Bear Butte State Park ~ Sturgis, South Dakota

Every Tuesday afternoon during pastors conference, pastors and their families are given the opportunity to go out and explore the area. This year, we opted to drive out to Bear Butte State Park, with the goal of climbing to the top of the Butte.

You must pay the state park fee to enter, although there is no one manning a station. It’s simply an envelope payment box where you receive the sticker that goes in your car. From there it’s short drive up the road to the parking lot and education center.

We did not stop in the education center but rather took right to the trail. They have a small outdoor bathroom at the trailhead and some signs giving your information about Bear Butte, which actually is a mountain when you compare the two definitions. This should have been our first sign we maybe weren’t going to make it to the top!

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In the photo above Bear Butte is the peak off to the left. The trail started out as pretty packed down gravel, and then got more narrow as we climbed higher.

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Along the way, you can see lots of interesting rock formations. This is kind of the start of the Black Hills if you are coming from the north!

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We were very winded by the time we reached the peak to the right of Bear Butte. From there we had great views of the hills and the lake area of the park that is across the road from where we were. That section has a trail that goes around the lake and is where the campground is located. You can see from the view on the right that the hills haven’t even really started in that area!

At this point our trackers indicated we had only gone about half the distance on the trail and we were already exhausted as we clearly were not in as great of shape as we thought! Turns our walking 5 miles a day around your flat town does not get you ready for a 2 mile uphill hike! We decided to cut our losses, take a picture from the top of this peak with Bear Butte’s peak in the background and head back down!

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We enjoyed our hike, but realized we need to be in far better shape to make it all the way to the top the next time we attempt to visit. It also was incredibly windy up there, so come prepared with that knowledge!

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Texas Bucket List~ Big Bend Country Region

It’s here, the final installment in the Texas Bucket List. This is probably the area of Texas I most want to visit as I’ve heard some amazing things about the Big Bend National and State Park areas.

Balmorhea

  • Balmorhea State Park: Home to the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool.

Big Bend National Park Area

  • Big Bend National Park: Park known for some of the best stargazing in the nation.
  • Study Butte: Chance to explore an area where mercury was discovered.

El Paso

  • Chamizal National Memorial: Area along the Rio Grande that was a long standing border dispute.
  • El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center: After taking a class that allowed me to study the Holocaust while studying abroad in Europe for a month, I’d be curious to see what this museum has to offer.
  • Mount Cristo Rey: The point where Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico meet.
  • National Border Patrol Museum and Memorial Library: Tells the history of the U.S. border patrol.
  • Wyler Aerial Tramway: From a mile high, you can view two states and Mexico.

Fort Davis

  • Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center: Provides hiking trails and gardens that teach about this desert region.
  • Davis Mountains State Park: Most extensive mountain range fully contained in Texas.

Fort Stockton

  • Paisano Pete: The world’s largest roadrunner.

Marfa

  • Marfa Mystery Lights Viewing Center: These lights discovered long ago still defy explanation.

Midland

  • George W. Bush Childhood Home: Visit the fully restored home of the 43rd president.
  • Haley Libary and History Center: Home to the original Alamo Mission Bell.
  • Permian Basin Petroleum Museum: Takes visitors on an interactive search for oil.

Monahans

  • Monahans Sandhills State Park: Allows you to “surf” the sand dunes.

Odessa

  • George H.W. Bush Home: Home where President Bush and Barbara spent their first years in Texas.
  • Odessa Meteor Crater and Museum: 2nd largest crater in the nation.
  • The Presidential Archives and Leadership Library: Dedicated to the office of president, this museum shows the historic journey of our nation’s leaders.
  • Stonehenge Replica: If you can’t cross the ocean to see the real thing, visit this replica.
  • World’s Largest Jackrabbit: We love quirky roadside oddities like this.

Pine Springs

  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park: Park offers 4 of the state’s highest peaks with lots of hiking trails.

Presidio

  • Big Bend Ranch State Park: I’ve heard that this state park located near Big Bend National Park is actually more picturesque than the National Park.

Sanderson

  • Cactus Capitol Hiking Trail: Self guided hiking and nature trail.

All attractions found in the 2018 Texas Travel Guide.

Texas Bucket List ~ Panhandle Plains Region

Our second to last Texas Bucket List takes us to the Panhandle of Texas.

