Yesterday we took a trip to Chadron, NB to do some shopping. Hot Springs has only two small markets for groceries and a Shopco store for general merchandise. Chadron is our nearest Walmart, at 64 miles and the true super Walmart is in Rapid City and 87 miles away. We found that Chadron has change only a little in the 25 years since I was last there and really offers little for a tourist. Rapid City is a very interesting small city, several times as large as Chadron.
Today has been a bit busy as our summer intern was trying to get away a bit early to go home to eastern SD for the weekend. I helped him out by operationg a mower here in the campground and a few other minor chores. We also had a brief thunderstorm about 5 pm but it was mostly noise and little action. Tonight is Friday the 13th and a full moon, but it looks to be a beautiful evening all the same!
Today brings another cool, yet beautiful day. We are off duty and so will be travelig to do some shopping and see a few sites, shortly. As promised, here is a bit more about our duties here at Angustura and Shep's Canyon.
Shep's Canyon is about a mile by water from the rest of the park and 26 miles by road. As such we operate in a pretty independant mode with our staff organized quite differently than the main park. There are Pam & I as campgound hosts, a soon to graduate college student/summer intern, and a part-time employee who does cleaning and works on the intern's days off. While there are defined duties for the hosts here like in the main park, we are unique in that the other two employees are assigned here all of the time. The four of us just workthings out such that all needed work gets done and pretty much do things our own way. Officially the intern is in charge of we hosts and the part-time worker but we operate more as a team of friends than a work group.
Pam & I are officially on duty from noon on Friday through noon on Monday, but we do have allownace to go to town if need be for church or to eat out. Our days off are flexible if any need should arise as the intern also works weekends. His days off are Tuesday & Wednesday and the part-time worker (Dawn) is on duty those days. Since we & Nathan both live in the park, we are available in the hours that Dawn is not here.
Our duties are to greet guests, rextock bathroom supplies(as needed), clean fire pits, and help the paid workers if they should need assistance. We are supplied a full hook-up site, a Kawsaki Mule to use and an annual parks pass for a year. We also receive a VIP discount card that gains us free or reduced admission to most of the attractions through out the Black Hills. While this park does not yet have many large trees, there are trees planted and keeping them watered is one of the things that all of us do. We enjoy the independent, team nature of our work relations here and consider this to be the best volunteer position in the park.
On the other side there are 5 campgrounds, three of which have camping cabins that the volunteer clean. Each of those campgrounds have a host couple and two of them have two host couples. In addition there is a couple who are roving hosts to cover when other hosts are off duty and a couple who work maintenance in the park. In addition there are about a dozen permanent park employees and three of four seasonal employees.
On June 10 it was a beautiful day and we were off to Keystone in order to take a ride on the old, historic rail road via a steam engine. We both enjoy these old trains and have ridden quite a few, but never seem to tire of it. One of the nicest parts for this one was that thanks to the card supplied by the South Dakota State Parks, we got to ride for free! Even so, I believe that everyone who paid the price ($28 adults & $12 children) seemed to believe that it was worth the cost. The train pulled out of Keystone at about 2:30 pm and was roughly an hour to travel up the canyone to Hill City, where we had a short stop. We then returned to Keystone agian arriving back just before 5 pm. We could hardly have picked a nicer day for the trip and highly recommend it. You can board at either end and then if early in the day you are allowed to spend time in the town, returning on a later train. With Hill City so small we chose not to do that but simply stayed on board for the return trip. In route from Hill City to Keystone there is a lot of narration given with history of the rail road and the engine. They also point out many of the old mines along the route that were the reason for the track having been put where it is. You would be wise to call ahead for reservations as the train is quite popular and does sell out at times.
Muffie spent the day in camp and our summer intern we work with was kind enough to stop in and take her out for a walk. She really does very well when left home but it is nicer for her with someone to share some attention with her. Nathan is a great worker and a real boon to the operation of this campground. We are very furtunate to have such a good group to work with on our side of the lake!
One of the things that we enjoy about where we are is that there are only ourselves, a summer intern, and a part-time employee who lives just outside of the park, who share the duties of the operations here. We do help occasionally with some cleaning when they need it or restock things like toilet paper, but no heavy cleaning as the paid workers do all of that. We find both Nathan and Dawn to be great people both to work with and also to socialize with. Nathan, the intern lives in an RV just across the road from us and Dawn is within walking distance. We are supplied with portable radios for communication with the main park, but seldom have much need for that. I'll post more of our life and work here on my next entry.
Things seem to be looking up! The rain is gone after several days of cloudy/rainy weather. The sun is out and it is beautiful with the forcast mostly sunny for the next week. We were warned before we came of hot, dry weather but so far we have used heat most nights and many days and only run the air conditioner two days. It has been an unusually wet and cool spring here but it is beautiful as a result with lots of wild flowers.
One of the more interesting places we have visited thus far has been Rapid City. It has a population of about 70k but is very much the small town atmosphere and people seem friendly. The town has a lot of character with one of the more unique things being that they have a sculpture on nearly every street corner of the downtown area. All 43 past presidents are there on one corner or another and there are also corners with Native American leaders as well. If this was done to encourage folks to walk areound the city, it has been very successful as we have covered about half of them so far with intention of continuing to do this until we have visited them all. In the process we see many other visitors also walking the streets and taking pictures of the statues as well. Each one has been sponsored by a local business or civic organaziation. They really add a lot of character to the city.
