It was fun to take a little trip away from home, to somewhere new.
Pipestone National Monument is a smaller National Park site.
According to the National Park Service (http://www.nps.gov/pipe/index.htm), "For countless generations, American Indians have quarried the red pipestone at this site. These grounds are sacred because the pipestone quarried here is carved into pipes used for prayer. Many believe that the pipe's smoke carries one's prayer to the Great Spirit. The traditions of quarrying and pipemaking continue here today."
There is a loop trail, about .75 miles long, just outside the visitor center.
The day we went, it was VERY hot.
We got to see some of the rock quarries, but, understandably, no one was gathering any stone that day.
There is some virgin native prairie within the monument area, as well as restored prairie and oak savanna.
Only 1-2% of the native tallgrass prairie that would have been found in the Midwest in the past still exists today.
As we walked the trail, I carried with me a booklet and pencil.
I answered questions in the booklet about the things I learned so I could become a Junior Ranger.
I learned that the pipestone is made from mud and is very soft, making it great for carving.
The scientific name for pipestone is catlinite, and it is a rare type of rock.
The pipestone is red in color because it contains a lot of ferric oxide (or rusted iron).
A sign at the visitor center actually warned us to not walk around outside if there was lightning in the area because the rocks attract the lightning.
Thankfully, it was just blue skies with only a few clouds as far as we could see.
The pipestone in this area is found among quartzite.
I also learned that quartzite is a hard rock, formed from sandstone under a lot of pressure and high temperatures.
The booklet asked me to describe my favorite part of trail.
It was definitely the part where I got to investigate and climb over big rocks.
I kept wanting to pick flowers and collect stones from the side of the trail, but Mom explained to me that we had to leave those things for other people visiting the site to enjoy.
For a small site, there was a lot to learn.
And I would recommend a visit, even if it's a little bit out of the way.
The rangers were incredibly nice and helpful.
Unfortunately, the park has been hit hard by recent budget cuts.
To read more about this site, check out a post on the National Parks Traveler blog.
Hopefully, someday I'll have another chance to visit this site again.