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Welcome House and Seeds of Hope

North Dakota  – Thursday, October 31

I went along with Sommer to her workplace this morning because she said a couple of her co-workers would like to meet me. They had some questions about my journey and I enjoyed talking with them. Then I got Tula out for a short walk on the paths by the capitol building. She doesn’t seem to be hobbling as much as yesterday, but I’m going to limit her walking today. Then I headed downtown, and along the way I passed a Retired Priests Residence – that’s something I’ve never seen before!

I drove to the Welcome House in Bismarck – one of the places that Sommer had told me about. I met Rosie, the House Manager, and she told me about the Welcome House and how it provides shelter and food for homeless families, along with assistance to find permanent housing.  They also offer some additional programs and one of them is called START, which stands for Success Through Activities, Recreation and and Transportation – in other words, an extra-curricular program for students. The Welcome House believes that all children should have the opportunity to participate in an extra-curricular program, and they will pay the registration fee and even help with transportation. This was a new donation opportunity for me, and I was happy to be able to help a little. I spent quite a bit of time talking with Rosie and learning about the Welcome House, and she wanted to hear about my journey too. When we said good-bye, Rosie said “I will remember you forever” which was very moving. I never expect to have such an impact on people.

Then I walked for a mile and a half around the historic downtown area. As I was out walking, another big building caught my eye and it was called Seeds of Hope. It was a thrift store, and all the proceeds benefit abuse victims who are served by the Abused Adult Resource Center. I went inside, and it was the nicest thrift store I’ve ever seen. Like the outside of the building, it was attractive, neat, clean and organized. There were a lot of people in there shopping and I browsed around a little too. I liked the name Seeds of Hope and I wanted to make a donation. I gave it to one of the ladies who was working at the cash register, and she was very appreciative of the donation.

At that point, I went back to Sommer’s house for lunch. Both she and her husband live close to work and they often come home for lunch, and to let their dogs out. Her husband couldn’t make it today, but Sommer and I enjoyed a nice lunch (and I liked the beets we had – I can’t remember the last time I tried beets!) and a little more time to visit, and then we parted ways.

With my donations done, I was going to concentrate on my walking for the rest of the day. I started off with a mile and a half in one of the historic residential districts, and then headed for an arboretum for some more walking. From there I went back to the Missouri River and covered another mile and a half walking along the river. Then I drove north for a while, up to the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. I went into the visitor center, then Tula and I walked on the trails past the old village areas. The Knife River Indians lived in round sod houses – many of them all clustered together with hardly any space between. When the villages were abandoned, the round sod houses eventually collapsed into the ground, leaving many visible mounds on the ground. It is not known why the houses were built in big groups so close together – except maybe for defense purposes.  We scared up at least 10 pheasants on our walk, plus I had seen a couple back at the arboretum. They seem to be all over!

I continued heading north through the prairieland, and at one point I passed an old church out in the middle of nowhere. As it was getting dark, I made it to the town of Riverdale, where Tula and I got out for a final couple miles of walking for the day.  The town of Riverdale sits by the Garrison Dam on the Missouri River, and it’s one of the biggest earth-filled dams in the world.  Today was Halloween, and there were kids in costume out trick-or-treating. It was a neat, tidy town to wander through, and when I was done with that walk, I had covered almost 10 miles today. Then I was happy to sit in the car for the drive up to Minot, where I stopped for the night.

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Safe Shelter and Heaven’s Helpers Soup Cafe

North Dakota – Wednesday, October 30

Since I ended up in Jamestown last night, I looked into donation possibilities in the area, and discovered Safe Shelter – a place of crisis intervention  for victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse and stalking.  They’ve been helping people (mostly women, but the occasional man also) since 1980 an and there were several  wish lists on their website for a variety of things like office supplies, first aid supplies, household supplies and children/infant supplies. So I called them to see if there was something they were most in need of today, and the lady I spoke with said it would be “amazing” to get a couple $25 gas cards (used to help people leave a bad situation when they’re ready to start over with a new life) and she gave me the address of the home which of course is not on the website (a lot of websites have red cautionary warnings reminding victims that computer usage can be traced and is often impossible to completely clear, and to use a safe computer if possible or call the help line). I met Mary at the house, and she was very gracious. Even though this is kind of a rural community (sometimes a problem in itself due to the isolation on large farms), they helped about 100 domestic abuse victims (along with about 100 of their children) and 16 sexual abuse victims last year. The people at the shelter help victims in a variety of ways, depending on each individual case – and I’m sure she’s heard stories that many of us can’t begin to imagine.


