Independence ), Theodore Roosevelt (26th president, signed legislation to establish National Parks & Monuments, supported of the completion of the Panama Canal, and personal friend of Borglum’s), and Abraham Lincoln (16th president, and previously discussed in my blog on November 17, 2012, “Springfield IL and Abraham Lincoln“).MR PC

Some interesting facts about Mount Rushmore:

  • 5,725 feet (1,745m) high in elevation
  • each head is about 60 feet (18 meters) high (approximately the height of a 6-story building – or to compare, The Great Sphinx in Egypt is just over 66 feet tall
  • the eyes are 11 feet wide each, and the pupil of each eye is a 12 inch shaft, giving the illusion of a sparkle
  • the noses are 20 feet long (except Washington’s, whose nose is 21 feet)
  • the mouth is 18 feet wide.
  • Lincoln’s mole is 16 inches across (almost the size of a basketball hoop’s diameter)

Additional details about the Presidents’ accomplishments include:

Washington:
* Coincidentally, he’s the only president who didn’t live in Washington D.C.;
* that’s his real hair! he never wore a powdered wig;
* when he was born, the Julian calendar was being used, so his birthdate was February 11, 1731 – however, in 1752, the Gregorian calendar was adopted, and he opted to acknowledge his birthdate as the equivalent date of February 22, 1732 (and why wouldn’t he? that made him a year younger!);
* he raised and loved hound dogs, some of which he named True Love, Sweet Lips, Vulcan, Madame Moose, and Drunkard;
* he supposedly once owned of the largest whiskey distiller in Virginia;
* he joined the British Royal Navy when he was 14 years old…

Jefferson:TJ
* He was known for the Louisiana Purchase, which pretty much doubled the land size of the United States;
* he commissioned the Lewis & Clark Expedition (topics for future discussions);
* he wrote his own epitaph for his tombstone, and didn’t include that he’d been President;
* from France, he brought back a recipe for vanilla ice cream, which is now in the Library of Congress (here, supposedly, is the recipe)…

 TRRoosevelt:
* He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for helping negotiate a peace treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War;
* he officially named the President’s House, “the White House” in 1901;
* he was the first President to ever fly in an airplane – in 1910, he flew in one of the Wright Brothers’ planes, for 4 minutes;
* rumor has it that he skinny-dipped in the Potomac River (apparently this discussion is in his Autobiography, in which he states, “If we swam the Potomac, we usually took off our clothes.”) He isn’t the first President to do so, either;
* even though he hated being called “Teddy”, he lent his name to a toy bear, thus the Teddy Bear was born! BEST LEGACY EVER!!

Lincoln:AL
* He was the tallest President at 6’4 (7 feet tall with his stovepipe hat on – which, by the way, he apparently used as a filing cabinet);
* an 11 year old girl wrote him a letter, recommending that he grow a beard – he did, becoming the first President with a beard;
* he was the first President photographed at his inauguration (John Wilkes Booth is actually in the background of the picture);
* a man named Edwin Booth once saved Abe’s son Robert’s life, by pulling him to safety after he’d fallen – Edwin was John Wilkes Booth’s older brother;
* he’s the only President that holds a patent – he invented a device for keeping boats buoyant in shallow water;
* he only had about 18 months of formal education – the rest was self-taught;
* he had a pet turkey named Jack

I had the privilege of meeting a man named Don “Nick” Clifford while at Mount Rushmore. He was one of the workers on Mount Rushmore from 1938-1940.

Nick was born in 1921 and grew up in the little town of Keystone. He and his 4 siblings started working at an early age to help their mother support their family.   Starting at age 7, he delivered the local paper, chopped firewood, and milked cows. By age 14, he managed the local pool hall – cleaning, running errands, selling concessions, and racking pool balls.  When he was 17 years old, he was recruited by Lincoln Borglum in 1938, to come to work at Mount Rushmore, primarily because Lincoln wanted him on their company baseball team ~ and the rest is history!

 Nick Clifford Q&A

Sunday, we’ll be en route to Rapid City, SD.

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Crazy Horse Memorial

Seven years after the completion of Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial was started. Mount Rushmore (which we’ll discuss in the next blog) took about 14 years to complete (well, as complete as it will be – more later on that). Crazy Horse is still being worked on.

What’s the difference in delay? The main delay is financial – Mount Rushmore had government funding and sponsorship, whereas Crazy Horse is privately funded, funded by donations and by admission fees to the location.

