Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Amherst, Nova Scotia ~ the Maritimes

Amhurst, NS is located just 3 km across the border from New Brunswick, a small town with lots of history. We settled into a nice RV park and headed downtown to see some of the local sights and history of Nova Scotia on our first visit to the Maritimes.

The Amherst Courthouse
The downtown has some beautiful old brick churches and buildings, including the Courthouse pictured here. They were built in the early days of settlement by local contractors with local craftsman who used locally produced sandstone and brick.

A Scottish Bagpiper
The Scottish Gaels are one of Nova Scotia’s largest ethnic groups. There were no identifying signs for this Scottish Bagpiper monument, but I am sure it is to honor the ancestors, the first of who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1730 aboard the ship “the Hector”.  In order to preserve the Scottish Gaels strong history ties, The Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts in Cape Breton is dedicated to the preservation and study of the Gaelic language, culture and their arts.

First Baptist Church in Amherst, NS
The attention to detail given by those craftsmen of long ago still shows and Victoria Street is filled with buildings that are considered industrial artifacts, this church being one of the grand ones.
Amherst, NS downtown mural
The mural on a downtown building depicts the history of the area and is a great dedication to the people that were part of making Amherst what it is today.
Amhurst gained some notoriety when it was the location of the poltergeist phenomenon that affected Esther Cox, a local resident in 1878 & 1879. This was known as the Great Amhurst Mystery. Now we know why the name sounded familiar!

RV parked at Amherst, NS

We stayed at the Loch Lomand RV park just 3 km. south of Amherst. The park was easy to access just off the highway with nice sized RV spots to park in. At this time of year it was not crowded but very quiet.

Blair's Lake at Amherst, NS

The fog just lifted as we were about to leave on this sunny morning and we were able to get a nice view of Blair’s Lake from our RV spot. Hmmm, I would have thought it was named Loch Lomand !

We’re on our way to see Nova Scotia and its beautiful fall scenery. So many exciting things yet to see, follow us as we make our way next to Mahone Bay, N.S.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Black Hills, SD ~ Needles Hwy ~ Sylvan Lake, SD

The Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota has many very unique places to visit and one incredible area is along Hwy 87. This one 14 mile stretch of road is called the Needles Highway that takes you through a region of eroded granite, spires, towers and pillars like you have never seen before.
The Cathedral Spires
This area was first considered for Mt Rushmore but was rejected by the sculpture for being a poor quality of granite and the pillars were too thin to support the planned sculptures.

The Needles Highway
The Needles Highway is part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, which also passes through the Custer State Park. You will need your State Park Pass to travel this road.

Climbers at the top of a Needle
There are climbers on several of the peaks, it just makes me cringe to see them up on top but I also envy the view they must be enjoying. There is a school that will teach you, the Sylvan Rocks Climbing School. If you’re going to do it, learn to do it safely.

Close-up of the Needles
This close-up shows the balancing that some of these formations are doing, it makes us wonder how it could have stayed up there for zillions of years like that.
 More beautiful Needles
We had the most incredible weather while we visited the area and there was not one cloud in the sky. It makes the pillars stand up tall with no clouds for them to disappear into.

A most scenic drive on the Needles Highway
Every corner we turned on that windy road, we’d see another incredible sight! The size of these needles were something and all so close to the road, it was impossible to drive and enjoy the view at the same time. We would have to pull over at every pullout to get a better look at them.

Amidst the Needles
We were right in the middle of this group of pillars, but it gave us no temptations to climb! We were just there to enjoy the needles, the incredible forms that make up this part of the Black Hills.

Cycling the Needles Highway
This area is very accessible for the tourists by vehicle, motorcycle or bikes. Hikers would love this area, too.

Narrow tunnels on Needles Highway
There are signs that will warn you the size of the tunnel and we did decide not to go through one of them, it didn’t give us enough room to feel safe for trying. At least without pulling the RV, we had room to turn around. We weren’t going to experience another tight fit going thru a tunnel, once was enough.  Tourist information can tell you the size of each tunnel so you would know before you drive this way.

Sylvan Lake
Sylvan Lake was formed from damming at the rivers end. There is swimming and fishing in the lake, although in separate areas, and there are usually many people in the park.

Rock formations at Sylvan Lake

The rocks are a great place for the visitors to climb, and while we were there we saw several people soaking up the sunshine on the rocks over the lake. This is also a place to begin your hike in one of many directions. There are so many places to visit in the Black Hills National Forest that it would be impossible to name only one favorite. You must make sure you have enough time to enjoy all of it and I do believe you would agree with me when you visit this incredible area that you wish you had time to see more.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Black Hills National Forest ~ Custer State Park ~ Custer City, SD

The Black Hills National Forest, so named due to the fact the tree covered mountains looked black, consists of several areas in the region and all of them are incredible to see. The main industry in the past had been mining and timber but the tourism has taken over and that would include Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Sturgis Motorcycle rally and Custer State Park.  (clik on colored names to see more). 

Entrance to Custer State Park
You must purchase a pass to visit State Parks and it cost $15 for a week for us. A warden is at the gate for each entrance and they greet you on your arrival. From there on it is a self directed tour and there can be different roads to follow once you’re in there, the main one is called the Wildlife Loop Road.

Buffalo mom and calf crossing

 We were here to see all that we could and we spent many hours driving around the Custer State Park and were able to see all kinds of wildlife, some very curious burros, some shy buffalo standing in the pine trees, and then there were some that felt very free to roam the range and cross the road whenever they took the notion. Travel this road with care. There were several calves in this herd and at this age, they look very similar to cattle.  Clik on YouTube to see them as they walk along the road.

Main Street in Custer City, SD

Custer City is considered the ‘mother city’ and is one of the oldest established towns in the area. It was the first to discover gold in all of the Black Hills and was named for Lt. Colonol George Armstrong Custer.

Walking down the widest Main Street in the US, which was made this wide to accommodate oxen turning buggies, is like a flashback in time, as long as we don’t notice the vehicles parked along the paved road.

The old bank still standing
Custer City is headquarters for Black Hills National Forest, although it is not a very large town. The population was 1860 people at last census and they obviously take great pride in their small town.Many storefronts have retained the old western town look. The old bank is now home to a restaurant but still keeps the signage that reminds us of the days gone by.

Buffalo artwork
There is a buffalo on many of the downtown corners covered in artwork. These were a result of a Custer Stampede project and is sponsored by the Custer area Chamber of Commerce and the Custer Area Arts Council.

Stories in artwork

The buffalo art adds a lot to the atmosphere and the artwork is incredible. They aren’t life size compared to some real buffalo we’d seen on our travels but they’re close to some of them.  The story told on some and the artwork is incredible.  Check out more at this link.
Follow us on our drive on the Needles Highway and enjoy the incredible views there.


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