Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day Five

An overexposed shot of a WPA dam at our campground.
Many years ago, Matt and I took a capade to Pipestone. He had just taught me how to change the spark plugs on my car, and we were going to take it out for a spin to make sure it was running OK. I was dating someone else at the time and was about a month away from leaving for Russia. We drove from Minneapolis to Pipestone, spent the night (platonically), toured the national monument the next morning and then drove home. We look back on it now as the first road trip we ever took together.

Walking through Pipestone National Monument
Day Five started off with a tour of Pipestone National Monument. It has changed a lot since Matt and I were there, although we were there in the middle of a snowstorm in December, so of course it looked very different in June. The National Park Service has also made some changes at the park, and has spent the last decade or so overhauling the interpretive center and updating policies within the park.

Pipestone is a kind of rock that American Indian tribes have long used to make ceremonial pipes. It is one of the softest rocks, and it found beneath a layer of one of the hardest rocks. There are many quarries within the monument boundaries, and only members of recognized tribes can quarry there, as long as they've applied for a permit. While we were there we saw some people quarrying by hand.

The waterfall inside the monument
There is a beautiful trail throughout the park area that goes through some empty quarry spots past a nice little waterfall. It's a peaceful place with a lot of historic and cultural interest. A pipestone artist was working while we were there as well.

We had a lot of driving through corn fields and wind turbine fields after that. The next spot we hit was the Jeffers Petroglyphs. This is another place I would like to go back to and spend more time at. It's a huge piece of rock jutting out of the prairie, where tribes have been passing through for 10,000 years and leaving their marks. I took about 40 pictures of different petroglyphs -- hands, thunderbirds, shapes, turtles, atlatls, buffalos and other shapes. Most remarkable to me was a human face and a perfect circle.
The petroglyph site from the air

 Some of the information from the tour guide and at the interpretive center seemed vague and speculative, until I realized that was because no one is really sure of the spot's history for several reasons. It goes back 10,000 years, and so a wide variety of cultures have come through there and the spot has meant different things to different people. Was it a place of worship? A map? A message board? The tour guide told us that they have talked to many different tribes and while many of them have cultural memories of this place, it is different for every one. It is in a lonely area, but has had so much human activity. I'd love to go back.

John tries to master the atlatl. He did not eat that night.
After that, we had to race across the bottom of Minnesota to get to our campsite in Albert Lea. Matt and I still hadn't had a burger and beer like we wanted, and Albert Lea is not the place for that, either. Instead we ended up with pizza and a pitcher of Miller Lite. Which has its place, but it wasn't what we wanted. We camped at Myre/Big Island State Park, for our last night of camping.

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