Visiting the Tremp Valley in the Spanish Pyrenees

Tremp, Lleida, Spain

While I was in Spain I decided to visit my friends sister who lives in the Tremp Valley in the Spanish Pyrenees, as I had heard that they lived in a stunning area and it just happened to be on the route I was taking to Andorra. 3 years previously they moved from the UK and set up a business in Spain. Continue reading

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A day trip to Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

After I had visited Arches National Park, the next day I decided to visit Canyonlands National Park.  It was the 31st National Park when it was established in September 1964.

I had been staying in Moab and so it was only a 35 minute drive to the park.  The entrance fee for this park is $25 but I had my annual pass bought for $80, worth the fee if you are visiting a few parks.

There are two parts of the park which are not joined and I decided to see the area near Moab which is the Island in the Sky (this is also covers the largest area).  I firstly stopped at the visitors centre to get my map and find out what there is to see in the area. I only had till mid afternoon to explore, as after this I was driving down to Williams where I would be based to see the Grand Canyon.  This was a 400 mile drive which would take around 6 and a half hours!! Luckily Arizona is an hour behind Utah so I had an extra hour to see the park!!

My first stop was Shafer Canyon Overlook, here you can park up and walk out onto the rock and see the view of the Canyon, it is an amazing view from here and one that made my instantly fall in love with this park.

Shafer Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

Shafer Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

I could have stayed here forever looking at this view, it’s stunning.  From near here you can also see the Shafer Trail road, this is a road where you will need a 4×4 and can actually drive into the canyon.  Once down there, there are lots of trails that you can do from 1 day to over a week.  There are also various campgrounds along the trail, though you will need to take your own water in with you.

Next I drove to Upheaval Dome, here it is a 1 mile hike to the first viewpoint, with the option of another mile hike to the second viewpoint.  It’s quite uneven ground but there is a path to follow and not too tough of a hike.

Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

They believe that Upheaval dome is an eroded impact crater caused by the impact of a meteorite somewhere around 60 million years ago.  The white rock in the centre that has been pushed up into a dome certainly stands out against the redness of the rock everywhere else in the surrounding area.

There are quite a few hikes in this area, you can go around the crater, into the crater and down into the canyon to the river.

Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

From here I got back in the car and drove the short distance to Whale Rock.  It gets its name from the huge white sandstone it is made from and looking at it from a distance it looks like a whale.  You can climb to the top, from the car park it is about 1 mile, though for some people it might be quite tough and some bits you need to use your hands and bum.  The views from the top though are amazing, you can see the surrounding valley and as I was here alone, I decided to take a break and read my kindle and have a snack for a short time.

Whale Rock, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA Whale Rock, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

I then continued driving back towards Green River but on the way saw the view of Holeman Spring Canyon and decided to stop at the overlook.  From the car park you can walk right up to the edge and see right into the canyon.  I decided to stop here and sit down and have lunch and just stare at the views.  Just breath taking and I was lucky that there was a rock at the right height to get a pic!!  Near here there is also a trail that leads down into the canyon.

Buck Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

After having my lunch and admiring the view I got in the car to continue on to Green River Overlook.  The view from here down into the canyon is amazing.  It is different to the Grand Canyon but still as amazing.  You could also see cars driving the White Rim Road and they looked like little dots

Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

Next i drove the 6 miles down to the Grand View Point Overlook, here you can do up to a 2 mile hike along the canyon rim.  The views are amazing and I decided to do this, it’s an easy walk but be careful as in a lot of places there is nothing to stop you falling over the edge and down into the valley.  It is certainly worth taking the time to do though.

Grand View Point Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

Finally I visited what probably makes the park most famous, Mesa Arch.  This is actually only 6 miles from the visitors centre, but I was told that the lighting would be better later in the day so I decided to visit on my way out.  Many people visit at sunrise to get the shot of the sun coming through the arch, when I visited in the afternoon luckily there were only a few people there.  The view looking down into Buck Canyon is amazing.

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

It’s a short half mile round trip from the car park, though the ground is quite uneven.  It is stunning though and worth the visit and one of the highlights of the park.

After this it was back in the car for the 400 mile drive to Williams, where I would stay for the evening before heading to the Grand Canyon the next day.

To see everything I saw you need around 5 or 6 hours at the park, but you could easily spend a full day there or shorter if you decided against doing some of the hikes.  For more information on the park or the different hikes, click here.