Tula and I set off for a walk around Jamestown, but Tula didn’t walk very far. She’s hobbling a bit and it makes me wonder if she did something to her leg when she was being goofy in the snow yesterday. Her left hind leg seems to be sore and she was actually hopping a bit on 3 legs, so I didn’t keep her out any longer than to take care of her business. Then I set off for a long walk around town – past historic buildings downtown and out into some of the neighborhoods. This town was the birthplace of Louis L’Amour who wrote a lot of Western novels. Theoretically there’s a Louis L’Amour Walking Trail but with some of the construction around and an empty lot where his house was, I didn’t see anything of interest relating to him (I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels either!).  I walked over 3 1/2 miles in Jamestown.


Then I started to head west for Bismarck. Trudy’s daughter Sommer had called me yesterday to invite me to stay with her and her husband John in Bismarck. Plus she had made a list of various places to walk, and would be able to leave work early today to do some walking with me. So I left Jamestown after a short stop at Frontier Village to see the World’s Largest Buffalo – a 60-ton, 26-foot tall statue of a buffalo. I’ve seen real buffalo all over the place so I had to see the world’s biggest statue!  It was so big I could walk under its stomach.  The little village had some old frontier buildings too – it was fun to take a quick walk through.


I drove to Bismarck and met Sommer at the Department of Transportation where she works. The DOT is right next to the Capitol Building, and she had recently become friends with the lieutenant governor, Drew Wrigley, and she said he wanted to meet me. So we went over there and I met him and we all chatted for a while and he thanked me for helping out some organizations in North Dakota. Then he  gave me a new collector’s coin that was created to honor the Navy’s newly-floated submarine that was named the USS North Dakota. The sub was so new that it hadn’t been christened yet – according to the website that happened on November 2, only 3 days later. Then Sommer took me up to the 14th floor (maybe 18th?!?) of the capitol building to get a bird’s-eye view of Bismarck. The Capitol building is not the typical dome-shaped building like so many of them are – Sommer told me it used to be, but there was a fire somewhere along the way, and they replaced it with a more traditional looking office building. Then we went outside and walked on the pedestrian trail all around the capitol grounds. There was a big tree laying on the ground that had turned into petrified wood – like the petrified wood I saw in Arizona, this one also looked like quartz.


After walking around the whole capitol area, we went to pick up her weekly farm produce – Sommer and her husband are part of a farm-share co-op type program, and every week they go pick up whatever produce is in season. Today there were different kinds of squash, beets, potatoes, salad greens (the farm keeps a greenhouse), broccoli and radishes. They get a whole lot of produce every week and they can’t always use it all,  so Sommer was going to take a bunch of it over to Heaven’s Helpers Soup Cafe. Since we were headed over there, I decided I wanted to make another donation today. This soup kitchen was different from lots of the ones I’d visited because it was open every weekday from 11am to 7pm so that the hungry people could come any time of day. Most soup kitchens are only open for an hour or so, and they often have a line of people waiting for them to open up. We met up with the director, and he said they haven’t shopped at a store since 2009 thanks to all the donations they get. He appreciated all the produce Sommer gave him, and said he’ll be happy to use my donation to shop for some items that aren’t typically donated. We stepped inside the soup kitchen and it smelled good – there were quite a few people in there enjoying a hot meal.


