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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Looking Out and Back in Spearfish

Hi Blog! Today is Sunday, August 30, 2015. It is going to be a hot one here in Spearfish, South Dakota. Temperatures are expected to be up in the 90s. Because of the heat, we decided to take it easy and find a nice short hike. The plan was to get up and out early and get back before the day gets too hot. You know what they say about the best laid plans. More on that later.

We looked over all the hiking materials our friend Lee Ann had collected for us. We decided on Lookout Mountain. It is a 4 mile loop with views looking down on Spearfish. According to the trail write up in the local Spearfish Magazine, "none of the trails are marked or mapped, but most trails are very visible and easy to follow." This proved to be the case -- at the start of the hike. We parked Great White at the trailhead and walked under the highway. We started following the trail to the left which would take us up the shoulder of the mountain to the right.

However, we soon learned that there are others using the mountain besides hikers and they sometimes like to make their own paths.

According to the topo map we printed from the internet, all we needed to do was follow an old woods road around to the small summit peak. Here is our first good look at Lookout Mountain.

From the north side of the mountain, we were able to get a really nice view into Montana. We just missed getting a picture of some white tailed deer as they crossed in front of us and went over the side and down into the trees.

What we did find, was a flat rock that had been used for pounding grains. If we had more time, we probably would have been able to find other evidence that this area was used by Native Americans before the settlers arrived.

As promised, the woods road brought us around to a spur that took us up to the summit.

Here is the view looking down on Spearfish.

As we began our trek down, we continued to follow the road. In our eagerness to descend the mountain, we must have missed a grass covered turnoff. It soon became evident that we were heading right for suburbia. This development was so new, it didn't even appear on my hiking GPS.  This view looks back up at Lookout Mountain from where we were bushwhacking our way through the concrete jungle.

We had a choice, hike back up the mountain and try to find the unmarked trail, or continue down into Spearfish and just walk back to the truck. By this time, it was already 11:30 a.m. and getting hot. Down won! Down also had a mini-mart located along our return route. If you get a chance to try cucumber lime Gatorade, we highly recommend it. Very refreshing.

We should have known this was not our day. Before heading out this morning, we looked on Yelp and Beer Advocate for a great lunch spot in Spearfish. Lucky's 13 Pub came highly recommended. When we got there, their tap lines were broken! No fresh beer. We had to settle for Sam Adams and Leinenkugel in bottles. On a bright note, our sandwiches were really good. Our waitress did an outstanding job of getting our order in ahead of the party of 34 who just arrived for a family birthday lunch.

After lunch, we decided to stop by and check out the High Plains Western Heritage Center. This five-state regional museum was founded to honor the old west pioneers of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming & Nebraska. It is filled with all kinds of cool stuff like the original Spearfish-to-Deadwood Stagecoach, turn-of-the-century kitchen, saddle shop and a blacksmith shop. However, Kathy was more interested in the Tom Selleck exhibit. Tom has starred in a number of westerns and has donated several items to the collection. Here Kathy tried to get into Tom Selleck's pants.

The chuck wagon was chock full of stuff needed on the long trail. Did you know that Arbuckles’ Coffee began in the post Civil War Era of the 19th Century? Two brothers, John and Charles Arbuckle, initiated a new concept in the coffee industry; selling roasted coffee in one pound packages.  Until that time, coffee was sold green and had to be roasted in a skillet over a fire or in a wood stove. One burned bean ruined the whole batch.  The Arbuckle Brothers were able to roast a coffee that was of consistently fine quality and the first to be packaged in one pound bags. Kathy was thinking of slipping a bag into her pack, but then we learned you can still buy their coffee, so she put it back.

A bigger-than-life-size statue of James A. “Tennessee” Vaughn astride a horse dominates the Founders Room. As a trail boss, Vaughn was credited with bringing more longhorns up the trail than any other trail boss. One of Vaughn’s responsibilities would be to advance the herd to determine grass and water sources and report back to the drovers to set up night camp.  A trail boss was responsible for the safety of the cattle and had to be skilled in working with both cowboys and the owners of the cattle outfits.

There were all kinds of exhibits on pioneering, cattle & sheep ranching, rodeo, early transportation, American Indians, and mining. Here is a replica saddlery shop which is used to repair items and make replicas for the museum.