Abilene

  • Abilene State Park: Features a historic water tower.
  • National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature: Kid lit is my favorite, so this is a must!

Amarillo

  • Cadillac Ranch: The famous Cadillacs stuck in the dirt to form art.

Canyon

  • Palo Duro Canyon State Park: Referred to “the Grand Canyon of Texas.”

Cisco

  • Hilton Museum: The hotel that became the first in the Hilton chain.

Clarendon

  • Bar H Dude Ranch: Ranch that offers chuck wagon meals.

Eastland

  • “Old Rip” The Horned Toad: Old Rip survived in the courthouse cornerstone for several years.
  • Post Office Mural: Shows the history of the post office.

Fritch

  • Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument: This area provided materials for prehistoric people.
  • Lake Meredith National Recreation Area: Area also features canyons.

Littlefield

  • Replica of World’s Tallest Windmill: Rebuilt after the largest was blown down.

Lubbock

  • American Wind Power Center: Museum features the largest windmill collection in the world.

Mineral Wells

  • Famous Mineral Water Company: Only company that still bottles deep-well mineral water.
  • National Vietnam War Museum: Site reflects on the Vietnam War.

Muleshoe

  • National Mule Memorial: Memorial to the unsung beasts.

MClean

  • Devil’s Rope and Route 66 Museum: View large collection of barbed wire artifacts.

Pampa

  • The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: 190 ft cross located along I-40.

San Angelo

  • International Waterlily Collection: Premiere collection of waterlilies.

Shamrock

  • U-Drop-Inn: Building was an inspiration for Disney-Pixar’s Cars.

Vega

  • Magnolia Station: Restored station was one of the first along Route 66.

Wichita Falls

  • The Littlest Skyscraper: People claim that the architect presented plans in square inches instead of square feet.
  • Wee-Chi-Tah Sculpture: Sculpture depicting the “waist-deep” water of the river.
  • Wichita Falls Waterfall: 54 foot waterfall that replaced the original falls washed away in the flood.

All attractions found in the 2018 Texas Travel Guide.

Texas Bucket List ~ Texas Hill Country Region

This next installment in the Texas Bucket List Series takes us to the Hill Country and home to the state capitol of Texas, Austin.

Austin

  • Congress Avenue Bridge: Known for its bats that fly out from under the bridge as dusk approaches.
  • Bullock Texas State History Museum: State history museums usually give a nice overview of a state’s history.
  • LBJ Presidential Library: Museum dedicated to the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • McKinney Falls State Park: Allows you to swim beneath the falls.
  • Mount Bonnell: Overlooks Lake Austin and gives skyline views.
  • State Capitol Complex: Visit the capitol building of Texas.

Concan

  • Frio Bat Cave: Houses one of the largest populations of Mexican free-tailed bats.

Dripping Springs

  • Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve: Sinkhole formation with waterfall.
  • Texas Hill Country Olive Company: Guided tours of the mill and olive orchards.

Fredericksburg

  • Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Huge pink granite dome.
  • Fort Martin Scott: Site of the first federal frontier fort in Texas.
  • Luckenbach: Town made popular by the country/western song.
  • National Museum of the Pacific War: Tells the story of the Pacific Theater during WWII.
  • Wildseed Farms: Largest working wildflower farm.

Johnson City

  • Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park: Park visitor center is headquartered here.
  • Pedernales Falls State Park: Park features many waterfalls.

Kerrville

  • “The Coming King” Sculpture Garden: 80 foot tall steel cross along I-10.

Lampasas

  • Hancock Springs Pool: Only sulphur springs pool still open to the public.

Marble Falls

  • Krause Springs: Includes a spring fed swimming pool.

Mason

  • M. Beven Eckert Memorial Library: Statue of Old Yeller is located outside.

Menard

  • Fort McKavett State Historic Site: Most intact example of a Texas Indian Wars military post.

Round Rock

  • Chisholm Trail Crossing Park: Plaques depict the history of the Chisholm Trail in the Round Rock area.

San Marcos

  • LBJ Museum of San Marcos: Museum focuses on LBJ’s formative years and college experiences.
  • Wonder World: View an earthquake-formed cave.

San Saba

  • Colorado Bend State Park: Features a 65 foot waterfall.

Stonewall

  • LBJ Ranch: Part of LBJ National Historical Park, this was a place where national decisions were made.

