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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Entries Tagged as 'South Dakota'

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The Mammoth Site

May 20th, 2010 · No Comments

Wind Cave was right Wednesday. The wind blowing in to the cave correctly predicted that Thursday would be a sunnier day.

I stayed above ground, traveling south to Hot Springs where I visited the only site in the country where mammoth bones are preserved where they were found. A private non-profit organization runs the site.

Here are the remains of at least 58 Columbian and wooly mammoths who fell into a sinkhole about 26,000 years ago. This is one of the largest concentrations of Columbian mammoths anywhere. Columbian mammoths were one of the largest of the mammoths and also one of the largest elephants to have ever lived.

Two Small Tusks

Two Small Tusks

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One Huge Tusk

One Huge Tusk

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The site is well protected in a huge building. Years of work remain before archeologists excavate the entire site, and work continued as I watched.

Work Continues at the Mammoth Site

Work Continues at the Mammoth Site

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I hope they are having fun. But painstaking work like this is one of the reasons why I never became an archaeologist.

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Posted in: Photography, South Dakota

Wind Cave‏

May 19th, 2010 · No Comments

Like just about everyone else in the Black Hills today, I went underground. The weather above ground was wet and foggy. Wind Cave on the other hand was its usual 53 degrees with 99 percent humidity, but dry and clear.

Anyway, Wind Cave National Park was one of the reasons why I came this month to South Dakota in the first place. After seeing the new Ken Burns series on “America’s National Parks” and reading the companion volume, I realized that while I have experienced most of our country’s national parks, I had never been to a couple of them in nearby South Dakota.

This cave is the fourth largest in the world. Spelunkers have already explored more than 134 miles of the cave.

I only hiked the first half-mile of the cave in a 1 and 1/2 hour tour. Ranger Tami showed us the only know natural entrance.

Ranger Tami Points Out the Only Known Natural Entrance to Wind Cave

Ranger Tami Points Out the Only Known Natural Entrance to Wind Cave

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That entrance is a bit too small for comfort. So we entered through a man-made entrance and went down 300 steps to the cave’s middle level.

Wind Cave has 95 percent of the world’s calcite formations known as boxwork. This is a honeycomb pattern formed by erosion.

Along the way down to the middle level we saw much of the cave’s famous boxwork. Most of it was a few feet above us on the cave’s ceiling.

Boxwork on Wind Cave's Ceiling

Boxwork on Wind Cave's Ceiling

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The cave got its name because changes in barometric pressure causes wind of up to 35 mph to blow in and out of the entrance. Today the cave is breathing in. Tami says that means clear skies are ahead. I hope so.

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Posted in: Photography, South Dakota

The Heartland‏

May 18th, 2010 · No Comments

This is America’s heartland. It’s the center of the country and as solid as a rock. It is rock.

In the past two days I’ve started to explore the Black Hills in the southwest corner of South Dakota. Yesterday morning I traveled off the beaten path to the geographical center of our nation.

The point at which a map of the entire area of our country — including Alaska and Hawaii — would balance is the center of America’s gravity. The U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey uses that method to determine that the center is 21.8 miles by road north northeast of Belle Forche, a town at the north of the Black Hills where I spent my first night in South Dakota.

To get the the center I drove 7.8 miles on a gravel road through farmers’ fields along rolling countryside. I expected to see many other Americans visiting our country’s center, but I didn’t see a single vehicle or person on the road there and back or at the actual site.

In fact, I can charitably describe the site itself as minimalist. It’s not even a wide spot in the road, just a pile of rocks and a sign beside the road and a tattered flag marking the actual geographic center of our country behind some farmer’s barbed wire.

The Center of the Nation

The Center of the Nation

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Today I visited two historic sites that are much more well known. I got to Mount Rushmore National Memorial at 6 a.m. just after sunrise both for better lighting and for beating the crowds I expected. I certainly did that, since I saw only two other visitors and a few workers.

Gutzon Borglum sculpted the faces of four of our greatest Presidents, Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln on the mountain.

The State Flags Flank the Approach to the Presidents

The State Flags Flank the Approach to the Presidents

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Working on the Presidents

Working on the Presidents

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In the photo directly above you can barely see two workmen standing on top of Lincoln’s head. This gives a good indication of the colossal size of the sculpture. Each sculpted head is 60 feet tall.

Just 17 miles from Mount Rushmore is what I think of the Native American answer. Their answer is an even bigger sculpure.

The Lakota chiefs commissioned Korczak Ziolkowski to sculpt the Crazy Horse Memorial with Chief Crazy Horse astride his horse. Only Crazy Horse’s head is finished — it’s 87 feet high — but when they complete the  sculpture it will be the largest in the world.

Click to enlarge

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Ironically, the Crazy Horse Memorial is in South Dakota’s Custer County.

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Posted in: Photography, South Dakota