In 1939, Chief Henry Standing Bear (Lakota tribe leader) wrote a letter to Korczak Ziolkowski, asking him to carve the monument. He said in his letter: “”My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes also.”

Black Hills areaZiolkowski was a self-taught artist, born in Boston, in 1908. At one point, he assisted Gutzon Borglum on the sculpting of Mount Rushmore, and had a good understanding of working with the stone of the Black Hills, in South Dakota.

So, when Chief Standing Bear approached him, he accepted!

The Black Hills were chosen by the Chief and other Native American elders, because they are considered sacred land. Then, the challenge was finding the right dimensions, the right type of stone, etc. Once completed, the sculpture will be 641 feet (195 meters) long by 563 feet (172 meters) high! Crazy Horse’s head will be 87.5 feet (27 meters) high, and the horse’s head will be 219 feet (67 meters) high!!

Rather than try to carve an exact image of the man who avoided being photographed, Korczak said, “Crazy Horse is being carved not so much as a lineal likeness but more as a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse — to his people.”

Ziolkowski died in 1982 but he passed on the commission to his wife (Ruth), saying ““You must work on the mountain-but go slowly so you do it right.”

The family still are those directly involved in the sculpting and the continuous progress, to finish.

The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section of the http://crazyhorsememorial.org/ site explains why Crazy Horse was chosen for the honor: “He is a hero not only because of his skill in battle, but also because of his character and his loyalty to his people. He is remembered for how he cared for the elderly, the ill, the widowed and the children. His dedication to his personal vision caused him to devote his life to serving his people and to preserving their valued culture.”

Talking about the Memorial is easy, it turns out, when you compare it to talking about the man! I feel I must disclaim – there is so much information about Crazy Horse, and some reports disagree with other reports, so – this is my understanding. If you hear or read or know otherwise, please don’t be offended – and I’d be more than happy to be corrected!

In the meantime: Crazy Horse was born sometime around 1840, in the Oglala Lakota tribe, and was named “Cha-O-Ha”, which means (“In the Wilderness” or “Among the Trees”.) His father (Crazy Horse II) was Oglala Lakota and his mother (Rattling Blanket Woman) was Miniconjou Lakota.

I could go on and on (and want to, but I’m too easily distracted) about Crazy Horse’s family and the names of some. Their names are so curious though! One is his cousin, Touch the Clouds, who was almost 7 feet tall ~ this name makes sense to me! He had an auntie named “Good Looking Woman” (how beautiful was she, to earn that name!?), and another auntie who was called “They Are Afraid of Her.” (He named his only daughter after her, but the poor little thing only lived to be 2 or 3 years old.) Then, I wondered: which name would I rather have – “Good Looking Woman”? or “They Are Afraid of Her”? and I can’t decide – I think it might come down to WHY they were afraid of her?? Another family member was a woman called “Kills Enemy”! It sounds like he came from a family of very strong women! (Well, not sure about Good Looking Woman, but the other two, for sure.)

As far as interesting family names, Crazy Horse’s mom nicknamed HIM “Curly Light Hair”….? His little brother was called “High Horse” (I’m not making that up!!) and his step-grandfather’s name was “Corn”.

Crazy Horse (“Tasunke Witko” in Oglala) was victorious in many battles – not only against other tribes (like the Arikara, Blackfoot, Crow, Pawnee and Shoshone), but also the US military.

Included in that is the Great Sioux War (1876-1877). Crazy Horse, along with approximately 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne came up against General George Crook and his 1000 cavalry & infantry, and his 300 Crow and Shoshone allies, in the Battle of the Rosebud.

This delay prevented Crook from joining General Custer’s forces, in the Battle of Little Big Horn, and contributed to Custer’s absolute defeat. (More on the Battle of Little Big Horn will be coming in a subsequent blog…and as far as Crazy Horse is concerned – his part is vague, but apparently, according to reports and quotes, he was the “bravest” and the “greatest”.)

However, on January 8, 1877, after fighting a major battle at Wolf Mountain in the Montana Territory, Crazy Horse decided to surrender to protect his people. It was winter, and they were hungry and cold. They went to Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

On May 5, 1877, he (along with Little Big Man and others) met with First Lieutenant W.P. Clark to take their first steps toward surrender. Crazy Horse went to live at the Red Cloud Agency, near Fort Robinson.

In August 1877, news came that the Nez Perce of Chief Joseph in Idaho had broken out of their reservation and were escaping to Canada, through Montana. Lieutenant Clark asked Crazy Horse and Touch the Clouds to join the army against the Nez Perce, and they refused, stating that part of their surrender is that they promised to remain peaceful. (Smart men!)

