Georgetown, TX

Georgetown TX, is located 25 miles north of Austin and is home to the most beautiful town squares in the state.  At one time, a cattle trail named, “The Shawnee” led thousands upon thousands of cattle through the heart of this small town to the rail centers in Kansas and Missouri.  Today, Georgetown is home to one of the best preserved Victorian and Pre-WW1 downtown historic districts, with The Beaux-Arts Williamson County Courthouse, built in 1911, as its centerpiece.

The establishment of Southwestern University in 1873 contributed to the town’s growth and is located about ½ mile from the historic downtown area.  This private, four-year, undergraduate college that encompases 700 acres, was founded in 1840.  Southwestern claims to be the first university in Texas and in 2015, the university celebrated its 175th Anniversary!  The main campus is organized around a central academic mall formed by a semi-circular grassy area bounded by a pedestrian walkway and academic buildings and is absolutely breathtaking… I was completely impressed by the historical value and what this college has to offer its students.

Notable Buildings:

The Roy and Lillie Cullen Building (formerly called the Administration Building) was built in 1898. The Cullen Building currently houses the administration, business office, alumni relations, and classrooms. Throughout various times in its history, it has also housed the campus auditorium, gymnasium, chapel, and library.

CullenOld

Southwestern University Special Collections
http://www.southwestern.edu/about/tour.php

The Lois Perkins Chapel was built in 1950 and includes an Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ and stunning stained glass windows.

Mood-Bridwell Hall, originally a men’s dormitory, was completed in 1908 and currently houses classrooms, faculty offices, a computer lab, the Debbie Ellis Writing Center, and an indoor atrium.

men_of_mood_ Bridwell Hall 1910

Southwestern University Special Collections
http://www.southwestern.edu/about/tour.php

Thank you Megan and Brian for the wonderful tour of this amazing city!

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Custer State Park, SD

Since the early 1900’s, Custer State Park is home to an abundance of wildlife and spectacular views.  Spanning 71,000 acres, the park is rich in history and provides its visitors with countless adventures.  Dan and I traveled the road that encompasses Custer State Park many times during our travels; however, my favorite is an 18-mile stretch called “Wildlife Loop Road” which is rich in wildlife such as Big Horn Sheep, Elk, Pronghorn, Prairie Dogs, and much, much, more.

Wildlife Loop

Custer State Park “Wildlife Loop Road” Map

One of the most famous attractions in Custer State Park is the free-roaming Bison herds.  Dan and I were in the right area at the right time and were able to observe a round-up as they were moving a herd from one area of the park to another.  The sight of hundreds of Bison coming at you was exhilarating!  Instantly, we parked the car and opened the sunroof where I could poke my camera outside for the wonderful photo opportunity…  Such amazing creatures.

My favorite part of Custer State Park are the “Begging Burros”.  The Burros roaming the park today are descendants of the pack animals once used to trek visitors to Harney Peak Summit.  Full of character, they gain the attention of the visitors that travel in the park (both inside and outside of cars). The Burros mostly inhabit one area of the park where a herd of about 50 will try to obtain food, sometimes even causing traffic jams as they block the road.  Of course, I would always recommend using caution when encountering the herd, but I am amazed and entertained every time I see them.

Custer State Park-DAN_5863-5863

If ever in South Dakota, make sure Custer State Park is on your list of places to visit!

A Time to Love

After leaving the Badlands, Dan and I (along with Tindra) spent the next few days in and around Custer, SD.  This was Tindra’s last trip with us and we were so grateful that we had this time with her. The magical views of the Black Hills National Forest never do get old.  The Black Hills get their name from the Lakota Sioux, “Paha Sapa”, meaning the hills are black. From a distance, the hills of this area do appear black due to the towering Ponderosa Pine forest; however, up close, these forests are teeming with color.

Needles Highway is another favorite of mine. Completed in 1922, the highway is named after the needle-like granite rock formations that were carved over many years by erosion.  Such beauty is found in this area and surprises are noticed around every turn.

We camped out for the week, but decided to move into a log cabin when a snow storm hit the area leaving 3-4” of the fluffy white stuff.  The snow blanketed the Pines in the Black Hills creating a peacefulness that I will never forget…  A Time to Love.

Badlands National Park, SD

Badlands National Park: The Lakota named this land “Mako Sica”, meaning “land bad”;

Badlands National Park

The park consists of roughly 244,000 acres of prairie grass mixed with sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires.  Looking out over the sometimes lunar landscape, it is desolation at its best… You can look for miles and see no sign of civilization.  Despite the solitude, the land has been so ravaged by the elements it has become quite stunning. Erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers of different colors: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash). These striking geologic deposits also contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds; prehistoric bones are still being uncovered today by park officials.