Then Sommer and I headed for the Missouri River where we walked a bit on one of the river trails, and then she took me to a another trail near a local college that climbed up a bit for pretty views over the Missouri River and some of the surrounding land. Then we went back to her house, and I walked Tula a little more – she’s still hobbling around although she doesn’t seem to be in pain; but it worries me. Altogether I walked almost 9 miles today. Sommer and her husband made a yummy dinner that included some homemade venison/pork/jalapeno sausage. They assured me the jalapenos were actually quite mild and it was very good. We visited for a while after dinner, then I got some computer work done after they turned in – they also get going really early in the mornings.


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South Dakota to North Dakota

South Dakota and North Dakota – Tuesday, October 29


I slept like a log in my great-grandma’s brass bed (and felt like a lazy bum when I got up at 7:45; life on the farm begins earlier than that!)  I woke up to a snowy, icy morning but they were going to go out in the fields anyway, so I asked if I could ride along in the combine for a little while as they were harvesting the corn. So after a good breakfast, I climbed in the semi-truck that is used to haul the corn or grain from the fields to the farm, and we headed out to the field where the combine was. I’ve never been in a combine except for sitting in a display model back in Iowa. As we headed out, we could see a coyote in the cornfield. Gary started the combine up, and I was astonished at how fast the corn was harvested. The combine (which has different attachments depending on what crop is being harvested) just ate up about 8 rows of corn at a time – stripped the ears of corn off the stalk; pulled the husks off; and got the kernels off the cob – in 15 minutes the entire back of the combine was full of shelled corn. Amazing. Then the corn was transferred to a waiting grain truck by an auger, and the grain truck holds 2 loads from the combine. The grain truck in turn unloads into the semi – and when the semi is full, the corn or grain is taken back to the farm where it’s dried (if necessary) and stored in grain bins until it goes to market. I was thrilled to be able to ride in the combine (an unexpectedly smooth ride) on land that’s been farmed by relatives since the early 1900s. I also had a chance to ride in the grain truck, and it can hold tons of corn. I think my great-grandpa wouldn’t believe his eyes to see how fast the corn is harvested – he used horses back in the day!

It was time to leave my new-found extended family, and Trudy made me a care package, and Tula and I set off through the snowy, icy streets. It was quite a mess out! I stopped at the Lily cemetery to pay my respects to the great-grandparents and great-aunts and uncles.  I hope I will be back again someday! The first town I came to was Webster, and I stopped at the local newspaper office for an interview. Both Trudy and Carol had thought the paper would be interested in my story, and a reporter asked if I could stop by. I met Amanda and she was a very pleasant young lady with a lot of questions, and it was nice to sit in the warm office and talk. But then I had to finish up with my walking – today was technically my first North Dakota day, but I still had 5 miles of walking to finish off  in South Dakota before crossing into North Dakota. I walked a little over a mile in the slush in Webster, then drove on to the town of Groton where I got another couple miles of walking in. It was still cold and snowy up there, and I was beginning to think my weather luck had worn off! Tula likes the snow and had been pouncing around in it and scooping up mouthfuls – she’s always eaten snow. She’s been skittering around in it like a puppy!  I stayed cozy warm in a jacket that Gary and Trudy gave me – I lost my favorite fleece jacket somewhere in northern Arizona  and was going to have to get another jacket, and then they gave me one that no one wore.


From Groton I drove on to Aberdeen where I finished off my South Dakota walking – 56 miles completed! And all 7 South Dakota donations were done too – Hot Springs Food Pantry, Wild Horse Sanctuary, Mt. Rushmore, Indian Charities, Beresford VFW, Faith in Action Food Pantry, and Bethesda Nursing Home. It was evening by the time I crossed into North Dakota and it was too dark to get any walking done, so I’ll have to double up on donations one day, and do some extra miles here and there.  The first town I came to was Jamestown, so that’s where I stopped for the night, and I was happy to see the snow had disappeared once I crossed the state line!


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Bethesda and Lily

South Dakota – Monday, October 28

It was time to roll out of Beresford and start heading north. But I had one last donation to make, and for that I went to the Bethesda Nursing Home. Bethesda was founded back in 1914 by the pastor of the Norwegian Lutheran Church and it became the first nursing care facility in South Dakota. Sometime in the 1920s my paternal grandpa managed the place, and he met my grandma there, who was a teacher for the children’s home that was also part of the facility. My aunt recently stayed in Bethesda for almost a year before she passed away, so the donation is in her memory. I was happy to have my last South Dakota donation go to a place with old family ties.

