Home Away From Home, South Dakota, Wyoming

South Dakota to Wyoming in a Day

How could we leave Spearfish, SD without going to the number one attraction in the city? With an 11:00 checkout time we realized we could make a quick visit this morning. It was not far from the campground so off we went to the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery.

It was a fascinating place and yes, it smelled like fish! From the parking lot, we crossed a small bridge which took us to a large pond filled with hefty fish. They obviously thought we were going to feed them because they all gathered up closely. Our next stop was the Aquarian downstairs which was stocked with rainbow trout, brown trout, snake river cutthroat trout, and brook trout. The brown trout and the rainbow were very easy to spot. It was also easy to distinguished between the male and female as the male have a hooked lower jaw. There were many more females than males. Another interesting fact was that trout grow about a half an inch a month. Although there are approximately 32,000 different kinds of fish in the world trout are one of only 800 freshwater species found in the United States. The trout are not native to the Black Hills. In the late 1800’s Congress appropriated funds to investigate the possibility of placing a hatchery near the Black Hills to establish trout populations in the area. The area was chosen due to its pristine water, habitat and food sources. Because the Black Hill streams have clean, cold water and vegetated shores the waters are ideal for stocked trout to do well.

We were able to tour the Booth House where D.C. Booth and his family eventually lived until his forced retirement. Subsequent families who lived in the house had to rent it and when they left, of course, they took their furniture thus only one piece of the original furniture remains in the home. Everything else is a replica but very nicely done.

The Museum
The museum was small but very interesting with a video to explain the beginning of the hatchery. One of the pictures on the wall featured a tombstone for a worker who died in 1916. His cause of death listed was “Overwork at the Fish Hatchery”!

We also visited a replica of the railcar used to quickly move fish from hatcheries to lake and rivers across the country. Everything in the car was used to transport fish but of course, they had to have personnel. The foldup beds for the personnel were suspended from the ceiling so that every available space was used.

Of course, the volunteer asked where we were from and when I said North Carolina she remarked that she used to live in NC. Oddly enough she had also been to Kinston and visited our son’s brewery, Mother Earth! Small World.

The grounds including Ruby’s Garden are lovely but we didn’t have to explore them much. We did see the life-size bronze sculpture depicting the important role fishing plays in American society and culture today.

We hurried back to the campground and completed breaking camp. Then because we have a faulty coach battery we had to jumpstart the coach again. Jerry drove to the only accessible gas station we had seen and I followed in the car.

Our first look at Devils Tower! Wow!
After getting the gas we hooked the car up to the RV and took off for Devils Tower, Wyoming. It was a short drive although a bit harrowing at time. A 10% grade is a lot to climb in a gas RV not to mention the few u-turns. We arrived and were checked in at Devils Tower/Black Hills KOA very quickly.

After lunch, we headed out for Sundance. Sundance, Wy on a Sunday afternoon is one quiet town! We rode around looking for the Crook County Museum and the Sundance Kid statue. Around and around the blocks we went until we finally stopped and realized that we were right at the statue and the museum. The museum closed at 3:00 on Sundays so I just got a picture of the statue and then we headed on to Beulah to the Vore Buffalo exhibit.

Welcome to Wyoming!
On the way to the Vore Buffalo exhibit, we stopped by the Wyoming Welcome Center where we were able to garner a lot of information plus enjoy the many displays they had. It is a warm welcome to Wyoming.

We learned even more information about the bison at the Vore Buffalo exhibit. Years and years ago in order to kill the bison, the Plains Indians and other tribes from the Northern Plains would gather for a communal hunt to drive herds of bison over a cliff. The bison would either die from a broken neck from the fall, bleed to death or be suffocated by the others on top of them. Right there at the bottom, after the bison were dead the tribes would butcher and process nearly all of the bison. At that time the Plains had no horses or guns so herding was the only way they could get the bison which supplied the food, clothing, tools, fuel, ceremonial objects, and even toys. Can you imagine trying to herd bison on foot? Scary but that was their only option as hunting individually was much more dangerous. Jerry suddenly developed a headache so we did not take the tour which would have been interesting but instead got a brief introduction to the exhibit by a very knowledgeable young lady working in the gift shop.

Since Jerry’s head was hurting guess who got to drive back? Wow, it really wasn’t that bad even though we had a 9% grade at one point. It surely is easier and quicker in a car than in a motor home – not that I drove the motor home!

We arrived back at the campground, had dinner and then headed over to the campground office where they show the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. Much of the movie was filmed at Devil’s Tower and we could plainly see it in the movie. As we watched the characters climb up the tower Jerry remarked to me twice that we wouldn’t be taking the same trails!

This morning when I woke up, I checked the weather. One source said it was 62 degrees and the other said 75 degrees. Since I don’t like to travel in shorts, I went with 62 degrees and put on my jeans and a long-sleeved tee. Guess which one was correct. Yeah, it was 75. The first order of business when we arrived in Devils Tower was to change clothes. I put on some shorts for the afternoon and then changed once again for the movie. With jeans and a sweatshirt that I put on shortly after the movie started plus the blanket Jerry brought, I was comfortable with the 52-degree temps! We’ll sleep good tonight!

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!