Outside the museum are a number of historic buildings including a windmill, rural schoolhouse and cabin. They also have several head of longhorn cattle, but they were too far afield to photograph.

After the museum, we had about an hour to relax, change and give Baxter a walk before driving over to Four Corners, Wyoming to meet Lee Ann and Jim for dinner. They said they had a surprise for us. After parking Great White, we jumped into Jim's truck and he drove us down a gravel road for miles and miles. It seemed like we were driving into the back of the beyond, when suddenly a sign appeared - Canyon Springs Stage Stop Steakhouse. They managed to find a steakhouse in the middle of ranch country.

The owners, Judy and Frank, treat you like guests visiting their house. Their restaurant is filled with cool western artifacts, including a chuck wagon. The food was absolutely outstanding. If you are ever in this part of Wyoming, you must stop. Get more information on them from the link above, or check them out on TripAdvisor, which gives them very high reviews.  Thanks, Lea Ann and Jim, for introducing us to your new state. We can't wait to return next year.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Splashing Around In the Devil's Bathtub

Today we decided to take a hike in Spearfish Canyon, which is part of the Black Hills and lies to the south of Spearfish, South Dakota, where our campground is located.  When we arrived, our friend Lee Ann gave us some clippings describing interesting trails in the area, and  Devil's Bathtub was one of them.  This gave us a chance to get to know the Black Hills without venturing too far afield today.

The Black Hills are known as "Paha Sapa" or Ȟe Sápa to the Lakota Sioux.  The hills were called "Black" because of their dark appearance from a distance, due to their coverage by Ponderosa Pines.  Native Americans have a long history in the Black Hills. After conquering the Cheyenne in 1776, the Lakota Sioux took over the territory of the Black Hills, which became central to their culture.

We drove up the canyon and parked our truck in a roadside parking area.  You can see in this photo how the hills could look black from a greater distance:

We hiked up to the trailhead, which is on private land and is not marked by any sign, nor is it blazed along its route.  If you are interested in locating it, check the "Devil's Bathtub" link above.  At the trailhead, which has room for some car parking, we crossed Spearfish Creek on a bridge --

-- and turned to hike up along Sunshine Creek, which drains into Spearfish Creek.  Sunshine Creek is a pleasant, wadeable freestone creek, with a mixture of larger boulders, flat stone tables through which the creek flow, and an otherwise gravelly bottom.  It is in a pretty, tree-lined setting in a small sandstone canyon:

Gazing up, you can see the geology of the sandstone cliffs, with pine trees towering overhead:

Here, Kathy rests from our repeated stream crossings, as the trail weaved back and forth on either side of the creek, necessitating at least 5 or 6 crossings:

The sedimentary canyon walls tempted us to look for fossils.  While we paused once or twice to search --

-- we generally stayed on task and continued our hike upstream.

After about 1.5 miles, we reached the "bathtub" itself, which is a round hollow in the rocks probably formed by an ancient waterfall long since erased as the creek eroded the rock upstream:

The "bathtub" is relatively shallow, and intrepid hikers can waterslide down the spillway above it and splash into the pool.  Here, Kathy demonstrates the correct posture for freezing your feet and lower legs in the cold water:

Below the pool is another sluiceway that is a mite too narrow to serve as a waterslide, but it is nevertheless pretty:

We stopped by the pool and enjoyed our lunch, not realizing that this territory is owned by a little pirate who insists on charging a toll to anyone who is foolish enough to stop and eat lunch on his ground:

After lunch, a rest, and watching other hikers enjoy the pool and the waterslide, we started working our way back downstream.  Having surveyed it all the way up, we realized that, for the most part, the stream was wadeable the entire length of the trail.  The wading hike down the stream was much easier than clambering up and down the shoulders and each side of the stream to avoid canyon walls:

Occasionally, the canyon narrows, but there are always paths through the rocks, as David demonstrates in the photo below:

The hike was shorter than we would have liked, but made up for lack of length by its beauty and uniqueness.  Once we returned to the trailhead, we hiked down to the truck, returned home, and spent a relaxing afternoon on the lawn, which allowed Baxter the cat to get a little more outside time than he normally does.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Delving Into Deadwood

Hi Blog! Today is Friday, August 28, 2015. We decided to drive over to Deadwood, South Dakota and discover all the history and excitement this old western town has to offer. Deadwood was established in 1876 during the Black Hills gold rush. In 1875, a miner named John B. Pearson found gold in a narrow canyon in the Northern Black Hills. This canyon became known as "Deadwood Gulch," because of the many dead trees that lined the canyon walls at the time. Thus, a boom town was born.

