Theodore Roosevelt National Park

From the Black Hills area, I traveled north to North Dakota to go to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is classic badlands. The coloration of the sedimentary layers are less colorful than Badlands National Park, but Theodore Roosevelt National Park has some unexpected beautiful green areas in the middle of it. It also has some gorgeous views of the Little Missouri River.

Theodore Roosevelt NP south unit

Theodore Roosevelt NP south unit

Theodore Roosevelt NP south unit

Theodore Roosevelt NP south unit

Theodore Roosevelt NP south unit

Theodore Roosevelt NP north unit

Theodore Roosevelt NP north unit

Theodore Roosevelt NP north unit

Theodore Roosevelt NP north unit

Theodore Roosevelt NP north unit

Custer State Park

I am probably prone to superlatives on my blog, but Custer State Park is, in fact, stunningly gorgeous. It has lovely grasslands where you can find bison, prairie dogs, and donkeys and probably others. Those are the ones I saw. I have to also admit that I am a little sketchy on wild donkeys being in a park, but I digress. The park also has the granite peaks and spires that make the Black Hills so famous. There is a manmade lake called Sylvan Lake that has the granite spires lining it and popping out of it. There is Needles Highway, which is an engineering feat of wonder, where you drive around the granite spires and in two cases drive through them in the most ridiculous small, just cut out the exact space needed for a car, tunnels. There is the Wildlife Loop where you can see the wildlife and just take in the gorgeous grasslands. My photos probably don’t do it justice, but if you are ever in the area, make time and go to this park.

Custer State Park grasslands

Buffalo on the grasslands

Donkeys (or burros) on the grasslands

Buffalo on the grasslands

Custer State Park

Needles Highway tunnel

Needles Highway

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

Wind Cave National Park

This morning I visited Wind Cave National Park. On the surface, the park looks like much of same lovely grassland as the surrounding area. Underground, however, lies a huge cave system filled with gorgeous formations. The cave is famous for its boxwork formations and has most of the known boxwork in the world. You can take tours of a small portion of the cave, enough to get a glimpse of the gorgeous boxwork.

Wind Cave National Park, grasslands above ground

Boxwork in Wind Cave

Boxwork in Wind Cave

Crystals in Wind Cave

Crystals in Wind Cave

Wind Cave

Boxwork in Wind Cave

Boxwork in Wind Cave

Devil’s Tower

For my trip out west, I wanted to visit many sites that were kind of in the middle of nowhere. Devil’s Tower fits in that category. I don’t think photos can do it justice. As I was driving to it, the road I was on curved, and then Devil’s Tower just appeared. That is what is so amazing about it. The area around it is pretty rolling countryside with some of the black hills, but then this columnar rock tower just appears. The trail to walk around it is a little over a mile, and even while walking that trail, I still was amazed by its size and how much it stuck out of the surrounding countryside. There are exhibits on the trail that give good visuals to describe how it formed. Still I find it awesome.

Devil’s Tower

Devil’s Tower

Devil’s Tower

Devil’s Tower

Devil’s Tower

Devil’s Tower, close up of columns

Devil’s Tower, close up of columns

Badlands National Park

After visiting Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, I then drove on to Badlands National Park, which is right across the freeway. Badlands is just gorgeous. The formations are dramatic. In many places you can clearly see the different sedimentation layers, including different coloring of the layers. The different coloring layers adds to the drama and beauty of the landscape. When I was there, it was a clear blue sky, which contrasted with the landscape coloring. It was fun to photograph. There were no bad angles, only trying to figure out the best way to capture the beauty, even though no photograph can.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Toadstool Geological Park

After the amazing event that was the total solar eclipse, I headed north to continue my trip. I stopped at Toadstool Geological Park along the way. The area is small badlands landscape with several formations said to resemble toadstools. It is a nice area to go do a little hiking, but it should be noted that to get there requires a long drive down a dirt road, which is not so nice.