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Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada, USA

While I was visiting Death Valley, I was told at the Amargosa Opera House & Hotel where I was staying that I had to go and visit Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

It is a 15 minute drive from Death Valley Junction where I was staying and 20 minutes from the I95. If you are heading to Death Valley by the entrance at Furnace Creek then you will pass Ash Meadows, so it’s worth having a stop for an hour or longer. What else is great is that it does not cost to enter.

There is a visitor centre there with exhibits and a video you can watch on Ash Meadows and from the visitors centre you can also access the Crystal Springs Boardwalk which is what I did.

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada, USA

I was there at the end of September and temperatures were still in the high 30’s so despite the walk only being a mile you still need to carry water with you and put sun cream on too.

The crystal springs are beautiful and where I saw the most wildlife, it also produces 2,800 gallons of water a minute. The wetlands when I was there were pretty dry as it was the end of summer but in the winter the area can become very flooded.

Crystal Springs, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada, USAAsh Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada, USA

Ash Meadows was established in June 1984 and is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It is 23,000 acres of spring fed wetlands and has 26 endemic species.  With only 3 inches of rain a year it is reliant on the water from the springs.

There are also 2 other boardwalks that you are able to visit, Kings Spring & Point of Rocks Boardwalk and Longstreet Spring & Cabin Boardwalk, they are 0.5 miles and 0.2 miles, so nice easy walks.  I also visited Horseshoe Marsh as I drove around the Crystal Loop road.  There are a few roads to drive along to see various parts of the park.  Despite the distances not being large it can take a while as the roads are all gravel tracks.

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada, USA Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada, USA

It is a great little park to visit, probably the best time to visit is in spring and autumn rather than summer as especially in spring there will be more plants to see.  During summer the animals tend to keep away or hidden during the day due to the heat.  The best time to visit in summer is in the morning as the hottest part of the day here is actually late afternoon!!

Have you ever visited Ash Meadows or visited the area? Let me know.

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If you are heading to Death Valley then it's worth a stop at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, USA

 

 

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Top Things to do in South Dakota

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, USA

I visited South Dakota to see a friend but ended up seeing some amazing places.  A few I had heard of previously but had no idea they were in South Dakota.  It’s a great state with lots to see.

Watertown

Lake Kampeska, Watertown, South Dakota

On my 2 month trip around the US, I decided to visit South Dakota to visit a friend I had met in Patagonia to see him and his wife.  He lived in Watertown, a small city in the East of South Dakota.  Luckily the greyhound bus made a stop here at a gas station out of town and so I got dropped off there before Bipin picked me up.

The first night Bipin and his wife Surekha took me to see Lake Kampeska which is quite near there house.  It’s a great lake for taking a walk or cycling around.  Though it is 13.5 miles around it.

Lake Kampeska, Watertown, South Dakota

The next day Surekha took me to Yoga, the first time I had ever tried.  I didn’t understand the whole breathing part but it felt good to have a good stretch.  After we had lunch before going to the Redlin Art Centre.  Terry Redlin was born in Watertown and is one of America’s most popular wildlife artists.  The centre contains most of his artwork.  It is free to visit and I really enjoyed seeing his paintings.

Redlin Art Center Watertown, South Dakota

Thanks Bipin for the pic and for letting me stay with you and Surekha, I had a great few days.  That evening we went to their friend’s for a meal and the next morning, I left to carry on my trip to Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

Sioux Falls is the biggest city in the state of South Dakota and the city was originally settled around the falls which is in the centre of the town.  The falls are beautiful and are lit up at night too.  There is also a 16 mile bike trail along the river.

Rapid City

After my visit to Sioux Falls I got the bus to my next stop in Rapid City. I arrived about 6pm and found that the local bus service finishes at 5.30pm and so I had to walk the 2 miles to my hotel.  Unfortunately there were no hostels in Rapid City but I did manage to get a cheap hotel/motel that had a pool!!

The next morning I then had a short walk to go pick up my car from the rental company before I headed off for the day.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, USA

I had previously seen Mount Rushmore in films and once I found out that it was in South Dakota, I knew I had to visit.  As I had just picked up a rental car in Rapid City it only took me 35 mins to drive out.  The entrance is free but it costs $10 to park.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park, South Dakota, USA

Custer State Park was one of my favourite parks in the US, but maybe that’s because it was the first time I had seen Bison, it is a great park, with a lot of wildlife.  It’s about a 40 minute drive from Rapid City or as I did it, a 45 minute drive from Mount Rushmore.  It costs $20 per vehicle into the park and this is valid for 7 days.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota USA

Crazy Horse Memorial is still a work in progress.  They began work on it in 1948 and there is no finish date as all work is funded by donations or the fees from visitors.  It costs $11 per person and an extra $4 to take the shuttle for a closer look.  Though being able to get right up to the face of Crazy Horse will set you back about $125.  On a evening there is a laser show, which is well worth staying to watch if you visit late afternoon.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

Badlands National Park is located about an hours drive east of Rapid City.  It’s a great park to visit and see the way the landscape has been shaped over the years.  The mountains have been eroded by water over time and further on in the park is a prairie.  It costs $20 per vehicle or if you are visiting a few national parks then worth investing in the $80 annual pass as I did.