Then I drove up to Sioux Falls – I wanted to do some walking in Falls Park, which is very rocky with numerous waterfalls. Tula and I got out and walked all around the falls, and one of the paths connected with the Big Sioux River Greenway, and we walked along the river through downtown and back out into the countryside. I put Tula back in the car and went to the observation tower where I had a good birdseye view of the Sioux Falls.  Altogether I walked 5 miles in Sioux Falls.

Then I headed northwest to Lily, which is the town that my maternal grandma grew up in. My grandma was one of 8 kids, and the son of her youngest brother (my mom’s first cousin) still farms the original Fossum land. Even though my grandma visited her family now and then as an adult, my mom never really had a chance to get to know her cousins or aunts or uncles, so she hasn’t met the cousins who are still in town. I knew I was going to be stopping by the little cemetery in Lily where lots of the extended family are buried, and I really wanted to see where the old Fossum farm was since I’d learned more about the family history back when I was visiting another one of my mom’s cousins in Massachusetts. So a couple days ago I had called these unknown people (Gary and Trudy) out of the blue, and explained who I was and why I would be passing through,  and they couldn’t have been more gracious and welcoming, even with my unpredictable schedule. I spoke to Trudy a couple other times on the phone, and they were in the midst of harvesting corn, but she told me I was welcome to stop by any time, and then she invited me to spend the night even though they have never met me. I found their house and while Gary was finishing up with the harvesting for the day, Trudy and I walked to the old ghost town of Lily, and she told me what all the old buildings used to be. The church that my great-grandma was so involved in happened to be unlocked, so we stepped in and took a look around. Lily was a bustling little town in its day – my great-grandpa was a banker among other things, but over time people moved away and businesses closed, and there was a fire which destroyed at least one of the buildings, and by the 1960s or so, not many people were left in town. Today only 1 resident lives within the actual town limits, although a couple of the old homes have been bought by people who like to just come to town for the peace and quiet.

On the way back to their house, Trudy pointed out the site of the old Fossum “mansion” that had been built in 1908. Many decades later when the house was in need of major repairs, it was dismantled and everything that could be salvaged was used to build a new home on the farm just a short distance away. For me, it was wonderful to see all the farmland – my grandma used to tell stories about her pony, and growing up on the prairie, and to see the land she was talking about was a thrill. I met Trudy’s husband Gary, who is my mom’s cousin,  and we enjoyed a yummy dinner and then another cousin, Carol (and her husband Butch) came by, and we spent the evening looking at some old Fossum family photos. I was able to sit in an old chair and couch that had been in the original Fossum home – the wooden arms of the chairs were worn by generations of people sitting in them. Trudy figures my great-grandma spent a lot of time in that chair listening to the WWII news on the radio because her sons were scattered around serving their country. One of them was even part of a ski battalion, and was chosen to be part of the honor guard when the King of Norway returned to his country at the end of the war. So it was a wonderful family evening, and they made me – a total stranger – feel very welcome. And to top it all off, I slept in my great-grandma’s old brass bed.

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Beresford VFW and Faith in Action