Trouble was brewing at the Red Cloud Agency, and General Crook was ordered to come to Fort Robinson. Someone told Crook that Crazy Horse said that he was going to kill Crook during a meeting that had been called, involving the Oglala leadership. Crook then ordered Crazy Horse’s arrest.

Crazy Horse fled to Spotted Trail Agency nearby, but later agreed to return to Fort Robinson with a Lieutenant J.M. Lee. Touch the Clouds and other Indian scouts also went along. Once they arrived, Lieutenant Lee had to (against his will) turn Crazy Horse over to “the Officer of the Day”. Lee went to the post commander, Lieutenant Colonel Luther P. Bradley for help. But Bradley had actually received orders to arrest Crazy Horse and had him taken “under the cover of darkness” to Division Headquarters. He was then turned over to Captain Kennington, who took him to the post guardhouse.

Wikipedia says “Once inside, Crazy Horse struggled with the guard and Little Big Man and attempted to escape. Just outside the door, Crazy Horse was stabbed with a bayonet by one of the members of the guard. He was taken to the adjutant’s office, where he was tended by the assistant post surgeon at the post, Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy, and died late that night.”
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crazy_Horse)

This is a very sad story.

At the Memorial, Crazy Horse’s arm is extended and pointing. This is to symbolize the answer to the question: “Where are your lands now?” to which Crazy Horse is quoted as saying, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”

…..
There are some who are opposed to the Memorial, and I thought that the discussions and debates were interesting and that those opposed have valid points. But, from the perspective a tourist who didn’t know anything before, other than what is in standard history books and movies, I found it fascinating, and I have researched and researched, not only this man, but also have learned (to a very small degree, I’m sure) more about the culture and art of the people.

Wednesday, we’ll talk about Mount Rushmore.

Leave a comment »

Crazy Horse Memorial

Seven years after the completion of Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial was started.  Mount Rushmore (which we’ll discuss in the next blog) took about 14 years to complete (well, as complete as it will be – more later on that).  Crazy Horse is still being worked on.

What’s the difference in delay? The main delay is financial – Mount Rushmore had government funding and sponsorship, whereas Crazy Horse is privately funded, funded by donations and by admission fees to the location.

In 1939, Chief Henry Standing Bear (Lakota tribe leader) wrote a letter to Korczak Ziolkowski, asking him to carve the monument.  He said in his letter: “”My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes also.”

Black Hills areaZiolkowski was a self-taught artist, born in Boston, in 1908.  At one point, he assisted Gutzon Borglum on the sculpting of Mount Rushmore, and had a good understanding of working with the stone of the Black Hills, in South Dakota.

So, when Chief Standing Bear approached him, he accepted!

The Black Hills were chosen by the Chief and other Native American elders, because they are considered sacred land.  Then, the challenge was finding the right dimensions, the right type of stone, etc. Once completed, the sculpture will be 641 feet (195 meters) long by 563 feet (172 meters) high! Crazy Horse’s head will be 87.5 feet (27 meters) high, and the horse’s head will be 219 feet (67 meters) high!!

Rather than try to carve an exact image of the man who avoided being photographed, Korczak said, “Crazy Horse is being carved not so much as a lineal likeness but more as a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse — to his people.”

Ziolkowski died in 1982 but he passed on the commission to his wife (Ruth), saying ““You must work on the mountain-but go slowly so you do it right.”

The family still are those directly involved in the sculpting and the continuous progress, to finish.

The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section of the http://crazyhorsememorial.org/ site explains why Crazy Horse was chosen for the honor:  “He is a hero not only because of his skill in battle, but also because of his character and his loyalty to his people. He is remembered for how he cared for the elderly, the ill, the widowed and the children. His dedication to his personal vision caused him to devote his life to serving his people and to preserving their valued culture.”

Talking about the Memorial is easy, it turns out, when you compare it to talking about the man!  I feel I must disclaim – there is so much information about Crazy Horse, and some reports disagree with other reports, so – this is my understanding. If you hear or read or know otherwise, please don’t be offended – and I’d be more than happy to be corrected!

In the meantime: Crazy Horse was born sometime around 1840, in the Oglala Lakota tribe, and was named “Cha-O-Ha”, which means (“In the Wilderness” or “Among the Trees”.)  His father (Crazy Horse II) was Oglala Lakota and his mother (Rattling Blanket Woman) was Miniconjou Lakota.