I cannot even tell you how many times Dan and I drove the 30-mile Badlands Loop, how many times we stopped to hike the trails to absorb the surrounding beauty, or view the abundance of wildlife that roam the park’s boundaries. We stayed in the area for 2 days and with each entrance into Badlands National Park, we encountered something new and exciting.

If ever in the area, stop in at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center situated near Cedar Pass Lodge to learn more about what the park has to offer.

October Surprise

Watching the leaves float on the wind as they drop one by one to the ground and viewing the beautiful colors that dot the landscape, is just a couple reasons why Autumn is one of my favorite seasons in Minnesota.  It was a beautiful Fall day that pulled us both outside; breathing in the crisp cool air that this season brings is what we both needed. The vibrant colors, the personality of “Mr. Ed”, and the travels to and from Minneapolis was just another day to add in the banks of my mind. Take a journey with us as we show you some highlights of the day.

Southwestern MN

Charles Bennett and Daniel Sweet founded Pipestone, MN in 1876.  By 1890, Pipestone had train service on four different rail lines and had become a travel and business center hub for southwestern Minnesota.  A lot of the buildings within the city are constructed with local Sioux quartzite. The county courthouse, built in 1899, is made from this stone and is considered the most stylized of the quartzite buildings located in the city. It is rectangular in shape with a 110-ft clock tower topped with a dome and a statue of Lady Justice.

Pipestone county courthouseHistoric American Buildings Survey, HABS MINN,59-PISTO,1-E-1

Another building constructed with the Sioux quartzite stone is Moore Block which was built in 1896.  This 25 foot by 85 foot building was built by Leon H. Moore, a local businessman who owned and operated a Sioux quartzite quarry. One of the more distinctive features of this building are the gargoyles that embellish the north and west facades.
Pipestone MN-5931Within the grounds of the Hiawatha Pageant, the”Song of the Hiawatha” was performed for the last time in 2008 due to the lack of volunteers, funding, and attendance. For 60 years, busloads of tourists were brought to this small town in Southwest MN.

Hiawatha Pageant grounds-5737

After exploring Pipestone, we decided to make our way to Blue mounds State Park. It was a gorgeous, although hot day when we decided to venture out on the hiking trails.  Usually, before visiting a park, we do our research and know the terrain so we are prepared for what comes our way.  This day, we were not prepared and unknown to us, we were about to embark on a 13 mile hike.  Not a problem, but when you are not dressed or prepared for the occasion, it can become difficult.  I remember falling many times due to the slippery shoes I had on my feet, at one point in time- right in a small stream.  Saving my camera came first so my body took the brunt of the fall.  I appreciate Dan not laughing at the time as I’m not sure I could have contained my laughter.  We eventually came up to the visitor’s center where I washed up and we both grabbed some water to quench our thirst. I would like to revisit that state park and come prepared.  Blue Mound State Park has a lot to offer such as one of the last remnants of preserved native prairie, the Sioux quartzite cliffs, wildflowers and cactus, Buffalo, and bird watching.

Blue Mound Pano-5997

Traveling in the Southwestern portion of the state gave way to many interesting finds, as our travels always do.  According to Wikipedia, “this region is a transition zone between the prairies and the Great Plains”.  From hiking trails found in Blue Mounds State Park and appreciating the landscape, to exploring southwestern cities such as Luverne, Marshall, and Pipestone to absorb the history and architecture, we stumbled upon many surprises along the way that of course we had to capture.

Pipestone National Monument

“For countless generations, American Indians have quarried the red pipestone found at this site. These grounds are sacred to many people because the pipestone quarried here is carved into pipes used for prayer. Many believe that the pipe’s smoke carries one’s prayer to the Great Spirit. The traditions of quarrying and pipemaking continue here today.”                                                                    Source: National Park Service

Dan and I enjoyed our hike on the well groomed trails and visiting the quarry itself. As you walk the trails you encounter cloth ties on trees and rocks; the ties represent a prayer or an offering and are placed here for spiritual purposes.  While visiting the center and the daily demonstrations of pipestone carving, we met and visited with the talented Travis Erickson. Travis is a fourth generation self-taught artist who learned the basic techniques from his mother and other male elders.  The grounds and the trails are wonderful to explore, so full of history and tradition.

For more information please visit : National Park Service, Pipestone National Monument, MN

When you pray with this pipe, you pray for and with everything.
-Black Elk