All attractions found in the 2018 Texas Travel Guide.

Texas Bucket List ~ South Texas Plains

Following the longer list of Tuesday, today we scale back the list size a bit and visit the plains region that includes the major city of San Antonio.

Alice

  • South Texas Museum: Museum that focuses on this region of Texas.

Eagle Pass

  • Fort Duncan: Fort Duncan was used as a Civil War post for the Confederacy.

Goliad

  • Presidio La Bahia: This fort shows an example of a complete Spanish presidio.

Mercedes

  • Botas de Mercedes: 25 boot sculptures can be found throughout town.

Mission

  • National Butterfly Center: Houses thousands of plants needed for butterfly and caterpillar growth.

San Antonio

  • The Alamo: The most famous Texas mission.
  • Battle for Texas the Experience: Interactive exhibit to experience the battle of the Alamo.
  • Brackenridge Park: Beautiful park that features a Japanese Garden.
  • La Villita: The little village brings the feel of Old San Antonio.
  • Market Square: Largest indoor market outside of Mexico.
  • River Walk: The popular Riverwalk is lined with many shops and restaurants.
  • San Antonio Missions National Historical Park: Park that features four colonial missions.
  • The Texas Star Trail: Downtown walking tour that leads to 80 historical sites.
  • Tower of the Americas: Offers a birds-eye view of the city.

Weslaco

  • Banderas de Weslaco: United States flags are displayed in the order that they entered the Union.
  • Estero Llano Grande State Park: Park features many hiking trails and observation decks.

All attractions found in the 2018 Texas Travel Guide.

Texas Bucket List ~ Prairies and Lakes Region

Phew! This is a super long list for the bucket list series, due in large part to the major cities of Dallas/Fort Worth being located within this region.

Addison

  • Mary Kay Museum: Come see the museum that has all the history behind this famous cosmetic company.

Arlington

  • AT & T Stadium: Home of the Dallas Cowboys.
  • International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame: Interactive museum that features the history of bowling.

Bastrop

  • Dinosaur Park: Features life-size dinosaur exhibits.

Bowie

  • Chisholm Trail Memorial Park: Park that pay tribute to the famous cattle drive trail.

Brenham

  • Blue Bell Creameries: Visitor center allows visitors to see how Blue Bell ice cream is made.

Bryan-College Station

  • George Bush Presidential Library and Museum: Museum and final resting place of the 41st president.

Burton

  • Texas Cotton Gin Museum: This is the oldest operating cotton gin in the United States.

Cleburne

  • Chisholm Trail Museum: Outdoor museum focused on the Texas cattle drive.

Dallas

  • Dallas World Aquarium: I love aquariums!
  • Dallas Zoo: Right up there with aquariums in my book!
  • Texas Discovery Gardens: Interactive gardens that include a scent garden and waterfall.
  • Hall of State: Celebrates the history of Texas
  • George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum: Museum dedicated to the 43rd president of the United States.
  • John F. Kennedy Memorial: Marks the spot where JFK was assassinated.
  • Nasher Sculpture Center: Considered to be one of the best collections of 20th century sculpture in the world.
  • Pioneer Plaza: Features the world’s largest bronze monument.
  • Reunion Tower: 50-story tower that features an observation deck.
  • The Sixth Floor Museum: Museum dedicated to the life and death of JFK.
  • Thanks-giving Square: Unique inter-faith chapel.

Denison

  • Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site: Birthplace of President Dwight Eisenhower.

Denton

  • Little Chapel in the Woods: Small chapel that blends in with nature.

Dublin

  • Dublin Bottling Works and Old Doc’s Soda Shop: Bottling works the bottle “Dublin Dr. Pepper.”

Eagle Lake

  • Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge: Home to the endangered Attwater Prairie Chicken.

Fort Worth

  • American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum: Museum dedicated to the “father of American Airlines.”
  • Fort Worth Zoo: Offers natural habitat exhibits.
  • Stockyards National Historic District: Give you the feel of the Old West.
  • Tandy Leather Museum and Gallery: Showcases leatherwork.
  • Water Gardens: Urban plaza with plenty of water features.

Frisco

  • National Videogame Museum: Learn about the evolution of video games.

Giddings

  • Stuermer Store: This store has been restored as a saloon with soda fountain.

