Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tetons to South Dakota

Sorry for the out of order posting, folks, but I did a couple of these at one time to catch up and this one should have preceded the Mt. Rushmore post.

Thursday morning, August 22, we reluctantly left the beautiful Grand Teton National Park and started on the next leg of our journey toward South Dakota and Mt. Rushmore.  It was so bittersweet to leave, as it has been in so many places we've been--we just love so much of the sights we've seen, the people we've met, the adventures we've had, that it's hard to leave a place, especially a place that's as special to us as the Tetons.  On the other hand, we always look forward to the next new adventure, as we know there's more excitement and new beauty to discover about this incredible country!  So, as we drove out of the park we stopped for a few last photos at Oxbow Bend, the water was so still, the sunlight was just perfect for incredible reflections on the water.

That morning, before we left the park, we had called our friend, Roberta Bondi, back in Cherry Log, as Richard had posted on facebook about a course she was teaching at a place called Ring Lake Ranch, in Dubois, Wyoming, and it the dates we saw on the calendar were for this week.  We were so excited, as we thought it would be wonderful to go there and meet her for lunch--so Trisha called her to see if there was a chance to meet her for lunch later that day.  Well, we're not too much geezers--we had failed to see that the week she was teaching was indeed for this week--but for next year and not this year!!  Duhh!  Roberta in her inimitably funny sense of humor, didn't miss a beat when Trisha asked, thinking she was about to spring a big surprise on Roberta "Is there a chance we could see you for lunch today at Ring Lake Ranch?"  Roberta immediately said, deadpan "I'd have to say there is very little chance you'd see me there today, as my course is in 2014."  We just about laughed off the seat, at ourselves.  Lord this getting old is something else!!  Anyway, we wanted to see the ranch anyway, as it's a place we've read about, as Roberta goes out there regularly to share her incredible knowledge of ancient religious elders, as she's one of the foremost authorities in early church history.

Well, we were in for multiple surprises when we got there!  The drive off the highway was on a gravel road that was really easy for the first several miles, then got quite rocky and we could only go less than 5 miles per hour, but the trusty carhouse was up to the task!  There are incredible vistas along this road and we passed one ranch called Torry Lake Ranch, around a lake, before we got to Ring Lake.  Once we turned down the Ring Lake Ranch road, we saw a small bridge across to the ranch, but we weren't sure it was big enough for the RV, so we parked just on the other side of the bridge and walked in.  Once inside the ranch we hiked about half a mile to the office of the ranch.  At first we weren't sure if it were still open, as there didn't seem to be anyone around, but we finally found the office and went in.  We met Carl Koch, who was subbing for his niece, the business manager of the ranch.  What a delightful fellow!  He was the former director there for several years, and has written so many books about spirituality Trisha has consulted for years.  He was here subbing as his neice had just given birth that morning to a new baby.  But we had a delightful conversation with him and as we talked, we told on ourselves about having the year wrong for Roberta's presentation, and he gave us a brochure on the full rundown of next year's programs.  Well, guess what--Barbara Brown Taylor is going to be there next July, leading a program on her the theme of her latest book, Walking in Darkness.  We told him how Barbara was a good friend of ours and had been Trisha's doctoral advisor at Columbia Seminary and how much we would love to hear that program.  He told us that it was just about sold out, so we went ahead and registered, and got the next to last cabin available!!  How lucky was that??!!  Since we know we'll be in Aspen for the 4th of July with Ken's folks, it will be easy to make it to Ring Lake a week later.  We are so excited we're about to pop.  We learned about their set up--they have hiking, horseback riding and many other activities each day and the program each evening, and it is just a magical setting.  Carl told us that "Andy," who is the Director, was out on a horseback ride, but would be back soon, and could we stay for lunch which was in just a few minutes.  We said of course, and shortly Andy walked in.  Imagine my surprise when I saw him--he's Andy Blackmun, a graduate of Emory's Candler School of Theology, who was a houseleader for Atlanta Habitat when I was the chair of that board, and with whom I worked on several house builds!  I had not registered his last name when Carl mentioned it, but I recognized Andy immediately when he walked in.  So we had lunch in the dining room with Andy, whose family was also there with him, and a delightful fellow from Colorado Springs who was staying there for the week.  And as an added bonus, out the window of the dining room we could look down on a lovely labyrinth!  We were so amazed at how it all worked out, and we're so looking forward to coming back next year for the week!