South Dakota – Saturday October 26,  and Sunday October 27

I spent the whole weekend in Beresford, spending time with my dad and Joan, enjoying a breakfast with my cousin Jay, and visiting the cemetery where my aunt Gloria had recently been laid to rest. I “visited” my other aunts, uncles and paternal grandparents out there too.  I even did all my walking in town – nearly 17 miles in 5 different walks during the 2 days. I literally walked up and down all the tree-lined streets in town – many of them more than once.  Beresford’s downtown area isn’t exactly thriving (and seemed like a deserted ghost town on a Sunday evening!) but the residential streets haven’t changed much since my youth when we would visit in the summer. I could almost imagine I was back in the 1960s with parents raising families in homes that have seen generations come and go; kids riding bikes down the streets; dogs barking; the city swimming pool which always seemed like such a huge pool (but the scary/thrilling high dive is long gone); the same concrete block building that housed the changing rooms and wire baskets for clothes (and sold yummy orange push-ups for an occasional treat); the city park; the golf course; and family reunions. There always seemed to be so many relatives around when we were there, and I marveled that my cousins who lived there seemed to know absolutely everybody in town! Nearly all of the older generation has passed on, but they’ve left happy ghost memories behind.  Most poignant was walking past my late aunt and uncle’s house – they have both passed away since I began my journey, and they lived in the same house as long as I’ve been alive, and walking in the kitchen door on the side of the house to visit them was always part of a trip to Beresford. I think I relived all those happy childhood memories while walking up and down all the streets. The sun was out and it was a beautiful late fall weekend, and there were still pretty leaves on the trees. There were plenty to scuffle through on the sidewalks too and the air smelled like fall. There was also a bike trail out by the golf course, so Tula and I walked on that also.

I made a couple donations in town too. On Saturday, my donation went to the Beresford VFW in honor of my dad, and in memory of his 6 brothers who all served in the military. They were all proud to be American and proud to have served, and they all enjoyed a beer or 2 and each others’ companionship down at the VFW hall. The VFW is getting ready to hold a membership dinner and continues to support its troops. On Sunday my donation went to Faith in Action – the Beresford Food Pantry. I wanted to make a donation to that one because it has the same name as the food pantry in my hometown. The food pantry is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I called to see if I could get any other information, but those were the only times they were available, so I just mailed in my donation with a note.

So it was nice to have a relatively quiet weekend that only involved a couple short trips in the car, yet I got my donations and walking done, which is a good thing, because there was no shortage of good food – I think I was a little piggy!  And then I just wanted to curl up in a comfy chair and read a good book, which I haven’t had time for since I left – that will be something I can look forward to when my journey is over. It was a good weekend.


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Pierre to Beresford

South Dakota – Friday, October 25

Pierre is the capital of South Dakota, and I always enjoy walking around state capitol buildings and their grounds. And Pierre had a nice traditional Capitol building, landscaped grounds, statues and memorials, and even a small lake on the grounds. There’s also a flaming fountain, but there was no flame today.  Tula and I also walked through an adjoining neighborhood, so we covered almost 2 1/2 miles in that part of town. Then I headed down to the river front and walked along the Missouri River again – covering another mile and a half back in Lewis and Clark country! I do enjoy my river walks.

Since I made 2 donations yesterday, I did not make one today. My goal tonight was to get to my dad’s house in Beresford, which is in the southeast corner of the state, so I started heading east. I stopped in the town of Chamberlain for another mile and a half of walking, then I continued east toward Mitchell.  Mitchell’s claim to fame is the Corn Palace – whatever people might think of the place, it does have some pretty amazing pictures made entirely out of different colors of corn on the cob. The cobs are cut in half length-wise so they can be nailed into the artwork, and the designers use 12 different colors of corn. They are very creative, and the artwork decorates both the  inside and outside of the Corn Palace. It is redecorated with a new theme every year. Although mostly corn is used in the artwork, they also sometimes use grasses, rye, milo and sour dock (whatever that is.)

Once I was finished in Mitchell, I spent a couple more hours in the van, driving through wide open prairie in twilight until I made it to Beresford, where I enjoyed visiting a bit with my dad and his wife Joan before calling it a day.


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Mt. Rushmore and Indian Charity