Is there any other places you have visited in South Dakota, you think should be on the list? If so, let me know.

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A day trip to Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USAWhile I was in South Dakota, I decided that I had to visit Badlands National Park.  I ended up falling in love with the US National Parks on this trip and ended up seeing 10 and changing my plans.  They are well set up, with such helpful staff to advise you the best things to see and do in the time you have there.

I had just visited Sioux Falls and got the greyhound bus across to Rapid City.  I had wanted to rent a car and drive but it was going to cost an extra $900 to pick the car up in Sioux Falls and drop it off in Rapid City!!  To rent it in Rapid City for 2 days was less than $100.

My first day in Rapid City, I visited Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park and Crazy Horse Memorial and the second day I decided to visit Badlands National Park.

Badlands National Park is around 60 miles from Rapid City back towards Sioux Fall, so it takes about an hour to drive and I entered at the Pinnacles entrance as it was the nearest to Rapid City.  It costs $20 per vehicle to enter the park, though if you are planning to visit a few of the parks it might be worth buying the annual pass for $80 which is what I did.  Visiting 10 parks on this trip I certainly saved a lot of money!!

It was originally declared a National Monument on 4 March 1929, before becoming the 39th National Park in November 1978.  It covers an area of 242,756 acres with a large grass prairie and rocks eroded over time to create pinnacles and spires.

For 11,000 years this area was used by the native americans to hunt.  The prairie’s were home to many animals with the views from the higher rocks making it an ideal hunting ground.

The area is also popular with fossil hunters, with fossils from 77 species being found in the White River which flows through the park.

I decided first to drive part of the Sage Creek Rim Road to see the views, it is a gravel track so you are unable to drive fast along it, but it’s worth doing part of it to see your first views of the park.  The road is 25.5 miles but I only did the first 4 miles to see these views.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

I then decided to drive along the Badlands Loop Road, it is 22 miles long and winds through the park and takes you to the Northeast entrance where the visitors centre is located.

The views along this road are amazing and there are quite a few overlooks and viewpoints to stop at to admire the views through the valley.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

The colouring of the different layers of rock is stunning to see as you drive through the valley.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

Once you get near the visitors centre there are also a few trails that you can walk, with the castle trail being the longest.  Unfortunately as I had to be back in Rapid City to catch a bus to Bozeman for the next part of my trip, I never had time to do any of the walks.

There are quite a few nice boardwalk walks that are short, the Window Trail, Door Trail, Notch Trail and you also walk down into the prairie.

You could easily spend a full day exploring Badlands National Park but if you are short of time then it would take you half a day to do the trip I did.

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A visit to Custer State Park, South Dakota, USA









Custer State Park, South Dakota, USA

As I was in Rapid City I decided to see Custer State Park, that morning I had visited Mount Rushmore and after I decided to head straight for Custer State Park.

It was South Dakota’s first state park and is the largest it has.  It was named after Lt Colonel George Armstrong Custer, who I had learned about at school, who had fought and died in the Battle of Little Bighorn and one of a few places in the US named after him, though it is a few hundred miles away from where he died in the battle. Continue reading

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Castles to visit in Luxembourg

There are over 50 castles to visit in Luxembourg, so if castles are your thing then you have a lot of choice.  Some of them have been restored and others are just ruins.  Here are the 9 castles I visited when I was in Luxembourg.

Vianden Castle

Vianden Castle Luxembourg

Vianden Castle is probably the most popular castle in Luxembourg and visited by thousands of people every year.  Continue reading

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Luxembourg City in 1 day

When I booked Luxembourg I thought I would need 2 days to see the city, but I was wrong, to see everything within the city you only need 1 day unless you intend to visit a few of the museums.  There are also trips which can be done outside the city to Echternach for hiking and Vianden to see the castle, which can be done by bus or car.  I spent a total of 5 days in Luxembourg but you could see most things in 2 or 3 days.

