Thursday, August 17, 2006

Devil's Tower to Deadwood

If you're a first time visitor to my blog, then welcome. If you're a regular reader, then welcome back. It's been a couple of days since my last posting because I've been out there enjoying the wonderful biking conditions of the Black Hills now that the Sturgis rally is over and the roads are less congested.

Last Monday made an early start and headed across the state line into Wyoming en route for the Devil's Tower. If you're old enough you might remember it from Spielberg's 1977 movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." It's about 120 miles from Rapid City. As you get closer it is clearly visible from about 12 miles away. No wonder the American Indians crossing the plains regarded it as sacred. It rises 1,280 feet above the Belle Fourche river and is an awesome sight. Close to it is even more impressive and exceeded my expectations. I took the 1.5 mile trail around the base of the Tower to get a closer look. The trail weaves through ponderosa pines so there is some shelter from the heat and once again the smell of pine is wonderful. Half way round you can sit quietly and listen to the sound of the wind rustling through the trees. Very restful and just the location for a late middle-aged biker to sit and contemplate the meaning of life.

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Thunderstorms and hail popped up on my way back at the end of the day, but took shelter for the worst of it and stayed on the fringes of it for the rest of the journey back to RC.

Tuesday's highlight was a visit to the mammoth dig at Hot Springs about 45 miles south of Rapid City. The site was once a sinkhole, about 26,000 years ago, and many mammoths, attracted to the lush vegetation near the pool, ended up slipping into the water, weren't able to climb out the steep sides and drowned. Tneir bodies sank to the bottom and were preserved in the silt. Several skeletons are preserved almost intact. The result is the world's premier site for the preservation and study of both the Columbian and Wooly mammoth. You tour the dig and see many of the partially uncovered skeletons in situ. Found it fascinating.

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The day ended with another fearsome thunderstorm, but sat this one out and got back to RC dry.

Wednesday was my most ambitious day of the week. Got a really early start and headed northwest to Spearfish to ride along Spearfish Canyon. Weather was quite warm but with overcast skies, so very pleasant riding conditions. Stopped along the way at Savoy to walk down to Spearfish Falls.

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There's something very theraputic about being near waterfalls (or waves breaking on the seashore for that matter) so another pause on my odyssey for a little contemplation. Then pressed on to Deadwood famous, amongst other things, for the site where Wild Bill Hickoc was shot dead while playing poker on August 2nd 1876. He's buried on the hill above the town in Mount Moriah Cemetery along with Calamity Jane.

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The walk up the hill took 25 minutes, but I probably needed the exercise. Next stop was Hill City again. This time for a visit to the Alpine Inn, famous for its steaks, and rightly so. To round off the meal (and my waistline) treated myself to a "Brwonie Delight" - a fudge brownie topped with praline pecan icecream, hot fudge and nuts! By this time it's 6pm, so set off back to Rapid City along the twisting Needles Highway up into the Black Hills (in the dry this time)

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and then along Iron Mountain Road with even more twists and turns (this time interrupted with two stops where the road was blocked by buffalo).

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Finally, as it was dark by this time, called in at Mount Rushmore for the 9pm evening ceremony where the faces are floodlit and the US flag is lowered as part of a programme to celebrate all things American. My busiest day so far.


Blogger Rick said...

Great to hear all your news. It is good that you have retained the use of your legs, especially to counteract the effects of the fudge brownies. All going to plan in Norn Iron, Gill sends heer love.

1:39 pm  
Anonymous Mary d said...

Thanks for sharing your trip Mr Thoreau. It brought back many memories. So glad you made it to see the mammouth dig at Hot Springs. The creek is about 90 degrees F and the swimming pool is all rock and feed by the hot springs. It is similar to Iceland and also similar to many of the hot springs around Butte. I sent you an email of an airplane ride over all that area. There are about 50 pictures on the email. thought you and your family and friends back home would enjoy it. This old distant cousin has been sorting all those genealogy papers we had on the table while you are Mr. Thoreau exploring nature. I am proud of you. God Bless.

3:03 pm  
Anonymous Sandy said...

Cannot cease to marvel at your trip. Love all the photos!
As a matter of interest, one of my ancestors, Ben Thompson (gambler, gunslinger & Marshall of Austin) was a contemporay of Wild Bill Hickok (& Buffalo Bill & Wyatt Earp for that matter). He was also a particular friend of Bat Masterson, sheriff of Dodge. Met a sticky end though (but not sure where). Not sure whether this is an altogether 'quite nice' claim to fame!
Anyhow, Terry, continue to ride safe, & amuse us all with your exploits.
Looking forward to seeing you.
Keep the shiny side up
Lots of Mushy Stuff
Sandy XXX

6:17 pm  

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