We started our adventure by parking at the bottom of Main Street and taking a trolley up the gulch to the Visitor's Center. Hear we learned that Deadwood became famous for its wild and almost lawless reputation, during a time when murder was common, and punishment for murders not always fair and impartial. The town attained notoriety for the murder of gunman Wild Bill Hickok. Mount Moriah Cemetery remains the final resting place of Hickok and Calamity Jane, as well as slightly less notable figures such as Seth Bullock. We decided we should visit the cemetery before it got too hot since it is at the top of the hill looking over Deadwood. He is Dave as we start our trek up the hill to Mount Moriah Cemetery to pay our respects to Wild bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

In 1986, local business owners agreed to lobby for legalized gaming to create economic development for the community. As gaming moved through the state legislature, the Deadwood City Commission established the Historic Preservation Commission in 1987 to oversee the restoration of historic sites in the community. In 1988, the gaming issue initiative was put on the state ballot. It passed with 64% of the vote and was authorized to begin on November 1, 1989. The introduction of gaming has enabled Deadwood to preserve its historic buildings and dramatically increase tourism. Over three million dollars went to restore Mount Moriah Cemetery. Here Kathy stands behind the new gates.

Here is the view looking down on Deadwood. Many of the buildings in town originally serviced the mining industry. Today, they are being repurposed as offices, shops, hotels, restaurants and casinos. Using funds generated through limited gaming, the five year restoration project restored broken monuments, repaired retaining walls, paved the streets and improved drainage.

Our first stop was at the gravesites of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.  In fact, Hickok was originally buried in the town's first cemetery, but was moved to Mt. Moriah Cemetery when the old cemetery was replaced with a housing development.

Old Wild Bill's gravesite has changed in appearance over the years.  Here is an old photo of Wild Bill's original headstone in the old cemetery:

Here we are at the grave side of Wild Hill Hickok with its new monument. Right next to Wild Bill is Martha "Calamity Jane" Canary.  While they were rumored to have married, they were only acquaintances, having originally ridden the same wagon train to Deadwood from Colorado.

Rather than walk up the several flights of steps, many tourists take the Boot Hill Trolley. Because each bus unloaded hordes of tourists who flocked to the Wild Bill's and Jane's graves, we had to time our visit to the grave site in between the bus stops. Here one bus is loading to leave while the second one is about to discharge more tourists. After seeing all the bored looking faces imprisoned on the tour bus for a full hour, we were so glad we decided to do the self-guided walking tour.

After walking down into town, we stopped at the Adams Museum. Deadwood's Adams Museum is considered the Black Hills' oldest history museum. Artifacts on display from Deadwood's past reflect the legends of Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, and Deadwood Dick. Here Kathy checks out a hand carved wooden replica of a prairie schooner.

After the Adams Museum, it was time to get a bite to eat. The woman at the Visitor's Center had suggested we visit Saloon No. 10 and witness the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok. Here's the view down Main Street as we approach the saloon.

The Old Style Style Saloon #10 is a living museum - maybe the only one in the world with a full bar - where you can view historical western and mining camp artifacts spanning over 100 years that they've collected during its 50-plus years in business. We arrived about 20 minutes before show time, so we had time to order lunch and look around at all the cool stuff everywhere.

Before too long, it was time for the show to start. Wild Bill came out and introduced himself. He asked for audience volunteers to play the various poker players and bartender. We would have volunteered, but we were trying to finish our lunch before the show started. We watched in horror as that no good, dirty rotten scoundrel, Jack McCall, stumbled into the bar and shot Wild Bill in the back! History repeats itself each day at 1:00, 3:00, 5:00 and 7:00.