I flew in from England to Luxembourg city, a small airport and stayed at the Hostelling International Youth Hostel in the city, its a great location and only about a 10 minute walk to the centre of town.  From the airport you get the number 16 bus to Hamilius stop which is 5 minutes walk from the Place d’Armes and 15 minutes walk from the hostel. Continue reading

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Luxembourg in 1, 2 or 3 days

Luxembourg City

Luxembourg is a very small country, only 51 miles long by 35 miles wide and you can see a lot in 1, 2 or 3 days.

I spent a total of 5 days in Luxembourg and one of those days I did a day trip to Germany as I had allocated 2 days to see Luxembourg City but unless you are planning on visiting a few museums then only 1 day is needed.

Here is my intinerary and what I would recommend if you only have a few days in the country.

Day 1

Luxembourg City Luxembourg City

I would recommend if you have only 1 day in the country, then to spend that day exploring Luxembourg City, it is a beautiful city and one I fell in love with in minutes.

You can visit the Bock Casemates, walk the Chemin de la Corniche, see the old town, visit a fort, there are also lots of museums to visit too.

Day 2

Trier Germany Trier Germany

As I had seen everything I wanted to see in Luxembourg city within a day, I asked the hostel what I could do for the day and they suggested exploring Trier.  It is just across the border in Germany and is the oldest city in Germany.  It is very beautiful and if you have an extra day then well worth a visit.  It is only 50 minutes by train from Luxembourg City and the town is easily seen in a day.  The most famous things to see are Porta Nigra and the Market Square.

Day 3

Bourscheid Castle

I picked up a car from the airport and decided to have a day visiting castles.  My first castle was Bourscheid Castle, built in 1095 and partly restored but mainly ruins.  It costs 5 Euros and includes an audio guide.

Clervaux Castle

I then drove up to Clervaux in the north of the country and walked around the bottom of the castle before hiking to the top of hill to see the Abbey.  The castle holds 3 museums which you can visit or you can just walk up to the castle and into the courtyard as I did.  There is a church near the castle but the Abbey is at the top of the hill behind the church and is about a 15 minute walk.  It is well worth the walk up to see.

Wiltz Castle

I then made my way south to Wiltz and to see the castle. The castle is now the National Museum of Brewing, but you are able to walk into the courtyard and around the grounds.

Esch-Sur-Sure Castle

My favourite of the day was Esch-Sur-Sure, because of the view from the opposite hill.  I parked the car and then walked up to the ruins on top of the hill in the middle of the town.  The castle was built in the 13th century and there are only ruins left.  If you climb the hill on the opposite side and follow the path, you get a great view of the town and of the ruins.

Day 4

Mullerthal Trail Luxembourg Mullerthal Trail Luxembourg

I decided that I wanted to see a bit of the country and do some hiking, so I decided to do part of the Mullerthal trail.  It is split into 3 routes, all around 37/38km long, but you are able to do part of them too and get the bus back to Echternach.  I hiked about 22km from Echternach to Hersberg and caught the bus back.  It was a beautiful walk, though tough in places and after 22km I was ready to call it a day.  As I had finished around 5.30pm, I decided to have dinner in Echternach, see the cathedral and have an ice cream before heading back to my hostel.  As I arrived back in Bourglinster while it was still light I decided to go and explore Bourglinster Castle.  This is now a restaurant, but you are still able to walk around the grounds and into the courtyard.

Day 5

Vianden Castle, Luxembourg

This was my final day with the car and so I decided to see the rest of the castles I had missed.  I had deliberately left the castle everyone had said I must see if there was only 1 castle I would see in Luxembourg and that is Vianden Castle.  The castle is beautiful and has been well restored and costs 7 Euros to visit, I also decided to get the audio guide at 2 Euros and it was worth it, to find out more history of the castle.  The town too is so beautiful and lovely to walk through.  There is a ski lift up the mountain, though you can easily walk from the castle in about 20 minutes to the café at the top.

Beaufort Castle Luxembourg

I then drove to Beaufort Castle, here you can walk around the ruins of the castle built in the 11th century.  The renaissance castle next to it can be visited but only on a private tour at certain times of the week and must be booked in advance.

Larochette Castle Luxembourg

My final castle of the day was Larochette, another ruin built originally in the 11th century.  It is only a ten minute walk from the town and worth a visit.  It was then back to the airport to drop off the car before heading back to Luxembourg City for my final night.

If you only have 1 day in Luxembourg

If you only have 1 day in Luxembourg then, Luxembourg City is a must see.  There is enough to keep you busy for the day.

2 days in Luxembourg

If you have 2 days then on your second day I would say you must visit Vianden. It is possible to get the bus to Vianden from Luxembourg City.  If you have a car then you could also visit some of the other castles I have mentioned in the same day.

