Written by Nathanael Whisonant and Nicholas Whisonant
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)
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)
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.
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!