July 17, 2013

Home again, home again, jiggety-jog

Leon didn't know he needed to make a stop at Wall Drug, but I did. They proclaim to have as many as 20,000 visitors a day and from what we saw I believe it.

We like the story we read while having a donut for lunch and a 5 cent cup of coffee. A pharmacist bought the little drug store in Wall in 1931 and didn't have too much success until his wife put up signs along the highway for free ice water. It was a hot trip across the plains and people began to stop for water. The business now covers an entire block and has tourist items, restaurants, places for kids to play, an art collection and old photos, and free ice water.

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD is just one of those corny things you don't to miss. After watching the video I now know it was built in 1892 strictly to attract tourists and does it ever! The current one was built in 1921. It amazes me that they replace the outside murals every year with corn that it takes 100 acres to grow. It is actually a multipurpose arena that seats 3,000.

Dusk found us watching the lights come on at the Sioux Falls in where else but Sioux Falls, SD. The rushing waters, or laughing waters as the Indians called them, were a peaceful ending to a long but rewarding day. Walmart welcomed us for the evening.

A morning trip to Minnesota finally allowed me to check off one more state for geocaching. It wasn't easy finding micros with the phone when the coordinates are off and the signals weak but we persevered. Next stop was Iowa and then a quick detour into Kansas and I now have done a cache in 48 states. Leon is pleased to have been in 49 states after we swooped into Nebraska just for the occasion. It has been a glorious two months on the road. Nothing like catching a cold to want to be home so we zipped right along.

The Black Hills

We had a beautiful drive through the Black Hill National Forest and did a double take when we drove through Hill City. It is a tiny town of less than 1,000, but there was barely a parking space left on the Main Street. After we got a camping spot at Oreville we made the five mile drive back to hang out at the Mangy Moose and listen to the music while we watched the traffic go by. Some of the sculptures in this town intrigue me. 

Oreville was a most suitable spot but Mt. Rushmore is high on Leon's list. An early morning drive to Crazy Horse allowed us to go down to the parking lot and take our pictures before the crowd arrived. Then we doubled back and headed straight to Mt. Rushmore and were pleased that they opened before 8. We enjoyed ourselves tremendously.

On our .6 miles walk over to the sculptor's cabin we were delighted to spot this mountain goat in our path. 

We took countless pictures from every angle. The morning sun was perfect.

I liked learning more about the carving was done. This is one of the original casts. They would measure with a plumb bob hanging from the top of the head and then multiply by twelve.

We returned to level 6 on the parking deck where we were the only ones parked except for maybe 100 Trans Ams on a beer run from Nebraska to Coors in Colorado. They were getting ready to continue their bandit run (Smoky and the Bandit) and we got out just ahead of them. 

A drive through the forest and tunnels and around the pigtail bridges led us to Custer State Park. Soon we spotted some bighorn sheep feeding alongside the road. Their horns weren't that big but they will grow.

We took the wildlife tour enjoying the beauty of the open pastureland and Ponderosa pines. It is a shame what devastation the pine beetle has caused to so many trees. Why there is a pronghorn.

 Soon we arrived at the traffic jam.

We had bison overload before we left Yellowstone and here the entire herd was crossing the road at their own pace.

Eventually the traffic moved and we headed east. It is time to go to the house. 

July 15, 2013

Spearfish to North Dakota and back

We finally ran into some rain in Spearfish but not before we set up camp and had a nice dinner at the busy city park campground. We were parked on the grass in the shade alongside Spearfish Creek with perhaps 100 motorcyclists and their tents. It seemed they had a rally at the park and all left quickly on Sunday morning. The town in the northern Black Hills gets its name from when the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians speared fish in the creek.

It would have saved a lot of time and gas had I picked up a geocache when I was in North Dakota in 2003. I had no idea a goal would be to geocache in every state at that time, but I only lack three states now. At least the ride up from Spearfish is on a dotted road.

It is also Leon's first time to step foot in the state. We would stay and play but it just isn't on the agenda this week. He has three states to have seen all but Alaska.

In Buffalo there is a lovely Centennial Park which was erected to commemorate 100 years.

The famous rodeo horse Tipperary came from Buffalo and a bronze statue pays tribute to him.

The Crow Buttes, further south, intrigued us with the story of how the Sioux and Crow fought there in 1822. The Sioux had raided a Crow camp and raped the women so the Crow took them to a safe place and went to the hills to have a better vantage point with the Sioux in pursuit. The problem was that they did not have enough water for the dry period so the Sioux just encircled the buttes and waited for the Crow to die of thirst and starvation. Then the Sioux themselves died from diseases they caught from the Sioux.

We went to Deadwood for a couple of hours although it was a misty day and returned to Spearfish.The next morning was beautiful with clear skies and south we went from the Spearfish Walmart down the Spearfish Canyon Road for a pleasant two mile (rt) hike to Roughlock Falls. We were not disappointed. The drive down Spearfish Canyon itself is peaceful and lovely. Much of the movie Dances with Wolves was filmed in the canyon.

White and pinks to purples seemed to be the flower colors for the day while we hiked the trail among the aspens, birch, and Ponderosa pine alongside the creek in the canyon.

We continued on around the loop to Lead and Deadwood.