I could go on and on (and want to, but I’m too easily distracted) about Crazy Horse’s family and the names of some.  Their names are so curious though! One is his cousin, Touch the Clouds, who was almost 7 feet tall ~ this name makes sense to me!  He had an auntie named “Good Looking Woman” (how beautiful was she, to earn that name!?), and another auntie who was called “They Are Afraid of Her.” (He named his only daughter after her, but the poor little thing only lived to be 2 or 3 years old.)  Then, I wondered: which name would I rather have – “Good Looking Woman”? or “They Are Afraid of Her”?  and I can’t decide – I think it might come down to WHY they were afraid of her?? Another family member was a woman called “Kills Enemy”!  It sounds like he came from a family of very strong women! (Well, not sure about Good Looking Woman, but the other two, for sure.)

As far as interesting family names, Crazy Horse’s mom nicknamed HIM “Curly Light Hair”….? His little brother was called “High Horse” (I’m not making that up!!) and his step-grandfather’s name was “Corn”.

Crazy Horse (“Tasunke Witko” in Oglala) was victorious in many battles – not only against other tribes (like the Arikara, Blackfoot, Crow, Pawnee and Shoshone), but also the US military.

Included in that is the Great Sioux War (1876-1877).  Crazy Horse, along with approximately 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne came up against General George Crook and his 1000 cavalry & infantry, and his 300 Crow and Shoshone allies, in the Battle of the Rosebud.

This delay prevented Crook from joining General Custer’s forces, in the Battle of Little Big Horn, and contributed to Custer’s absolute defeat. (More on the Battle of Little Big Horn will be coming in a subsequent blog…and as far as Crazy Horse is concerned – his part is vague, but apparently, according to reports and quotes, he was the “bravest” and the “greatest”.)

However, on January 8, 1877,  after fighting a major battle at Wolf Mountain in the Montana Territory, Crazy Horse decided to surrender to protect his people.  It was winter, and they were hungry and cold.  They went to Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

On May 5, 1877, he (along with Little Big Man and others) met with First Lieutenant W.P. Clark to take their first steps toward surrender.  Crazy Horse went to live at the Red Cloud Agency, near Fort Robinson.

In August 1877, news came that the Nez Perce of Chief Joseph in Idaho had broken out of their reservation and were escaping to Canada, through Montana.  Lieutenant Clark asked Crazy Horse and Touch the Clouds to join the army against the Nez Perce, and they refused, stating that part of their surrender is that they promised to remain peaceful. (Smart men!)

Trouble was brewing at the Red Cloud Agency, and General Crook was ordered to come to Fort Robinson.  Someone told Crook that Crazy Horse said that he was going to kill Crook during a meeting that had been called, involving the Oglala leadership. Crook then ordered Crazy Horse’s arrest.

Crazy Horse fled to Spotted Trail Agency nearby, but later agreed to return to Fort Robinson with a Lieutenant J.M. Lee.  Touch the Clouds and other Indian scouts also went along.  Once they arrived, Lieutenant Lee had to (against his will) turn Crazy Horse over to “the Officer of the Day”.  Lee went to the post commander, Lieutenant Colonel Luther P. Bradley for help. But Bradley had actually received orders to arrest Crazy Horse and had him taken “under the cover of darkness” to Division Headquarters.  He was then turned over to Captain Kennington, who took him to the post guardhouse.

Wikipedia says “Once inside, Crazy Horse struggled with the guard and Little Big Man and attempted to escape. Just outside the door, Crazy Horse was stabbed with a bayonet by one of the members of the guard. He was taken to the adjutant’s office, where he was tended by the assistant post surgeon at the post, Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy, and died late that night.”

This is a very sad story.

At the Memorial, Crazy Horse’s arm is extended and pointing.  This is to symbolize the answer to the question: “Where are your lands now?” to which Crazy Horse is quoted as saying, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.” 

…..
There are some who are opposed to the Memorial, and I thought that the discussions and debates were interesting and that those opposed have valid points. But, from the perspective a tourist who didn’t know anything before, other than what is in standard history books and movies, I found it fascinating, and I have researched and researched, not only this man, but also have learned (to a very small degree, I’m sure) more about the culture and art of the people.

Wednesday, we’ll talk about Mount Rushmore.

Leave a comment »

Chimney Rock, Car Henge, and Mexican “food” in Alliance

So, last post (December 2), I interrupted our Big Ball of String roadtrip to go see ZooLights Calgary! But, the post before that (November 28), I was trying to get to Chimney Rock, Nebraska…

Chimney Rock was a landmark along the Oregon Trail (also The Mormon Trail and the California Trail.)