After the show, Kathy posed for a photo with Jack McCall (L) and the miraculously resurrected Wild Bill Hickok (R):

We finished lunch and decided to continue our stroll down Main Street, with a stop in one of the gambling halls - when in Deadwood do as the Deadwooders do. After getting comfortable at a video poker machine, we saw a crowd building outside and decided to go out and investigate. (Good thing, because Kathy already lost $3.00.) We were about to witness the shooting of David Lunt. Back in 1877, Mr. Lunt was shot in the head and lived normally for 67 days until an infection did him in. Calamity Jane is the one face down on the table. Mr. Lunt is on the left.

Having explored Main Street, we headed downstream to the Days of 76 Museum. The Days of ’76 is a celebration that began as a way to honor Deadwood’s first pioneers - the prospectors, miners, muleskinners and madams who poured into the Black Hills in 1876 to settle the gold-filled gulches of Dakota Territory. Since the first celebration in 1924, the Days of ‘76 has grown into a legendary annual event with a historic parade and an award-winning rodeo.

Dave took a turn with a bucking bull and ended up on the wrong end.

The Days of ’76 museum began informally, as a repository for the horse-drawn wagons and stage coaches, carriages, clothing,  memorabilia and archives generated by the Celebration. It has grown into much more than just a warehouse for old stuff. We were impressed by the Post Office Wagon. It had a little stove inside to keep the mail carrier nice and toasty on those cold Dakota days.

Before leaving Deadwood, we stopped by to see Wild Bill one last time. This life-sized bronze of Hickok reposing comfortably in a chair in front of the Four Aces Casino. Having just visited Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, we were fascinated to learn that this sculpture was jointly created by Monique Ziolkowski-Howe, daughter of Korczak Ziolkowski, who created the Crazy Horse Memorial, and James Borglum, grandson of Mount Rushmore National Memorial sculptor Gutzon Borglum.  This provoked a warm wave of affection in Kathy's heart for ole Wild Bill, and she impetuously threw her arm around him:

He really was more appreciative of her affection than it might appear in this photo.  However, we couldn't tarry to talk further with him and learn more about his exploits, because we were looking forward to getting back to the rig. We are "dead" tired after all that delving into Deadwood.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Buffalo Gap National Grasslands

The Buffalo Gap National Grasslands embrace much of the Badlands National Park and adjoin the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  You can see the extent of the Grasslands in this map:

On our drive into Badlands National Park, we drove through southern portions of the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.  We could tell that they are aptly named, because herds of wild bison range freely in the Grasslands:

There are places where the Badlands NP loop road adjoins the Grasslands, and bison loll about where tourists drive or walk:

Here is a view of the Grasslands to the north and east of the Badlands --

This is a view of the route Chief Big Foot led his people from the grasslands to the northeast of the Badlands to the grasslands lying southwest:

And this is the view they would have had as they came over Bigfoot Pass:

Less than 2% of the original native, tallgrass prairie grasslands remain in the U.S.  The U.S. Forest Service, within the Department of Agriculture, is charged with stewarding those grasslands that have been designated for protection.  Slowly and steadily, the Forest Service is attempting to preserve and reintroduce native plant and animal species to areas that have seen radical change due to cattle ranching and farming.

Within the prairie, where there is enough moisture, trees can grow, although they are usually relatively small and hold on tenuously:

Get a ways out on the grassland prairie, and the Badlands look like a city rising on the horizon:

We hadn't spent much time thinking about the National Grasslands until this visit to the Badlands. We learned that the only National Grasslands Visitor Center is located near the national park in Wall, South Dakota.  We decided to drive over and see what we could learn:

What we found most interesting is that there are only 21 National Grasslands, including the Midewin Prairie Reserve in Illinois (not pictured on the map below).  The large majority are located, naturally enough, in the Great Plains, but there are a few in Western states as well:

Many of the Grasslands resulted from land the U.S. repurchased from homesteaders who abandoned their homestead claims due to hardships such as the '30's Dust Bowl, but others were acquired from the U.S. military after World War II when the areas were no longer needed for munitions ranges or the like.

Each Grassland has its own unique history and rationale for preservation.  Likewise, the ecosystem and wildlife in each Grassland is unique.  This intrigues us!  We see that several of the Grasslands lie along our intended routes during early fall of 2015 and 2016, so we hope to visit them, see what makes each area unique, and see how they differ from the National Forests that we have become so used to tramping on our hikes.