Toadstool Geologic Park

Toadstool Geologic Park

Toadstool Geologic Park

Toadstool Geologic Park

Toadstool Geologic Park

Toadstool Geologic Park

Toadstool Geologic Park

Toadstool Geologic Park

Toadstool Geologic Park

Toadstool Geologic Park

Scottsbluff National Monument

I went to Scottsbluff National Monument yesterday mostly to do reconnaissance for the eclipse. That was were I wanted to view the eclipse, so I wanted to check out the area and find out details of parking and opening and such. The area is beautiful. I always though of Nebraska as flat plains, but the western side at least is not. The topography of Scottsbluff is lovely, interesting, and definitely not a flat plain. I did end up viewing the eclipse at there, so a few of the below photos are from yesterday and a few from today. The last one is right before totality.

Cabrillo National Monument

While in Sand Diego, I visited Cabrillo National Monument. Actually I visited it twice. I went in the morning, and the entire area was covered with thick fog. I explored the tidal pool area and met some cute crabs, limpets, and snails. I then went to the peak area and tried to view San Diego underneath the clouds. It was kind of amazing to be on a peak about 400 feet above the ocean and look at a giant fog encompassing almost everything below. I then came back in the afternoon and was finally able to get some good views.

Tidal pool area

Tidal pool area

Tidal pool area

Tidal pool area

Tidal pool area

Tidal pool area

Colorful, rock layers

Colorful, rock layers

Tidal pool area

Tidal pool area

Colorful, rock layers

Colorful, rock layers

Colorful, rock layers

Colorful, rock layers

Chiton

Chiton

Snails and limpet

Snails and limpet

Snail

Snail

Crab

Crab

Crab

Crab

Anemone

Anemone

Gooseneck Barnacles

Gooseneck Barnacles

View across bay

View across bay

View out to sea

View out to sea

Cueva Ventana

I got to visit Cueva Ventana (Window Cave) today in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The tour starts by walking by Pee Wee Cave, which only meets the bare minimum requirements of a cave.  You don’t go in. There is no point or room really. There is a short walk through the forest, which when I visited meant getting to see among other things a bunch of giant snails on the trees. Then you walk through cave number two, which I don’t think they actually named. The middle portion of this cave is, well, cavernous, with huge ceilings and wide walls. However the walk through it is fairly short. Then you walk down an extremely steep path to get to the actual Cueva Ventana. There are bats living in there among the limestone columns. At the end of the cave is the Ventana. It has amazing views of the Arecibo River valley. The valley is gorgeous, and you can see the mountains beyond. The tour is worth the view alone. However the caves are really neat to see also, and I love bats, so getting to hear and see them was also a highlight. Sadly while there, you can see vandalism from years past, but tourism is now helping to support security and clean up for the site.

Entrance to Cave 2

Entrance to Cave 2

Entrance to Cave 2

Entrance to Cave 2

Entrance to Cave 2, at very lower left side of dark cave area, opening on other side of cave is visible

Entrance to Cave 2, at very lower left side of dark cave area, opening on other side of cave is visible

Cave 2

Cave 2

Opening to Cave 2

Opening to Cave 2

Entrance to Cueva Ventana

Entrance to Cueva Ventana

Columns in Cueva Ventana

Columns in Cueva Ventana

Stalagmite in Cueva Ventana

Stalagmite in Cueva Ventana

Ceiling of Cueva Ventana

Ceiling of Cueva Ventana

Floor and side of Cueva Ventana

Floor and side of Cueva Ventana

Cueva Ventana's Window to Arecibo River valley

Cueva Ventana’s Window to Arecibo River valley

Arecibo River valley viewed through Cueva Ventana's Window

Arecibo River valley viewed through Cueva Ventana’s Window

Arecibo River valley viewed through Cueva Ventana's Window

Arecibo River valley viewed through Cueva Ventana’s Window