Day 36 – June 11, 2015

Written by Nathanael Whisonant and Nicholas Whisonant

Damien at Custer State Park

We wake up at a campground in Custer, SD. We eat breakfast and leave for the day. First we go to the national museum of woodcarving.

My mom and dad go into the museum and come back to the car and said that the four older kids could get out. Ends up that just dad, Ryon, Alex, and I (Nathanael) get out. We go in and pay for us.

First we watch a movie about the woodcarving at the museum. It was very good. Then we go and look at the wood carving. Some of carvings could move and talk, others couldn’t. The carvings were awesome. After we looked at the carvings, we met a man who worked there and does handmade carvings. We talked with him and he showed us some really cool and funny carvings. One of the cool things was he took his belt and a wood tobacco pipe, he put the belt over the top of the pipe-shaped wood and put the pipe on my finger. You know what, it balanced on my finger. It was awesome. After that we went and saw a few people using little electric tools to make wooden birds. Finally we go into the gift shop and look around. They had some very good looking carvings and we ended up getting a cribbage board which is beautiful. If any of you ever go to Custer, I highly recommend going there.   (By Nathanael)

At the National Woodcarving Museum

At the National Woodcarving Museum

Then we went to the Mammoth Site. It was amazing. We learned that there were two different kinds of species, the Wooly and Columbian Mammoths. The Columbian was 4.3 meters high and the Wooly was 3.4 meters high. One of their predators was the Giant Short-Faced Bear. He could take out a Columbian. The Giant Short-Faced Bear could, if it stood on its hind legs and strained its arms, reach 15ft 4in tall, about to the shoulder of a Columbian mammoth. There was first a sinkhole, then it turned into a hot spring. The mammoths liked to get into the pool because it was warm, but once they got in they never got out because they drowned. However, their bones were preserved in it. Eventually the hot spring filled in and became a hill so the bones were preserved. Years later a man bought the land to build some apartments. The hill needed to be flattened. So when they were working on it a bulldozer turned over some bones and the owner immediately stopped work and sold it at cost to an archeologist who began to excavate the fossils. Eventually it became the Mammoth Site. I highly recommend it. As a matter of fact the sink hole is still being worked in. If you go there you might be able to see them work in it. Make sure you go in the summer or it is highly unlikely that you will see them working in it because in the winter they work in the lab on the artifacts and fossils found during the dig in the summer. (By Nicholas)

Our family at the Mammoth Site

Skeleton of Giant Short-Faced Bear

Skeleton of Giant Short-Faced Bear

After leaving the Mammoth Site, we drove into Custer State Park and took some of the wildlife loop. This is a very large state park with long scenic drives. We saw elk and what I believe was a Yellow-Bellied Marmot along with mule deer and bison. I never thought it would be possible to not be excited about seeing a bison, but we sure have seen a lot of them in the past several parks. It is encouraging to see so many as we all know how close to extinction they became. I still love to try to get into areas in these parks where I can’t even see the road and just imagine what it was like for the Native Americans, trappers, pioneers, etc. when they first arrived in these parts and all the natural beauty that they saw.

Yellow-Bellied Marmot?

Yellow-Bellied Marmot?

Prairie Dog - I had to work to get this good of a picture

Prairie Dog – I had to work to get this good of a picture

The West is so full of National Parks, that it has caused me to wonder why we have so few National Parks in the East. Yes, I know that we do have some, and some people may argue that there isn’t such unusual beauty in the East, but I am beginning to think that much of the very natural beauty in the East was already gone way before the idea of National Parks began. A good bit of the East was settled long before National Parks were born. Many of the old-wood forests were already gone – the really huge Live Oak trees had already been cut for being made into ship masts and such. It is disappointing that so much of the beauty of the East is commercialized and/or privatized. You can’t easily go to many natural beaches in the Carolinas and just enjoy the natural beauty. I wish I could though. It would be nice to be able to have a glimpse of what settlers would have seen when they first came to the Carolina coasts – not just huge hotels or lots of houses with throngs of people covering the beaches. I guess for now I will just have to use my imagination (or pay a lot of money to travel to someplace like Cumberland Island, GA – at least I think it costs a pretty penny; I could be wrong). Fortunately, I can still find a good deal of beauty in the Carolinas, and I love to go drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway – what a blessing that place is!