South Dakota – Thursday, October 24

I was close to Mt. Rushmore since I ended up in Rapid City last night so I decided to backtrack just a little so I could pay a visit. I stopped in the touristy town of Keystone on my way, and Tula and I got out for a short walk. There were all kinds of billboards on the approach to town – Pan for Gold! Cave Tours! Chuckwagon Supper and Show! Gold Mines! Zip-Line! Black Hills Gold! Reptile Gardens! Ice Cream! It’s almost too much to look at. Yet when I got to town it was nearly abandoned since this is the off-season. Only a few of the shops were open on the faux-western boardwalk. Tula and I finished our walk and then drove the rest of the way to Mt. Rushmore. I’ve been there several times before and the first glimpse always kind of takes one’s breath away. The enormity of the sculpture and the choice of presidents makes this such a classic American place to visit – I wouldn’t want to meet the person who didn’t feel patriotic while visiting! I was thankful for the lack of crowds, easy parking, and good views without having to look over the heads of hundreds of people. I walked as much as I could and saw the faces from many different angles. I decided to make a donation here for a couple reasons – the first one was that it’s such an American place to visit. The second reason was because of what I’ve learned and seen of the 4 presidents on my journey. George Washington – I’ve walked in his footsteps in Virginia and Massachusetts and other places – I’ve seen his field tent and mess kit, and seen at least one of the old inns he stayed in, and walked on at least one of the battlefields he fought on. Abraham Lincoln – I’ve walked through the house he lived in before he became president (and touched the same banister he had) and have seen his burial site and the Lincoln Memorial. Thomas Jefferson – he had a vision of national transportation and I’ve driven on part of the old National Highway that he proposed even before there were cars – an old stagecoach “highway”. And Theodore Roosevelt – his love of being outdoors and preserving special lands in national parks. They’ve all been a part of my journey so I made a donation (which will help preserve the monument for future generations) and hope to come back again some day.

I got some buffalo stew from the cafeteria and then headed east toward the Badlands. But I stopped in Wall along the way. I got my free ice water (which they’ve been passing out since the 1930s or so) and took a short walk through the town and into the old shops. The big indoor space is taken up by lots of little shops, and as I was walking along I suddenly noticed a Traveler’s Chapel – a narrow chapel right between 2 souvenir shops. I poked my head in and was surprised to see stained glass windows up over the altar and along the upper side windows. There was room for one row of 10-12 pews and it was just kind of a surprise to see this little peaceful refuge in among all the commercialism. As I was walking out, a medium sized wooden box caught my eye – it said Indian Charity for Needy Children on it. Above the box was a nice thank-you note from a children’s home, and even though I had already made a donation today, I was happy to make another Native American donation.

Then I finished the drive to the Badlands, and got to the visitor center shortly before they closed. But the park itself is open 24 hours a day. I went out on 3 of the shorter walks and admired the amazing, foreign-looking landscape. The colors of the rocks were so varied, and with the setting sun and all the shadows, it was definitely not a place that one would want to get lost in! Tula couldn’t go on any of the trails I was on, so after the sun was down and the light was fading, I thought I would just get her out for a walk along the road in the park – pets were allowed anywhere cars could go, and there was hardly anyone out and about. The evening was beautiful for a walk down the road between all the rock formations. Tula seemed to be enjoying the walk, so we just walked and walked. I was walking west where I could still see a little color in the sky, but it got dark enough that I knew I had to turn back. And what a difference when I turned around. When I was walking west, the rock formations all had crisp, clean black silhouettes against the night sky, and when I turned around and headed east, they were all gray and ghostly and blended in with the night sky. I kept looking back and forth between the 2 different views and wondered if I was in 2 different places. I loved that evening walk in the Badlands, and then just stood for a while gazing at all the stars – the Milky Way was clear as could be. It also got colder by the minute with the sun down.

After 5 miles of walking I was ready to sit in the van for a while, and I drove up to Pierre before stopping for the night.

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Wild Horse Sanctuary

South Dakota – Wednesday, October 23

Tula and I started our day with a 3 mile walk in Hot Springs so that I could see the springs by daylight. We walked along the river on the Freedom Trail for a while first, then followed it right into town, where the hot water falls down from the rocks. There are 170 springs in this area, and a soak in the warm waters was supposed to cure all sorts of ailments. So this became a resort town, and huge hotels and bath houses were built out of the local sandstone. There is still at least one bath house building in town. While I was out walking, I saw someone fill a couple bottles with warm water right from the spring. I felt the water and it was warm, but not nearly as hot as the spring waters in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Hot Springs is also a paleontological site – mammoth bones were found in a sinkhole in 1974, and research and excavations are still going on.