Back in the Pioneer days, they say the Spire could be seen for approximately 40 miles. Since the people had been travelling who-knows-how long, over flat, flat ground, it was probably a huge relief to see Chimney Rock! At least, they’d know that they weren’t going in circles!! (Or, I suppose, they’d know they WERE going in circles, if they passed it more than once…)From a distanceChimney Rock info

There is discrepancy about the height, and it seems to depend on who measures it, and when, due to, in part, erosion.  The marker says that it’s 470 feet above the North Platte River Valley and 325 feet from tip to base, and another report also includes that it’s 120 feet for the spire.
http://www.historyglobe.com/ot/chimneyrock.htm

Many 19th century accounts stated that Chimney Rock was losing its height due to erosion. But some measurements recorded back then are very close to the modern measurement of 325 feet from tip to base and 120 feet for the spire.

You can visit the Chimney Rock National Historic Site & Visitor Center – the information is found at http://www.nebraskahistory.org/sites/rock/. (I recommend you also go to the “More Information on Chimney Rock” link once you are in the link I’ve included…for additional information…)
chimney rock

I can’t find anything about rules about hiking up to Chimney Rock…either rules against, or information for.. I suppose if you go to the Visitor Center, you can ask there!

We left there, and headed north towards Alliance. (The decision to go north to Alliance instead of east towards Cheyenne was confirmed when we found out that 1) Cheyenne had a weather warnings – hail & flooding, and 2) Alliance has Car Henge!)

Alliance turned out to be a very interesting town, full of character people (approximately 8500, according to the 2010 census.)

For example, we went for Mexican food (I’ve decided not to tell where…If ever you go to Alliance, and want to know where not to go, you can email me privately. I wasn’t going to talk about it at all, except that it really was part of the experience!)  We asked around and were recommended this place and we were excited!  You may recall (blog November 11, 2012) – we are always searching for the best Mexican food.  This was not it.

Margarita MenuFor starters, almost the entire back page of the menu was different kinds of yummy drinks, but when I ordered a margarita, it turns out that they didn’t have a liquor license…

Also, my enchiladas had what, I can only guess, might be melted processed cheese…and Peter’s chili relleno was a burrito, with something kind of runny and brown…

I would’ve been horribly disappointed, BUT, THEN! The man from the table beside us (probably about 30-35 years old), finished his dinner, took out his teeth and wiped them on his jeans! YES HE DID!!   You can’t beat that for ambiance!!! It was so gross and so intriguing at the same time! that I felt the entire experience was a success!!

(Speaking of Mexican food – in the November 11th blog, I did mention Paloma, as far as Mexican food in Calgary and we did go and it was pretty yummy!!! I had chicken enchiladas with mole.

Also, I remembered that I actually really enjoyed the enchiladas and ambiance at Salt & Peppers, La Cantina, in Inglewood, in Calgary – I forgot about it (I’m sorry!!) but I was there on a cool but sunny day in the May or June, and it was great! Also, they supplied Mexican blankets for those of us that insisted on sitting on the patio.

The biggest claim-to-fame, as far as I’m concerned, for Alliance was Car Henge.  Apparently, Car Henge has been voted the “No. 2 Wackiest Attraction” in the United States (http://www.1011now.com/news/headlines/64481802.html). Yes, it did make me instantly wonder what was the first wackiest – by this report, it’s in San Antonio, Texas.
Car Henge Car Henge Car Henge

Car Henge is a 38 car replica of Stone Henge…I guess it claims to be similar dimensions, but I will have to take their word for it, since I’ve yet to go to Stone Henge.. This was a cool sight, though.

AND, apparently, if you want to, you can plant your own car on the Car Art Reserve area… hmmmmm…
Art Reserve?

The history of Alliance is pretty interesting!  Apparently, it was founded in 1888, and it’s growth was partly due to the railroads coming in, and partly settled because land was free. They also gave land away to soldiers who’d served in the Civil War.  Alot of history followed (you can read all about it at http://www.cityofalliance.net/DocumentView.aspx?DID=128) and it seems to be summed up in a “slow but sure” sort of way…always steady. 

One of my favorite parts of the article is when it talks about needing school teachers – so, what was happening is – actually, here’s the quote from the article – no sense in summarizing it: “The schools and churches started in Grand Lake were continued in Alliance and were joined by more. One of the areas worst problems was created with the need for teachers. The school board  soon discovered any young female was quickly married. For a time, school boards even publicized in Eastern newspapers for young women of plain and homely countenance to come West and teach. But even the less beautiful married quickly. Frustrated school boards then hit upon another solution. Contracts often included a clause preventing a teacher from marrying for two years. For its time, a restrictive but necessary clause.”

