Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ambling Across America

By Claire
Today really was a road trip.  We motored out of Montana, wound our way through Wyoming and slid into South Dakota.  We are tired but exhilarated by all that we saw.  The weather was a perfect 70° as Chuck began the day at the wheel while I sat in the co-pilot seat/office setting up the GPS (Vicky) to take us to our next lodging location while simultaneously adding our first site into my iPhone GPS.  I also use my iPhone to get information about the sites that Chuck and I planned for our day back when I was working on Wyoming and he was working on South Dakota.  To make it more enjoyable, we switch places every hour or so.  The mornings have been cold and I am really appreciating our seat warmers.

On the road in Wyoming once again

The other side of the road

Our first stop was The Devil's Tower in Wyoming, a huge monolith resembling a colossal stone tree stump, rising 867 feet from its base and 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River.  The 1.5 acre top has a growth of sagebrush and grass and the almost perpendicular sides are fluted columns.  It was the first National Monument.

It took us almost 4 hours driving back roads to find this place so once we were back on the interstate we stopped at the first rest stop we came upon for a picnic lunch.

And speaking of back roads and interstates, they are almost identical.  The interstate has two lanes and there are very few cars.  The back roads have two lanes and no other cars.  We were cruising down 14a when 8 identical Cruise America RVs flew past, one after the other, all sporting German flags flapping on the side.  I guess it was a reunion. How fun!  I think those were the only vehicles we saw for an hour. 

Soon we left the prairie of Wyoming to discover the gorgeous sites of South Dakota.  We headed for Spearfish Canyon, a Scenic Byway.  It sure was.

Our first order of business was the trail to Roughlock Falls.  Only a mile each way, it was so beautiful and different from my usual hikes; so many different trees and plants.  It was warm with just the tiniest breeze caressing my face and arms.

Someone left an autumn bouquet on one of the many benches along the way.

Nice waterfall

One of the things I did during my turn in the "office" was to check out the info on Spearfish Canyon.  Using my iPhone to look up the area on Google, I found out about two hikes.  The one to the falls and another one called The '76 which was described as a steep mile and a half hike to the canyon rim with one section, about half a mile, 1,000 feet in elevation gain.  We found the trail head across the road from the first hike and off we went.  It wasn't too bad until we came to a sign that said Steep Trail Ahead.  They weren't kidding.  Huffing and puffing, we made it to the top.  Eureka!

Resting along the trail

View from the top

That turquoise roof is next to the parking lot where our car is parked.

Hiking back down, we walked through a fern forest, all of them yellow but looking like they would come back to life in the spring.

Our final stop was in Deadwood, SD.  It was at the end of the Scenic Byway after the town of Lead, a gold town and twin city of Deadwood.  Some of you might have watched the HBO series, Deadwood, a few years ago.  We couldn't pass this by.  I was so afraid it would be a tacky tourist place like Tombstone, AZ or Virginia City, NV.  There were a few tourist traps but mostly it was just a town of a little over 3,000 people going about their business.  We headed for the cemetery to find the grave of Wild Bill Hickock.  It cost us a dollar a piece.

We found Wild Bill's grave right away.  He was only 39 when he died, shot by a former buffalo hunter named Jack McCall (better known as "Broken Nose Jack"). 

Calamity Jane's final request was that she be buried next to her friend, Wild Bill.

 Wild Bill

The Cemetery

Looking down on Deadwood

Seth Bullock, town sheriff

Seth was a friend of Teddy Roosevelt and had a memorial built to him on Teddy Roosevelt Mountain.  He requested that he be buried above the cemetery and facing the mountain.  His grave is a steep hike 750 feet above the cemetery. 

Beautiful home in Deadwood

Neighborhood in Deadwood

 By now it was 4:30 and we were ready to be "home" and relaxing.  We drove the last 25 miles to Rapid City, our location for the next 2 nights and with a recommendation and 10% off card from the hotel receptionist, we raced over to the Texas Roadhouse.  I was starving and as usual, my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  I felt like exploding when we left.  I have to say, the service was amazing and when they asked whether we'd been there before (no), we were offered a Cactus Flower starter plate as first timers.  We started with margaritas.

 Cactus Flower (onion rings)

 My side dish of homemade chili (delicious)

My sirloin kebab with fabulous grilled veggies and rice

 Chuck's 8 oz. sirloin with sweet potato side

The end to a beautiful day.  More tomorrow.

We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts. ~ William Hazlitt