3 days in Luxembourg

If you have 3 days then for the extra day I would do a hike. There are so many to choose from in different areas of the country but the most popular are around Echternach.  It is possible to get the bus from Luxembourg City to Echternach and do either part of the Mullernthal trail or do the E1 trail which is 12km long and starts and finishes in Echternach.

If you are not into hiking then I would you could either go see some more castles or go to Trier in Germany for the day, it is a beautiful city.

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Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota USA

Before I visited South Dakota I had never heard of the Crazy Horse Memorial, but as I was researching what to do when I got to Rapid City I read about this place in a guide.

I knew about Crazy Horse and Lt Colonel Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn as we had studied it in history at school, so I was intrigued to actually be in the area near to where this famous battle had occurred and to go visit the memorial to Crazy Horse.

Crazy Horse was born in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1842 and was a native american.  He fought against the US Government who were taking the land and changing the way of life of the native american people.

He is one of the most famous native americans and helped lead the assault against Custer leading to Custer’s death in 1876.  He has honoured by the US Postal Service and appeared on a stamp in 1982.

Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA

In 1939 Korczak Ziolkowski was asked to carve a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse which eventually began in 1948.  Korczak worked mainly on this own, until his death in 1982 when his wife Ruth took over the project, changing the focus to finishing Crazy Horse’s face so the visitors would be able to see this from the visitors centre.  6 of his children and some grandchildren now run the project.  There is no completion date known as it all depends on the number of visitors and how much money they get in as to how much work can be done on the mountain.  I was told maybe 2050, maybe later!!

I arrived at the memorial late afternoon and went straight to the information desk to find out what there was to do. At that time I had no idea that the memorial itself is so far away from the visitors centre or that it costs to see it closer.  I also did not realise that it is not funded by the government and is a non profit foundation as Korczak wished that no federal or state funds would ever be accepted to create the memorial.

The cost of entry is $11 per person or $28 for a car with more than 2 people.  If you want to see it closer there are 2 options.  The cheapest is $4 and you can get a bus from the visitors centre for a 25 minute round trip, where you get out and see a closer view.  The picture below is the closest you get from the $4 trip, but well worth doing as you get an idea of how big it is actually going to be and you can get a good view of the face head on.

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota USA

Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA

Unfortunately on this trip you can’t get too close as it is a live working site and sometimes you can hear them doing detonations depending on the day you visit.

The 2nd option you can actually go and visit the head and face of Crazy Horse and get a close up picture, this trip though does cost $125 and needs to be booked in advance.  I have seen pictures of people stood by the face and this is when you realise just how big it actually is as the people are tiny!!  I really wanted to go do this, but as a backpacker I just couldn’t justify the cost.

It is the worlds largest mountain carving and just the head of Crazy Horse is 27 feet taller than a head at Mount Rushmore which are 60 feet high.  Once it’s finished it will be 563 feet high and 641 feet wide and it’s something I would love to see as it will look amazing carved into the rock.

After the bus tour, I then went into the visitors centre where I watched the orientation film on the history of the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is worth watching as it shows how Korczak came to live on the site and had his 10 children there, how he had to drag everything up the mountain to do blasts, to carve the rock all on his own, sometimes with the help of his children and how much it has changed now.  They now have a team of explosive experts that they can afford to employ run by Korczak’s son and his daughter runs the restaurant.

After watching the film I then went out onto the viewing veranda and watched a traditional native performance while seeing the memorial in the background.

Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA

I then had a walk around the museum and shops before stopping in the restaurant for dinner.  The food is reasonably priced and as I wanted to stay for the laser light show it made sense to sit in the restaurant looking out at the memorial until it the show started.

After dinner I went and got my spot on the viewing terrace, despite it being summer it still dropped cold on a night, so you would want a jumper!!

The show then commenced and it was great, a history of the native americans, worth seeing if you are in the area and visiting crazy horse.  At one point you can see exactly how the memorial will look when it’s completed.

Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA

After the show it was then back in the car for the drive back to Rapid City.

Crazy Horse was one of my favourite places to visit on this trip to South Dakota and I did prefer it to Mount Rushmore, it is a lot bigger and a lot more impressive.  The history behind it, of one man doing so much of it on his own, the fact that all the money used to create it has not come from any government or state funding but through donations or visitors to the site and it’s a memorial to a native american who was trying to keep his lands and way of life.

If you are in the area then it’s a great place to visit, and hopefully one day I will get to go back and see it when it’s finished.

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Read about my trip to Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota, USA. It's a memorial to a native American, trying to keep his lands and way of life.

 

 

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