Once I had seen everything I wanted to in Hot Springs, I headed south a bit to the Wild Horse Sanctuary in southwest South Dakota. There are several areas around here where movies have been filmed and I passed a sign pointing out one of the locations for the movie Hidalgo. And there were more turkeys around too. The Wild Horse Sanctuary is home to over 600 horses and they have 11,000 acres of prairies, rock canyons and rivers to roam around in. There is a herd of Spanish mustangs, and the DNA for the stallion of that herd has been traced back to the Spanish conquistador horses. They’re beautiful – buckskins, bays, blacks, grullas – all my favorite horse colors! There is also an American herd which includes a lot of pintos, and they’re kept separate from the Spanish horses. The Wild Horse Sanctuary also has a handful of Choctaw Indian ponies – there are not many of them left, and none of those are for sale. I actually saw both herds on the drive into the visitor center. Back in 2006 when South Dakota was my “state-of-the-year” we visited this sanctuary and took one of the tours out to see the horses. I wasn’t planning on doing that today, and was happy to see lots of the horses when I drove in. As a longtime horse lover, I wanted to make a donation to the Wild Horse Sanctuary. Even though these horses are wild, they get supplemental hay in the winter, and there are other expenses as well. They also sell some foals, yearlings and 2-yr-olds to help cover expenses. The lady I met at the visitor center was nice to talk to. She told me they had been spared the heavy snows that had blanketed the area a short time ago a little further north. This is their quiet time of year, and she was happy to get a donation.

After I left the sanctuary, I started to head north toward Custer. The road I was on went right through Wind Cave National Park and I decided to stop and do some walking on the Wind Cave Canyon Trail. It had been a while since I’d been able to stop at a national park! I covered over 3 1/2 miles on the trail – and I’m sure parts of the Wind Cave were under my feet. I saw a lone buffalo right at the end of my walk on the next hill over – I always like seeing them. I saw more buffalo as I continued through the national park, including one who decided to cross the road right in front of me.

From there I drove through part of Custer State Park and saw some antelope. When I got to town, Tula and I got out for a short walk through the middle of town. Custer was another old mining town and is now kind of a tourist town, and since the summer season is over, things were pretty quiet. I passed the original old jail (although it had been moved) and there was a sign on it saying the builder of the jail was its first occupant – he became drunk and disorderly on the money he got to build the jail! On the way to Hill City I drove past the Crazy Horse memorial, and my photo is a little blurry but I added it anyway. In Hill City Tula and I walked another mile and a half in the fading daylight. It was another old mining town, and the old shops were all connected with wooden sidewalks. Altogether I walked 10 1/2 miles today, which helped make up a bit for my shortfall yesterday. I drove into Rapid City and called it a day.

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Hot Springs, SD Food Pantry

Colorado and South Dakota – Tuesday, October 22

Before I could leave Colorado, I had to finish off 3 1/2 miles of walking, and Fort Collins was a good place to do that. There was a historic downtown area and fun neighborhoods to walk through. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and since I was out of the mountains at lower elevations there were still trees turning color, and leaves to walk through. It was a little hard to believe I’d been driving in snow yesterday!

Tula and I walked over an hour and finished off the walking, and then the state of Colorado was done. I had walked a little more than 56 miles and made all 7 donations: Brew unto Others-Coffee with a Cause; Livestrong Cancer Foundation; Walk Across America support; Fishers Peak Soup Kitchen; Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity; Air Force Academy; and Pikes Peak-America’s Mountain.