July 13, 2013

Them thar hills

We decided a rainy day should not deter our exploration and enjoyed a stroll through Deadwood, the historic mining town that has become a gaming destination. Gambling began with the 1876 gold rush and was eliminated in 1947. In 1989 voters decided to open casinos in Deadwood and the proceeds helped benefit the restoration of the town. We arrived just in time for a shootout. Wild Bill Hickok was in town for only a month when he was shot during a poker game.

All buildings in the downtown area conform to authentic 1800s architecture and the entire area is a historic landmark resembling much of the way it looked in the 1880s. It is hard to know what is authentic or restored but if it saved the architecture and brought tourists then perhaps it is a good thing.

There is only one Main Street in what was once Deadwood Gulch, named for the dead trees lying on the hillsides. The homes cling to the sides of the canyon.

Mt. Moriah Cemetery is perhaps the best known cemetery around due to the graves of Calamity Jane, whose dying wish was to be buried next to Hickok, Wild Bill Hickok, Potato Creek Johnny, Preacher Smith , and others who were part of Deadwood's interesting past. Hickok's grave was actually moved from an older cemetery and in 2002 this bronze statue was dedicated as part of a 3 million dollar cemetery restoration. It is a beautiful cemetery high on a hill. I have never before paid $1 to visit a cemetery.

Pronounced Leed, Lead is a mile high town three miles from Deadwood, with a mining history, the town's chief industry. The tunnels and shafts of the Homestake Mining Company extend more than a mile under the town. Before 1945 48 million tons of ore and waste were removed from this open pit mine.

Central City lies between Lead and Deadwood and there appears to have been no restoration there. I soon was driving up the steep streets many of which ended with the word gulch. This looks like a fixer upper church.

The red building up this gulch is what caught my eye and led me up the hill and then I couldn't find it. No wonder! It was on Hidden Gulch.

Enough of this loop. It was time to go south towards Mt. Rushmore.

Devils Tower

Leon only had three specific things on his list that he wanted to see on our sojourn and today we visited one. The man who was sent to confirm reports of gold in the Black Hills in 1875 named the towering laccoliths that the Indians called Bear Lodge.

The Indian legend was that a boy and his seven sisters were playing when a bear appeared where he was so the sisters ran to the stump of a great tree. As they climbed the tree it rose into the air but the bear scored the bark all around with his claws. The sisters became the stars of the Big Dipper.

The tower rises 867 feet and covers 1.5 acres at the top. We enjoyed a 1.3 mile walk on the asphalt path around the base. The small plants that grew among the boulders at the base provided some color.

Several folks were climbing it as about 5,000 do each year. What! You don't see the orange shirt about half way up? A ranger a few days ago set a record by climbing to the top in 17 minutes.

The Tower became a meeting place for the area ranchers in 1896 and they still convene for Old Settlers Day on Father's Day.Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed it the first national monument in 1906. Black-tailed prairie dogs live near the entrance to the monument.

Since it was early afternoon we decided not to camp there in their campgrounds. What if the aliens landed! The 91 degree temperature may have influenced that also. As we were leaving I spotted this deer trying to escape all the tourists.

July 12, 2013

Cowboy up

The theme of the rodeo in Sheridan this year was cowboys and Indians and the Indians were quite well represented. Slack rodeo in the mornings was a good time to avoid the crowds. I have always adored the Budweiser Clydesdales and spent some time in their stable area. Chip seemed to have the run of the place.

The Clydesdales were treated like royalty by their keepers. Bath time coming up.  This girl is 5'10" so you can imagine how tall this horse is.

Then they get walked around the area for exercise and visiting. This group came from Ft. Collins, Co. Another group is on the east coast and one in St. Louis.

In the meantime Chip rested for his evening performance, and perform they did. The Clydesdales could turn that beer wagon on a dime. It was late for my camera to pick up the action.

On Thursday night everyone lines their chairs up for Friday's parade. What a sight to see. That is my yellow chair at the end. I say do like the locals do. 

After a visit to the YMCA we enjoyed the pancake breakfast and the bed parade. These were the winners of the fast paced bed race where someone lay on the bed while the guys raced down the street.

The rodeo parade followed and what a parade it was including cowboys, Indians, the 7th Cavalry Drum and Bugle Corps, lots of floats and kids and horses.

Following the parade the powwow took place with a large group from Yakima, Washington and a group from the Crow Nation in Montana. I visited with some of the Crows. They all seemed so friendly.

This ribbon dancer was graceful and elegant. The last dance invites anyone to join in.

The 7th Cavalry Drum and Bugle Corps is a favorite in the town and we saw them perform at the Vaudeville Show on Thursday night. They got Congressional permission to wear the uniform of the 7th Cavalry of Custer and Little Big Horn fame and they perform all over the country.  Everyone goes a little crazy during rodeo days and after the parade they march around town stopping in to entertain and visit with the crowds at the restaurants and bars around town. Lots of folks join in and follow them from bar to bar. Hello!

And then there was a first class rodeo! The weather for this day is often 100 degrees and sunny but we were fortunate to enjoy overcast skies and cooler temperatures.  Our favorite of the evening was the Indian relay which involved races around a track by Indians who switched horses each lap for three laps. The switching of horses was no easy feat. The horses acted as if they hadn't been broken but I don't know the story; however, to leap on one bareback seemed a challenge.

The Clydesdales put on a fine performance showing how they could maneuver the beer wagon with some beautiful footwork and some fancy sidestepping. It got too dark for my camera to catch the action! And then of course there was all of the normal rodeo action which included many world class performers.

Well, woman's work is never done. It is time to move on and plan the next adventure.