Glen Rose

  • Dinosaur Valley State Park: Park that offers dinosaur footprints!
  • “The Promise”: Musical drama that re-enacts the life of Jesus.

Gonzales

  • Gonzales Memorial Museum: Monument honors those who fought the first battle of the Texas revolution.

Grapevine

  • Grapevine Glockenspiel: Shows the confrontation of two would be train robbers.

Groesbeck

  • Old Fort Parker: Old historical fort with quite a history!

Hearne

  • Camp Hearne: Prisoner of War camp during WWII.

Independence

  • Old Baylor Park/Ruins of Old Baylor University: Site of Old Baylor University.

Killeen

  • November 5th Memorial: Honors those who died in the Fort Hood shooting.

La Grange

  • Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center: Includes a replica Czech village.

Luling

  • Texas BBQ Trail: Gives tips on where to find great Texas BBQ.

Paris

  • Eiffel Tower Replica: If you can’t make it to Paris, France, I suppose this is the next best thing!

San Felipe

  • Stephen F. Austin State Park: Park resides in the moss draped bottoms of the Brazos River.

Seguin

  • Pape’s Pecan House and Nutcracker Museum: While I’m not a nut eater myself, I’d go just to see all the unique nutcrackers.

Sulphur Springs

  • Southwest Dairy Center: Center tells the story of the dairy industry.

Waco

  • Cameron Park Zoo: Small zoo that features an Asian Forest.
  • Dr. Pepper Museum: Museum is housed in the original bottling plant.
  • Lake Waco Wetlands: Offers many nature trails.
  • Magnolia Market: Market owned by “Fixer Upper” starts Chip and Jo.
  • Waco Mammoth National Monument: Monument that allows visitors to explore mammoth fossils.
  • Waco Suspension Bridge: Oldest suspension bridge in Texas.

Washington

  • Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site: Site where Texas declared independence from Mexico.
  • Star of the Republic Museum: Located within the above state historic site, this museum details the history of the Texas Republic.

All attractions found in the 2018 Texas Travel Guide.

 

Texas Bucket List ~ Piney Woods Region

Moving into our next Texas region, this region seems less typical of how Texas is imagine as it focuses on the wooded area of Texas.

Alto

  • Caddo Mounds State Historic Site: Site features old earth mounds.

Conroe

  • Lone Star Monument and Historic Flag Park: Claims to be the birthplace of the Lone Star flag.

Hemphill

  • Patricia Huffman Smith NASA¬† Museum “Remembering Columbia”: Features the story of space exploration and all the flights the Columbia had.

Huntsville

  • Sam Houston Memorial Museum Complex: Features 8 historic buildings dealing with Sam Houston’s life.
  • Sam Houston Statue and Visitor Center: Tribute to the great Sam Houston.

Jacksonville

  • Love’s Lookout Park: This park boasts a 35 mile view.

Jefferson

  • Caddo Lake State Park: This is the state’s only natural lake.

Kilgore

  • World’s Richest Acre Park: The greatest concentration of oil wells once lived on this acre.

Kountze

  • Big Thicket National Preserve: Many ecosystems are preserved in this 15 unit park.

Lufkin

  • Texas Forestry Museum: Living up to the Piney Woods region, this museum focuses on the sawmill and paper mill industries of the area.

Pittsburg

  • Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Center and Museum-Ezekiel Airship: A replica of an airship based on the Biblical book of Ezekiel resides here.
  • Witness Park and Prayer Tower: Peaceful park that displays a statue of Jesus washing Peter’s feet.

Rusk

  • Footbridge Garden Park: Home to one of the nation’s longest footbridges.

Tyler

  • Camp Ford Historical Park: Once a POW camp for Union soldiers during the Civil War.

All attractions found in the 2018 Texas Travel Guide.

Texas Bucket List ~ Gulf Coast Region

I have briefly visited Texas twice, but neither time feels like it counts. Once was in the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport for a layover and the other was while visiting Texarkana on the Texas/Arkansas border to give us the opportunity to claim we stood in both states at the same time.

Texas is a huge state, which means even when divided up into regions, these regional bucket lists get quite long! But here’s the first featuring the Gulf Coast.

Aransas Pass

  • Lydia Ann Lighthouse: Lighthouses are one of our favorite things to visit!

Baytown

  • Lynchburg Ferry: This is a historic ferry that allows you to visit the San Jacinto Monument.