Another stop that we made while there was to visit the "Chapel in the Hills." It is an exact replica of a Lutheran church in Norway built in 1150. This one was built from architecural drawings of the original and supplied by the Norwegian government. It doesn't take long to see, but it is a stop not to be missed if you visit Rapid City!
The weekend is off to a pretty slow start. Yesterday was windy and cold with threts of rain. Today it is only in the 50's with clouds but only a light breeze. So far we have only five campsites occupied with one more reservation, if they come in. That is from 20 available sites. Not a lot of work to do and most who are here are either fishing or holed up in their RVs.
Yesterday we took a break and drove over on to the Fish & Game lands next to the park to watch the wild lands fire fighters training with some helecopter water drop pilots. One of the officers of the crew is a regular at the park and had invited us to stop in. It was really neat as two of the leaders of the program came over and explained what was happening as well as providing a radio so that we could listen to the conversations between the fire leader and the incoming helicopter. That was a great break in a day spent mostly mowing grass and preparing the park for the weekend visitors.
Today the area is very cold, cloudy and windy and so our work has been pretty limited. We do now have five occupied sites with one more reserved for a today arrival. We did a little work in the shop and greeted the visitors, but mostly are keeping warm. The temperature is topped out for the day with 51° at 3 pm and the wind has been a pretty steady 15 mph with gusts to 29. I sure hope summer gets here on June 22nd as promised!
Yesterday was a great day in South Dakota! We left the park at about 8:30 am and headed north toward Mt. Rushmore. We crossed into Wind Cave National Park just north of Hot Springs and along the way, observed numerous buffalo, several antelope, and a host of small wildlife. At Custer City we left US385 to follow SD244 east to the park. It was a very secnic drive and we stopped several times for pictures. We paused at a small lake along the road to walk a bit and to let Muffie stretch and get some air. As we came over a rise nearing Mt. Rushmore we were greeted by a view of George Washington, through the little window in the rock wall. It was breathtaking and caused us to pause for several minutes before continuing on to the monument. There is a parking area located just right to view this sight and it was quite busy with cars and two tour busses.
We soon arrived at the memorial and to our great pleasure, we found that the discount card given us by the SD Parks gained us free access into the park, where the Golden Age Pass for national parks does not. The fee is only $11 per car so not expensive, but such things are really nice to receive for volunteer workers.
Once inside we found multilevel parking structures and even so early in June there werre many visitors there. We used the elevator to access the visitor level and were soon on the marble walkway to the base of the monument. The visitor center does a good job of telling the story of this wonderous work of art that so shows the American heiratige.
There is a walk of flags of the states and territories as you approach the base, a museum & theator, a gift shop, and a resteraunt. At the base of the sculptures there is a large ampitheator where evening programs are given as well as a lighting program done each evening at 9 pm. Having arrived in the morning, we chose to continue on to visit the town of Keystone and get lunch before continuing to Custer State Park in the afternoon. We will plan to return toward evening at a later time to stay for the lighting program, since we have all summer to explore.
After lunch we headed to Custer State Park, via US16a through some very scenic country. This road is a "don't miss" if you are traveling by car but not recommended if in a large RV. The road is very steep and extremely crooked with three corkscrew turns where you pass under a bridge and then loop around to cross over that same bridge and also three tunnels that are only 12' high and 10' wide, being one lane with no traffic control but a loud horn honked before entering. What is particularly neat is that each of those tunnels is aligned perfectly to frame the busts of the four presidents as you look through them to the north! Speed linits on this road are never above 45 mph with most of it at 35 or less. We noticed that even the motorcycles take this one very slowly.
Once you cross the top of this pass you enter into Custer State Park by way of one of the roads that are called the Wildlife Loop. It doesn't take long before you begin to see the reason as there are many buffalo along this road and we also saw several antelope, deer and one elk. Part way along the route we came to a traffic jam, where the buffalo were licking minerals from the road banks and lazing about on and next to the road. At times they completely blocked the road.
After nearly half an hour we were able to work our way through the heard and continue on to the visitor center an from there back toward home at Angostura. We arrived in Hot Springs to a major thunderstorm with heavy rain and wind. By the time that we reached the park it was pretty well over but did make our gravel road into the park into a real mess for our car. Even so, it was a wonderful day and we had a great time!
Today was spent by washing the care and helping with chores around the park. The intern and I were invited out to watch forest fire fighing training with water drops by hellicopter. I'll post some pictures from that tomorrow.
We spent yesterday afternoon in a staff gathering at park HQ on the other side of the lake for orientation and to meet all of the other staff. There are eight host couples on that side as well as about a dozen permanent and seasonal park staff. It was interesting to meet everyone. We rode over in the park truck along with our summer intern and the part-time seasonal worker from here. As we all drove back to this side we all agreed that we like it much better over here. Jobs are less defined with the four of us here simply sharing what needs to be done and mostly dividing the chores in whatever way we happen to like. Since we are all rather independent types we get along well and like having our own system.
Pam & I were also given an annual parks pass for all SD parks for our volunteer service. We are off to see Mt. Rushmore today!