Home Away From Home, South Dakota

Roughlock Falls Trail

We took off and rested some yesterday afternoon so we made up for it today. The first order of business was the Roughlock Falls Trail. Yesterday we had lunch at the top of the falls so today we hiked from the bottom to the top. Marked as a moderate hike the trail was well marked and mid-morning it was not too crowded. It’s a beautiful waterfall as are the others. Only when we got to the very top did we realize that we were at the spot where we had our picnic yesterday. By the way, on our way in today we did see Victoria’s Tower, the 11th Hour Gulch and the Kissing Rock. Obviously, they were not very remarkable.

Leaving Spearfish Canyon, we headed on to Deadwood. I was hoping to see some of Deadwood before our 1:00 scheduled presentation at Tankana: The Tale of the Bison but everyone in South Dakota decided to see Deadwood today. We knew there was a morning parade and perhaps that was why there were so many people and slow traffic. We decided that we had better go on rather than risk being late. We actually got to Tankana a little after 12:00 so of course we had our picnic lunch – yep, in the car!

As soon as we went in, we were directed to a 20-minute video by Kevin Costner giving the history of the center. Kevin Costner tried for some years to at first build a hotel and then later the center. He remarked, “These Black Hills gave me the feeling I was a part of history”. The center explores the lives of the Lakota and their relationship to the bison.

The traditional belief of the Lakota was that the buffalo people emerged from the “hole that breathes cool air” otherwise known as Wind Cave. The buffalo people lived in the cave but were tricked into coming up into the wonderful land above and wonderful it was in the summer. But then winter came and it was cold and food was scarce. Thus, began the difficulty of life.

We listened to a Lakota Indian talk about the bison. As long as there were bison, things went well for the Lakota. They only killed what was necessary to meet their needs and they used over 90% of the bison for various purposes. Buffalo robes were very valuable and no wonder since a buffalo hide was comprised of ten times the number of hairs per square inch as a cowhide.

Buffalo hides provide extraordinary insulation. Although a bison’s winter coat may be a body temperature next to the skin the outside may be below freezing. A buffalo may have a foot of snow on him but has no problem with that.

Thus, bison adapted well to the Great Plains. It is said they are the only animal that will face a blizzard head-on. The Lakota interpreted this as bravery and fortitude and it was an inspiration to them. Not as fast as the pronghorn who is the fastest mammal on the North American continent (they can reach speeds of fifty-five miles per hour) the bison can still run thirty to forty miles an hour. In addition, their instinct to form herds provides safety in number. There is no known predator except possibly the wolf who could possibly bite a bison in the leg as they passed by.

Unfortunately, while we were there, we had a heavy thunderstorm with thunder, lightning and heavy rain. In fact, we were stuck there for a while but finally decided to dash to the car amidst the rain. Jerry got the car and I ran to meet him. It was a cold rain with some hail in the area. The downside was that we did not get to go outside and see the bronze sculptures.

Our next stop was Sturgis – just because we could. Wow! I’m sure my jaw was dropped enough for people to realize we were not from the area. It was already a bustling town filled with people and motorcycles and the big event was still a week away. I can’t imagine how crowded it will be in a week.

We headed on to Deadwood and despite the heavy traffic finally found a parking place. We walked down the main street until we reached the gunfight area. We stood right across from Saloon No. 10 where Wild Bill Hickok was shot on August 2, 1876. After the gunfight which was entertaining, we entered the saloon and our eyes were immediately drawn to the top of the room where buffalo heads, moose heads, and deer heads were mounted. We saw a gift shop toward the back so we headed there and got our refreshment for the afternoon. Not a round at the bar but cones of ice cream!

We returned to the car and rode the winding, very steep streets up to Mt. Moriah Cemetery. Jerry elected not to go in but I did and walked up to the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Although Calamity Jane died nearly 30 years after Wild Bill her dying request was to be buried next to him. The cemetery has a number of infamous people buried there but as Jerry was waiting I didn’t want to walk all over looking for them. I did get to see two adult deer and one baby deer bouncing around the grounds.

A ride back to the campground and we were done for the day. Tomorrow, Wyoming!

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