Then we just kept on driving and made it to Casper, Wyoming for the night.  The next day we kept on going and made it into South Dakota, our 17th state to visit since we left, nearly 5 months ago.  We've driven over 15,000 miles and have had one incredible adventure!!  We're having the time of our lives, and it's so much fun to be together, seeing all these sights!

En route, we stopped in Lusk, Wyoming, near the border and saw that they were having a car show of late '50's Chevrolets, with lots of '56 and '57 Chevys lining the streets.  This was so cool, as it brought back such memories of high school days.  My best friend, Byron's dad had a gorgeous '57 Chevy, multi toned with a sparkling gold-bronze body.  He and I would spend hours waxing that beauty to a high shine, just for the chance when his dad would let Byron take it out.  What fun we had in that car!!  And then, as we drove from Lusk out on the way to South Dakota, the show was evidently over, as many of these cars would pass us along the highway--and the coolest thing--lots of them belonged to couples, many of them looking to be about our age range, and in virtually every one of them that passed us, the woman was sitting way over close to the driver!  Remember those days of bench seats, and what a great signal it was when your girlfriend would make the move from sitting near the passenger side door and slide over close to you--woohoo!!  Young love, revisited!!

We came through Custer City, SD, en route to Keystone, which is right by Mt. Rushmore, thinking we were going to stay at an RV park in Keystone, as we had seen it on Allstays.  But, as we drove from Custer, we passed a beautiful National Forest Service campground in this just absolutely gorgeous setting, so we turned in and found a stunningly beautify site, nestled back up in an aspen grove.  It was a small campground, only 25 sites, and it was far from full, so it was just great!  When we had come through Custer, we stopped at the visitor center and asked if there were any bike paths in the area, and the guy--who was all duded up out of the Old West, complete with boots, slouchy ten gallon had, big neckerchief, and a long droopy mustache!!--said, well, there's the Mickleson trail, which only runs for 100 miles, will that do for you?  And, the trail was just across the highway from the campground, so after we got settled into our site, I went out for about an hour ride, as Trisha decided to pass and wait until the next morning.  While the trail is not paved, it is gravel on hard packed dirt and it pretty good surface for most of the way.  It's an old railroad bed, which also added to my excitement!  I rode in a direction that was basically uphill for several miles, which gave me a good workout, and then I flew back downhill to the campground.

I got back to the campsite and Trisha had made a glorious lentil soup and we grilled some root veggies to go with it.  We sat outside at the table, surrounded by all these quaking aspens, with a gentle breeze blowing and enjoyed a feast!  Followed that with some lively rounds of gin rummy and brought another impossibly incredible day to a close!

Some shots of Colter Bay as we were driving out

 Just loved these scenes of the reflections on the Snake River at Oxbow Bend!!

Out of the park now, looking down on the river

 On toward Dubois, started seeing some rock formations that were reminiscent of the canyon country of southern Utah

Heading down to Ring Lake Ranch

 Some beautiful horses, free range grazing, and who moments later just nonchalantly crossed the road--hey humans, you realize you're interlopers here on our land!!

 Old paint had to lie down to scratch his back before joining his compatriots across the road!

 On toward the ranch

 Here, we're hiking from the entrance back up the ranch office and cabin area

 Looking out of the dining hall window
 It will be wonderful to have this labyrinth to walk while we're here next year!

 Walking back across the bridge to Happy Times
 Driving back to the highway

 Ospreys in their nests

 Along the road to Lusk

 Lovely little church along the way
 All these cows, marching single file!
 Love these red barns!

 Old Chevys in Lusk

 On the way toward the border

 Here is the map, showing we're at the geographical center of the country

 Brightly pained buffalo along the streets of Custer

 Some of the Black Hills of South Dakota

 Crazy Horse Monument, not far from our campground--still working on this carving, depending on donations--you can see the hole that's been blasted to the lower right of the head--this is to carve out his arm, which will be shown extended, holding a spear.
 Along the Mickleson Trail

 Lovely little cabin along the trail
At our gorgeous little campsite!

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