Then it was time to get in the car and head for State #53 – South Dakota! But to get there from Colorado, I had to drive through the southeast part of Wyoming. So we were in the car for several hours driving through about 220 miles in Wyoming. It was early evening by the time I crossed into the southwest corner of South Dakota, and I came to the small town of Edgemont, where Tula and I did our first mile of South Dakota walking. There were a lot of deer and turkeys in this town. Then I headed on to Hot Springs which was the first big town I came to. Last night I had done some donation research, and I saw there was a food pantry in Hot Springs that was open on Tuesdays, and I also read something else that had caught my eye. Their website had a link to a story and when I read through that, I was astonished to see that Cindy, the director of the food pantry in Mukwonago, Wisconsin had recently been in town, and had made a very big donation to the food pantry. I had met Cindy back in Wisconsin when I stopped by to make a donation to her food pantry – it was my first donation in Wisconsin. And I never expected to see her name here in South Dakota! It turns out she had come to Hot Springs to visit her daughter who was on a big mammoth dig in the area, and had decided to make a donation to a food pantry outside of her area! So I wanted to make a donation there also because of the connection with the Mukwonago food pantry. I had called them this morning, and the lady I spoke with said the food pantry would be open til 3, and I had told her if I didn’t make it, I would mail in the donation since the food pantry wouldn’t be open again til Thursday. It was way past 3:00 when I got into town, so I mailed the donation in with a note.

Tula and I walked a mile and a half through town by the light of streetlamps, and along the river where some of the hot springs water continuously pour in. We continued walking while waiting for my Chinese food, and then we settled into the motel. I was only able to walk 2 1/2 miles in South Dakota today, since I had spent a lot of time driving through Wyoming, and finishing up my Colorado walking. But the miles will get made up!

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Ski Towns and Too Much Snow

Colorado – Monday, October 21

Last night was a rare night in which I didn’t sleep well. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with a pretty bad headache (and I rarely get headaches) and eventually had to get up and take an ibuprofen. Then I couldn’t seem to go back to sleep, but it was too early to get up and I didn’t feel quite right. I eventually dozed off for a while, and then got up to face the day. I felt better as I was moving around, and then it occurred to me to look up symptoms of altitude sickness. And they matched exactly – including the headache that gets worse at night. I felt fine yesterday while walking all 10 miles at high altitudes, but it caught up with me last night. Since I was feeling okay, I headed out for some walking in the town of Frisco. I knew I wouldn’t be walking at altitudes quite as high as yesterday, so I hoped things would be okay. I walked a couple miles in Frisco, then 2 1/2 more in Breckenridge. Both towns are ski towns, and were fun to walk through. I could see all the ski runs on the mountains by Breckenridge, and there were lots of people out and about shopping.

Then I drove along a very scenic road that made its roundabout way through more snowy mountains. I climbed up and over a couple more mountain passes, and could see snow swirling around some of the peaks. I drove through some small towns, and eventually made my way to the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. I finally got to the visitor center on the west side, and was surprised to see only one volunteer in the building. She told me the road was only open 10 miles into the park, and then it was closed due to heavy snows up in the higher elevations. She showed me a photo taken that morning of the visitor center on the east side, and the snow was so deep it was already up to the eaves of the visitor center. So the park was impassable. And that changed my plans – I was simply going to drive the 50 or so miles through the park, and go on through Estes Park, and then come down out of the mountains. But since that was no longer possible, I had to backtrack. My choices were either to go back the way I came, or head farther north to get through the mountains. In the end, that didn’t seem like a good idea – I would be going through passes when it was almost dark, and that part of the mountain range could be too snowy too. So I backtracked.

Once again I didn’t have to make a donation in Colorado since they were all done.

As I was backtracking, I stopped in the town of Grand Lake, which is the highest natural lake in Colorado. Grand Lake looked like an old west town with wooden walkways and old wooden buildings. Tula and I walked a mile and a half through the main street and down by the lake. We passed a life-size scarecrow sitting on a bench, and Tula thought it was a real person and went up to greet it – haha! Then I drove on a bit more and stopped in the town of Granby to cover another mile before dark. I had a little more mountain driving to do in the fading twilight, and I just loved the snowy icy mountains that loomed over me in the very last of the light – they seemed so solid and timeless. I felt like a little speck of nothing compared to their mighty majesty.

Once I was out of the mountains, I had to circle around through the outskirts of Denver, putting on more miles than I had intended to today because of all the snow in Rocky Mountain National Park. I drove north of Denver to Fort Collins, where I stopped for the night. I got in pretty late, but at least I got to the city I’d been planning on if I’d been able to drive through the national park. And I had enjoyed a lot of snowy mountains along the way!

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