Home Away From Home, South Dakota

Spearfish Falls

Sometimes you just need to slow down and that’s what we did today, eventually. We decided that we would drive Spearfish Canyon and stop whenever we wanted to. Spearfish Canyon is absolutely beautiful and waiting to be photographed. Our first stop was Bridal Veil Falls and Jerry realized immediately that his camera battery was dead so back to the campground we went. He got a charged battery and I took two ibuprofens for my back which was better but not 100%. We returned to the canyon and rode on past Bridal Falls as the parking lot – and I’m using that term loosely – was full so we went on until we reached Homestake #2 Hydroplant. The plant was opened in 1917 using the water of Spearfish Creek to create electricity for the huge gold mine located in Lead. This plant is no longer in use but its older sister plant which was opened in 1911 and located near Spearfish City Campground is still operational and providing power.

Before we knew it, we had passed Victoria’s Tower, a large mass of limestone, the 11th Hour Gulch, a narrow slot and Kissing Rocks. There were no obvious signs and very quickly we were at Savoy. The parking lot was full but we managed to snag a space near the restaurant and the trailhead for the Spearfish Falls. Although it’s described as a moderate 1 ½ mile hike I’d categorize it as easy and not nearly 1 ½ miles. It was a clearly defined path which led to the floor of the canyon and the beautiful Spearfish Falls. Even though it was a warmer day it was so cool at the bottom. There were several people there and a few of the younger ones actually got in the stream which was moving pretty rapidly. In fact, one young boy fell over and was completely wet. No one seemed to sense any danger of trying to go beneath the falls.

We returned to the car and after realizing that it was nearly noon we decided to go up to the top of Roughlock Trail where there was a picnic area. Our fourth attempt at a picnic – the previous three had been either in the car or the RV – was a success. We found a lovely place with shaded picnic tables and enjoyed our lunch. It was so peaceful that I just laid down on the bench and quite frankly it made my back feel pretty good. We talked about hiking to the falls but decided that we’d wait to do that tomorrow.

Since we had entered from the North Entrance, we decided to follow the road to the South entrance. We had a beautiful ride as we wound through the forest. We had entered through the Northern Great Plains Grasslands, traveled through Eastern Deciduous Forest and then ended the drive in the Northern Coniferous Forest. Continuing on we passed through Lead and then before we realized it we were in Deadwood and there we came to an immediate stop. It seems they are celebrating Days of ’76 and there was a parade going on. The fellow redirecting traffic sent us back to Maitland Road, a graveled, dusty, fairly well-traveled road of about nine miles, or so they say. It felt like much more. Interestingly enough when I told our campground owner about the ride she told me that we were actually on Maitland Road. We took a left when a right would have led us to the campground. But as she said, we didn’t know.

We made a stop at Walmart for hamburgers for dinner and then decided to call it a day. We both were running on low energy so we just needed to slow down a bit. We both took a little nap and then sat outside. The downside to being outside is that our neighbor in his really, really nice Essex is having a power problem so his generator is running. So much for our quiet time but it was still nice to be outside just sitting. Jerry worked on his painting and I read.

Home Away From Home, South Dakota

Arriving in Spearfish

Although we had planned to leave about 9:30 for our short drive to Spearfish we decided this morning to do some house cleaning. We had all of the laundry caught up but it was time to clean the coach. That put us leaving around 10:30. Now we can guess why the couple we were waiting for on Tuesday waited until 10:30.

Big Pine was the perfect place for us to stay as it was centrally located for the places we wanted to visit. Rapid City was not very close but we had not planned to make two trips there. We didn’t use any of the amenities of the campground so cannot comment on them. The only negative and I’m not sure that anything could be done about it was the one-way road around the campground. There were pullouts so traffic wouldn’t be blocked too long. At night the road was a little more confusing as last night I guess we ended up in the tent area where no cars are supposed to go. Oops, we slowly backed out hating shining our lights on the tent campers. As we were leaving today, we blocked a truck for a few minutes while we were hooking up the car. When we finished I waved at the couple and they just smiled and waved back. Part of Rving!

Of course, our two GPS’s gave us two different routes. Mine was a bit longer and was going through Rapid City where we could get to a Flying J. Jerry’s was shorter and agreed with RVTrip Wizard. I think mine would have been an easier drive for Jerry but he chose his, a two lane, curvy, mountainous highway. Is there any other kind of South Dakota? It was a lovely ride and actually quite enjoyable. At times it felt as though we were flying but when I checked we were only going 51! If I had a dollar for every motorcycle I’ve seen today, not to mention the other days, we could well pay for this trip and more.

We arrived at Chris’ Campground around 12:30 and check-in was the easiest I’ve ever had. They only take cash or check so I had to return to the coach to pick up a check although Lana, the owner told me not to worry, that she’d get it later. After checking in I went outside and Jerry was gone. There was a gentleman there in a golf cart who told me to hop on and he’d take me to the coach. When I got to our site Jerry was already parked and was unhitching the car. Thirty minutes from the time we pulled in the park we were fully set up and level!

We had lunch and then I finally found a chiropractor who would be able to see me, Nelson Chiropractic. I made an appointment for Friday morning. Kathy, the receptionist told me I would need to fill out some paperwork in the morning but I could run by this afternoon and pick it up and fill it out at home. Jerry and I decided that was a good idea so off we went. When I went in there was the paperwork lying on the desk with my name on it. I timidly asked if there had been any cancellations and bless Pat, they worked me in. Dr. Bjorn Nelson, his mom Deb and Kathy could not have been nicer. They knew that I would not be a returning patient but still treated me as though I would be. After a treatment on the Tens machine – oh, that was wonderful – and some adjustments I felt like a new woman. The pain is not gone but it is so much better. Thank you Nelson Chiropractic!

After a quick run to Walmart we returned to the campground. Jerry grilled some pork chops and we had a delicious dinner. The day surely didn’t work out like we had planned but there is always tomorrow!