…To quote Forrest Gump: “That’s all I have to say about that.”  (Not true – I have so much more to say, but probably you are all thinking anything I could say anyway…and if you aren’t, you would be thinking it, if you’d been to Alliance.)

Speaking of “characters” – on to Crazy Horse Monument on Sunday!!

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Calgary ZooLights

DSC00032a

“They say  the neon lights are bright on Broadway”, but LED lighting is pretty bright, too, when there’s more than 1.5 million lights.

Of course, it’s not Broadway, but the ZooLights display at the Calgary Zoo.

I’m interrupting our jaunt across 1/2 of the United States with something current- because we just went to ZooLights Calgary, and it’s my first time! Yes, I’ve lived in Calgary for years and have never gone.  To be fair, I don’t think they’ve been around that long – from what I can find, maybe only since 2005? so, I’m only 7 years behind…
Out of AfricaDancing Light

Actually, that’s one of the benefits that I’ve found to writing a Sightseeing-themed blog. At first, I was just going to talk about places I was going already, but it’s really encouraging me to do things I haven’t done before, and in some cases, wouldn’t have considered doing before.. (In fact, it’s also making me SEE things that I “see” every day. Like the statue of King Kong climbing a building, right in Calgary. I’ve driven passed it so many times and never really “saw” it! Now, I’m making a special trip! Eventually.)

The ZooLights start in the end November and end the beginning of January, open every day from 6pm to 9pm (closed only on Christmas Day.) On New Years Eve, it’s also technically closed, because they have a “Zoo Years Eve” party.  Tickets are only $10 for anyone 16 years old and up, and for children 3-15, only $7. (Everything says that the price of your ticket includes parking…but parking was free anyway…maybe it’s because we didn’t arrive until 7:30ish?) (Speaking of parking – you can only get in from the North Gate, so make sure you park on that side – north side of Memorial Drive.Candy Land Entrance
Dinosaurs at the gateInch Worm

We had 9 adults and 4 children in our group, and I expected an hour and a half to be more than enough time, but we actually had to rush through the last section. (I think it could go either way – depending on how the children handle it.)

Everyone was really cold (the temperature was -13 degrees Celsius/8.6 degrees Fahrenheit), until we discovered that the atrium was open, so we went in there for a few minutes.  (In actual fact, I wasn’t cold at all…I wondered why, until Peter pointed out that I was wearing: a regular pair of socks and a pair of thermal wool socks, thermal pants and also snow pants, a thermal shirt under a wool sweater, a wool hat and a knit headband, thermal gloves under down mittens, Sorel boots good for -40 (Celsius & Fahrenheit), and a down coat over the top of it all.  (Also, I may have had a little something yummy in my hot chocolate…)
Lovers LaneLovers Lane

The staff was great – super friendly and had a lot of information. (In particular, we learned that the camels were outside (apparently, these particular camels are Bactrian camels, and thrive in the winter), and also, apparently, the snow leopard cubs (kittens?) were also outside still (hadn’t gone inside for the night, yet), although I didn’t get to see those.

The kids loved the games – building igloos, hoola hooping, something with hay bales, an icy slide through lights.  Kids are so funny, though – we were there for an hour and a half, and saw over 1.5 million lights, and they were mostly just really excited to takes chunks of ice and snow and shatter them on the ground.Kid's Slide

 Ogo Pogo

Here’s some general facts that I found interesting (in addition to the fact that there’s moElephant Familyre than 1.5 million lights):

  • It takes “4.5 people” 3 months to set up, and other 3 months to take down.
  • Since switching to LED lighting and other energy-saving lights, there’s an 80% reduction in power
  • Technically, there are 6 fire pits throughout – while we were there, there were 4 working, but they were strategically placed and not only enjoyable, but kind of a relief to those who were cold
  • ZooLights are strung across approximately 90 acres
  • Hot chocolate is available (there are booths scattered – if the one you go to is crowded, walk on – there’s others that are less crowded)

I definitely will go again (not sure if it’ll be this year or next year).  Next time, I’ll speed through the first section and go right to Candy Land.Candy LandCandy Land

Back on track (I think) on Wednesday,
with more on Nebraska
and Chimney Rock
(as previously discussed –
– November 27th).

2 Comments »

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