7 thoughts on “Day 36 – June 11, 2015

  1. Can’t wait for a cribbage game on your new cribbage board. Let’s make a date! Can’t wait to see you soon.

    Aunt Kristy


  2. Nathaniel – Well done! The pictures of some of those carving are incredibly detailed. Did you have a favorite? I’m really glad you got to see this. I’ve been to a few ‘off the path’ museums/attractions. They tend to stand out and really make you appreciate people’s unique talents. I’m interested to see this cribbage board, as I am not well versed in the game.

    Nicholas – Again, very informative! I did not know about the multiple species of mammoths. Were you able to see the dig site and speak to any of the archeologist/workers? I just found a website this week where you can go on scientific ‘vacations’ all over the world and work with scientist on archeological sites in Italy, penguin studies in Patagonia, climate change in the artic, and exploring volcanos in Nicaragua (to name just a few). Maybe one day, we could team up and volunteer together at one of these.

    Rebecca – One of my favorite representations of South Carolina ‘beauty’ is 2443 Harmony Rd. It has not garnered national park status (yet), but I’m optimistic (one can dream 😉 ). Living out west has afforded me some incredible opportunities of traversing some beautiful landscapes (Zion being my latest craze). However, I still find myself daydreaming of walking the trail, whittling by the creek and stargazing in the field on a winter night. Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side (especially since CA is in a terrible drought).

    Love you all!


  3. Good photo of Damien! I did not know that SD had trees! I thought that it was bare hills, etc. Did anyone note and identify the purple wildflower off Damien’s left shoulder?

    Nicholas and Nathanael: Another excellent job on the blog! What kinds of wood do the wood cravers use? Do they use local trees? I didn’t know about the two species of mammoths either. Did they both live at the same time in SD? If you form a volunteer team on a scientific study please count me in!

    I was not familiar with the yellow-bellied marmot and had to look it up but I believe that you are dead on. I would have called it simply a wood chuck. Interestingly it whistles to alert its colony to danger and is sometimes called a “whistle pig”.

    Rebecca, you are correct of course about the beauty of our country and I am very glad that you all are getting to experience it. I firmly believe that the ability to be awed by and to truly appreciate God’s beautiful creation is truly a great grace from Him and in particular if we are able to see the beauty of his creation in each and every person that we meet.

    I don’t know about 2443 Harmony Road meeting national park status but it is for sale if Uncle Sam wants it. I believe that you are right Rebecca about national parks in the east. Unfortunately, it was settled and the large tracts of land broken up before someone (Teddy Roosevelt??) thought of the idea.

    Looking forward to the next blog!!

    Be safe!! Love.


  4. I meant to include in the blog that Lia is spending the weekend with us. We went to 7:30 mass this AM as usual. Angela Martin is our cantor and Jermaine Evans played the organ. Lia went up to Anglea and asked if she could sing with her and she did. Had her own microphone and joined right in. Did a great job. She has a lot more nerve than I do.



  5. I loved your pictures of the Badlands. We didn’t have enough time to visit SD properly. What a blessing that you can and that you’re sharing your experience.

    I’m with you on the National Park issue. When I was in Arkansas in April, my (native) Arkansasian friend said that the entire state was basically logged in the late 1890s-1900s!!! She said that every tree worth taking was “took”. Then the logging companies moved on to Oregon! Therefore, there’s hardly a tree to be found in Arkansas that’s over 100 years old.

    Also, when you go to Charles Town Landing, SC, you learn that Woodland Bison roamed all over SC, NC, when the first white folk arrived! who would believe that now. I don’t have a solution to the situation. But certainly as Christians we’re called to stewardship of the beautiful Earth God has given us. I think that “giving your chidren their country”, like you’re doing is critical in building knowledge about the treasures of nature that form America. And, what you love you cherish and protect. Sooooo, kudos to Rebecca and Charlie for traipsing across the country with 10 kids.

    I pray you have a continued safe and joyful trip.


  6. New topic! Good thing the country was in an ice age when the mammoth roamed the land! The First Americans couldn’t have had a freezer big enough to store all that meat!

    I love the carvings…so detailed. Now you guys have an activity to do while driving: learn to carve. I’m not sure about knives in a moving car, on 2nd thought! Haha!


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