Beaumont

  • Gator Country Adventure Park: Texas’ only Alligator theme park that provides hands on experiences.
  • Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum: Come see a representation of the boomtown era.
  • Texas Energy Museum: Museum that highlights the oil industry.

Brazosport Area

  • Sea Center Texas: This is a small marine hatchery and aquarium.

Brownsville

  • Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park: This battlefield site was part of the Mexican War.

Corpus Christi

  • Padre Island National Seashore: One of the United States’ last natural seashores.
  • Texas State Aquarium: This aquarium offers hands on experiences with sharks and stingrays.
  • USS Lexington Museum on the Bay: This museum has interactive battle stations to help teach about WWII.
  • Voyage: A Journey Through our Solar System: Scale model of the solar system that you can walk.

Crystal Beach

  • Fort Travis Seashore Park: This fort sustained heavy damage in the hurricane of 1900.

Galveston

  • Galveston Island State Park: Great way to explore the beaches of Galveston.
  • Moody Gardens: Home to an aquarium and rain forest pyramid.
  • Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum: This facility features offshore oil and gas production.
  • Texas Seaport Museum: Allows you to explore the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa.

Houston

  • Downtown Aquarium: This aquarium gives you a train ride through a shark tank.
  • The Health Museum: Museum that allows you to “tour” the human body. Anyone else reminded of Magic School Bus?
  • NRG Park: Home to the NFL Houston Texans.
  • Space Center Houston: Experience behind the scenes tours of the space center.
  • Tranquility Park: Commemorates Apollo flights.

La Porte

  • San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site: The battle fought here secured independence from Mexico.

Port Aransas

  • Mustang Island State Park: This place boasts one of the best places to see marine life including sea turtles!

Port Isabel

  • Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site: This is the only lighthouse on the Texas Coast open to the public.

Port Lavaca

  • Half Moon Reef Lighthouse: After being damaged in a hurricane it was condemned and moved to it’s current location.

Rockport-Fulton

  • Texas Maritime Museum: Features the maritime heritage Texas.
  • Zachary Taylor Park: Park nearby the island where Gen. Zachary Taylor placed the flag claiming Texas as the 28th state.

Victoria

  • Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail: This trail features 8 barbecue joints around the city.
  • Fossati’s Delicatessen: This is the oldest deli in Texas.

West Columbia

  • The Capitol of Texas Park: The park has 21 historical monuments the depict the time from the Battle of San Jacinto until the capitol moved to Houston.

All attractions found in the 2018 Texas Travel Guide.

Southern Tour Day 8: Natchitoches, Texarkana, Hope

Day 8 of our Southern Tour was filled with lots of time in the car! After spending the night in Natchitoches, we went out to Cane River Creole National Historical Park and got to walk through the grounds of an old plantation. It was already quite hot and muggy so we didn’t spend long, but it was easy to think about what life would have been like on the plantation. I especially enjoyed the set up of the plantation store.

After that it was back in the car and on our way to the next state on our trip…or should I say states? The town of Texarkana lies right on the border of Arkansas and Texas. We ate lunch on the Arkansas side at one of our more favorite southern fast food joints, Whataburger. Then it was down the main drag to the Post Office where you can get our of your car and straddle the border. We weren’t the only crazy tourists who stopped to do that! There also is a nice plaque dedicated to John F. Kennedy who spent some time campaigning in Texarkana.

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After that we hopped back in the car and continued our trek into Arkansas. Our next stop was Hope, Arkansas: Birthplace of President Bill Clinton. We had only anticipated being able to stop in the visitor center seeing as how there had been a fire in the house earlier in the year and hadn’t been giving out tours while it was being restored, but when we walked in they asked if we would like one! We were pleased to learn that they had restarted tours just a few days before! As chance would have it, just like the tours at Abe Lincolns house in Springfield, IL and Grant’s home in St. Louis, we had the tour to ourselves. It was very interesting to learn about Bill’s life as a young boy, living with his grandparents, and having been taught the values of integration early on in his life. Clinton is the first president I really remember being in office during my lifetime but I felt like I learned so much more in this little town called Hope.

It was late afternoon by the time we left Hope, but our journey for the day was not quite complete. We had one more hour to drive to reach our destination of Hot Springs. We were eagerly anticipated our natural hot springs spa experience the next day after all our time in the car.