After two stops with family and friends in Buffalo, NY and Indianapolis, our first venture was so to go off the interstate to Pipestone, Minn., a sacred site where ongwehonwe people historically went, and still go, to get catlinite, a rock for making pipes. The road into Pipestone was paved with the reddish rocks. Large boulders could be seen in fields, in ornamental displays in flower gardens, or in road signs. The quarry sat in the midst of the prairie in southern Minnesota. A recent fire had charred the grass but as we walked further in to the quarry we found beautiful formations and a clear stream with a waterfall. The huge boulders were cave-like, the temperature dropped near them. I stuffed my bag with rocks which are free to ongwehonwe, they were heavy to carry, but I know some carvers who would use them. Pipestone is a National Monument and has a modern gallery with Lakota people demonstrating pipe making and other crafts. They have a gift shop with books and educational brochures to hand out. We saw groups of school children taking a tour, which is free to ongwehonwe. Like many places we encountered there were plenty of tourist shops selling different sorts of ‘authentic’ items. We took another red road out of town and spent the day driving through South Dakota.
The day was a long haul our next stop was Rosebud, SD. There wasn’t much happening in town on a Monday. We picked up the tribal newspaper, Sicangu Eyapaha. In the center is a fold out with photos of all the workers of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, all smiling (nice idea). We drove on to Pine Ridge where we paid our respects at Wounded Knee. Just as the sun was setting we left our offering there with all the other ribbons tied to the monument on the top of a rolling hill. We drove into town looking for a restaurant, saw only a pizza place, and so we got on the highway made it to Sturgis for the night. Most of the time we made great food stops, but sometimes, by the time we rolled in to a town, we were so tired we just wanted a place to sleep.
Gradually the plains gave way to mountains as we drove through Wyoming. We stopped often to take photos. It was 95 degrees when we left Sturgis, but on the mountains we had our jackets on and made snowballs. We drove through the Powder River country an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet, the wind blows pretty hard up there. I thought of our western relatives who traveled this country long ago on foot or horseback. Boy they were tough, Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph, and their people. But there truly was beauty all around us. We stopped often. Carol took over a thousand photos. We stayed in the ‘western’ town of Cody, WY, and stood on top of Buffalo Bill Cody Dam, formerly Shoshone Dam.
Miles of forest ushered us in to Yellowstone. We noticed entire hillsides were bare due to infestation and others had been burned or purposefully cleared in spots. Scenic stops gave specific information about all the sites along the roadway. Our first creature was a lone buffalo walking along by the side of the road-away from Yellowstone. We didn’t see any more of his relatives till miles down the road. “Where was he going,” we wondered? We saw our first black bear, from a safe distance of about 200 feet. Many other travelers had stopped, some setting up tripods to photograph, the bear didn’t seem to pay attention to the group gathered. We stopped to see “Old Faithful” one of the main attractions and walked the entire boardwalk meandering through a thermal area of geysers and bubbling hot springs. It was like being on another planet. We saw buffalo tracks and clumps they leave on these ‘hot’ grounds.
We bought great hamburgers in one of the plentiful food stops. What’s more, they had great coffee (one of my criteria). They also had the most friendly, polite wait staff. We lingered around the shop, passing several more on our drive through.
Yellowstone is the world’s first National Park (1872). Of course it was the lands of the Blackfeet, Cayuse, Cour d’Alene, Bannock, Nez Perce, Shoshone, Crow, Umatilla and more. If National Parks help people to learn to appreciate lands and all that live there, then they can do a great service to preserve special places. They also give you an ethereal connection to what is real. We were blown away by Yellowstone, and we only drove through it. They say to see the park you need to spend at least five days or longer.
By now we were getting to be great road warriors driving all day and into the night. It was staying light until 10 p.m. and later as we went further west. The towns were becoming further and further apart. We stayed in Butte, MT, and traveled through the gorgeous Flathead Reservation. Although miles on construction and dust slowed us down, they have forests, mountains, glaciers, buffalo; it was a beautiful drive taking about an hour to cross their lands. There were many road signs in their native language. We tried to read them.
We crossed the border into Canada near Eureka, MT. There were no problems, no hassles. We rested two nights with friends on top of a mountain in British Columbia before driving through two of Canada’s premier National Parks, Banff and Jasper. Mile after mile of land so serene and majestic touches your soul. You feel honored and privileged to be in such places. We drove off the interstate to get closer to the mountains and glacial lakes. We also started seeing plenty of four-leggeds. Our first up close encounter with a black bear was exciting and scary. We turned around to see better, then he started up the incline near our car deciding it was close enough, quickly getting back on the highway. We had to keep a sharp eye on the road side for caribou, elk, deer, more bears. All kinds of animals live in these protected parks. The roads are theirs. We were just visitors traveling through.