USA - South Dakota - The Black Hills

Published: May 7th 2017
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Wednesday 3rdMay Livingston – Belle Fourche 397 miles

Today was always going to be a driving day which was a shame because the sky was blue and it had actually started to warm up again! By lunchtime we had reached Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument so it seemed an ideal place to stop.

Learnt a lot! It was basically where Custer made his Last Stand and was killed on June 25th 1876. , Before this there were a lot of feuding tribal Indians and the Crow and Lakota tribes joined Custer against the Cheyenne, Arikara and the Arapaho tribes as this was the only way they could see to ensure the safety of their lands.

There was a sub group of 350 soldiers who survived but everyone else was killed and the bodies left where they lay, and then buried. The whole ridge is now littered with graves and is quite moving. There is a war memorial to Custer and his battalions, a Horse memorial and also an Indian Memorial that took the Indians 10 years to decide on the inscripions! There are plaques showing the names of all the Indians killed. And what strange names they have – Scabby Wolf, Red Foolish Bear, Puts on His Shoes, Don’t paint his Face, Wounded in Back, to name but a few!! Also saw the War Cemetery that had fallen soldiers from 6 world wars – Oh and a field full of black tailed Prairie Dogs near the entrance! Loads of them all guarding their holes and stood to attention! Very cute!

We then made the decision to get off the Interstate and drive route 212 Warrior Trail, stopping somewhere on the way – only there was no-where to stop until Belle Fourche, South Dakota. With hindsight, we should have had a look at Sheridan and Buffalo and stayed there!! The Visitor Centre said that the 212 was more scenic but apart from the BIG skies, a few really run down Indian Towns (Chris stopped to buy a coffee in Lame Deer), herds of antelope everywhere….that was it for about four hours!! (Super 8)

Thursday 4th May 2017 Belle Fourche to Rapid City 197 miles

We thought we would have an easy day after yesterday and planned to visit the Black Hills and see all the sights including Mt Rushmore, Devils Tower etc…

We didn’t get that far!! Thought we would find the ‘Geographic Centre of the US’ that was on the map near Belle Fourche> Found it ok – it didn’t look like the centre to me – looked far too much North!

However, then we drove to Devils Tower, Wyoming (after spending far too much time looking at a field of Prairie Dogs) and decided to do the short walk of 1.3 miles around the base. It was too hot and sunny to walk any further! Such a pleasant change from the cold of Yellowstone!!

Devils Tower is composed of symmetrical columns which are the tallest ( some more than 600’) and widest (10 – 20ft’) in the World.

A beautiful walk amongst the Ponderosa Pine trees, watching climbers climb the Tower (they must be mad!!) and spotting chipmunks and squirrels. Also lucky enough to spot some white tailed antelope on the way out!

Drove to Spearfish on Interstate 90 and then drove down the Spearfish Canyon, passing through Cheyenne Crossing and Lead before we got to Deadwood.

Had a wander around the old town, that was full of Hotels, Casinos, Bars, restaurants and there also used to be Brothels – which is why its called the Badlands!! Then drove up to see Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok’s grave – saw a pine martin on the way.

It was now about 4.30pm so we thought we would save Mt Rushmore etc for tomorrow! (La Quinta – Rapid City)

Friday 5th May 2017 Rapid City to Hot Springs 146 miles

A bit of a lie in and not on the road until 9.00am! Our first stop was Mt Rushmore which we had researched and found it was better to see it early in the morning for photos! Did the ‘strenuous’ 1.3 mile presidents walk and then went to Crazy Horse Monument. They wanted $22.00 dollars to go in but were happy for us to just drive in and take a photo without paying!

Drove down to Custer to have a quick look and then drove up the Needles Hwy! A real ‘wow’ especially when we reached the ‘Eye of the Needle’ (Tunnel) and there was a Campervan stuck inside!!! Stopped at Sylvan Lake for lunch and really enjoyed the walk around the lake, even if it did involve a bit of clambering!!

Went onto Keystone and had a wander around, but then read there had been a flood in 1972 that had killed 238 people and probably washed away and probably most of the original structures! No sign of the 1880 train!

Went down the iron mountain road with 3 corkscrew bends around 360 degrees ( known as pigtails) and splits - an interesting road to drive down. Saw loads of buffalo…with their babies as well! Back across the 16A west and down Hwy 87 towards Wind Cave NP.

Saw loads more buffalo ,as well as an American Turkey, white tailed antelope, long haired white mountain goats, fields of prairie dogs ( Chris nearly ran one over!) They will insist on sitting up in the middle of the road looking for signs of danger!! Unfortunately, they missed the coyote that crept along the ridge – Apparently he was looking for a tasty morsel of baby prairie dog! We left!

Got to Wind Cave NP visitors centre just as it was closing but learnt there is a Cave Tour at 9.00am tomorrow……….Spent the evening and night at Hot Springs, a very pleasant, historical, sandstone town ( Americas Best Value Inn)

Saturday 6th May 2017 Hot Springs to Cheyenne 288 miles

Basically a driving day! We left just after 9.00am and travelled down, across the Prairie land (or it could be just Plains!) to Fort Laramie, where we had a wander around. It was boiling hot by now, and soon got bored in and out of the buildings – its quite a sprawling site so quite a lot of walking about involved! Didn’t find any information about The Treaty Of Fort Laramie 1868.

Had our lunch in the picnic area and carried on to an old Bridge (King Patent Tubular Bowstring!!) built in 1875 that spans 400ft across the River Platte. 19th C emigrants struggled to cross the high water until in 1850 a Ferry was used, but there were frequent accidents, and it was very slow, so the bridge was built.

Passed through Guernsey, where we filled up, and wondered why there was a Visitors Centre, as it was so nondescript. Took no notice, carried on and happened to stop at Rifle Pit Hill tourist board, which explained that Register Cliff Trail and The Oregon Trail Ruts both started at Guernsey, They still showed the names and dates of people on the trail who had passed that way; and you could also see the 5’ deep ruts in the sandstone from their carts and waggons. May have been interesting but not worth going back for!!

Drove onto the Interstate 25 and carried down to Cheyenne where we got very lost trying to find the centre and ended up on a military base! Missed the Centre completely and ended up 8 miles out of town in a Truckers Motel! (Rodeway Inn) , which Chris had mistakenly booked, instead of the Rodeway Inn near the Centre of Town .Only bonus was a very good Bar and Grill nearby!

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