With the dirt and clay from White Butte still on our pants and shoes, we started the 2.5 + hour drive to South Dakota. I’ll tell ya, driving through fields is a bit boring. Spotting cattle on the side of the road is only entertaining for about 20 minutes. Tiny “towns”, like Amidon, don’t present much to look at. Pulling off the road at Crow Buttes Mercantile, a touristy little store, was a nice break. We got to stomp around the place were the Sioux and the Crow massacred each other (according to lore) in 1822.
We were headed to South Dakota, and today we were stopping to see the sights. Little did we know that Crow Butte Mercantile was our first taste of being in the Tourist Zone. It is a lot like the Twilight Zone except that you know exactly what kind of junk you will find in every store. But first we were going to drive through Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway – a 19 mile drive with 1,000 ft limestone rocks. It was a welcome change of scenery from fields of cattle.
Near the end of the canyon we stopped at Roughlock Falls to take a walk. At this point I think all of us needed to stretch our legs out. There was ample parking and good signage for the 2 mile roundtrip walk. I had read there was a $6.00/car fee, but we apparently did not park there.
The falls are in two parts, with the main falls in the back, and then wide second drop that hides a grotto. There were a lot of trout in the water, but we did not see many birds on the day we visited.
There are a lot of observation points around the falls, so after taking a few pics we headed back to the car. It was getting into the late afternoon and we wanted to make it to Deadwood before 5 pm.
Deadwood is touted to be nice. A Historic City named in the national registry. And there is a lot of history here. Gold was found in the SD Black Hills, so people flocked to Deadwood, one of the only mining towns. Why no towns? Technically because it was on land the US Government gave to the Lakota Tribes as part of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. Less that 5 years after that treaty was signed, we were breaking it for gold. Indians were angry, Miners were determined, fights broke out and this was the Wild West. Indians hated the Europeans who hated the Chinese (this is railroad time as well). Alcohol, Opium, gambling and prostitutes make for a great mixture when there is gold and cash around. YEEHAW. Seth Bullock was the Law here when Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall. Both Bullock and Hickok, along with Calamity Jane, are buried at the cemetery here. We headed to the cemetery first, as it sits above town and offers a nice view.
Once we wandered through the cemetery we cruised back through the town, only to really realize what a tourist hot spot we were in. The restaurants were all set up to feed mass amounts of people, the stores sold cruddy t-shirts, and you could smell the stale smokey air coming out of the casinos. We were sorry we stopped for dinner here. But there was one bar that redeemed our trip into town. It sits on the site (supposedly) where Wild Bill Hickok was gunned down. Here, we had a very nice beer, brewed in the style that would have been common in the late 1870’s.
After dinner in Deadwood we drove to Keystone; our destination for the night. We didn’t think anything could be more touristy than Deadwood. We were wrong. Enough said. Once we grabbed a hotel, we knew that we had plenty of time to see Mount Rushmore before settling in for the night. I had never been to this National Monument, so I was eager to see it. The lighting ceremony started at 8:00 pm and entrance is free – however parking is $10/car. We arrived after 8 and the mountain was still dark – I did not realize that the ceremony includes a film loaded with history. We only had to wait another 15 minutes before the lights came on and the fabulous monument was revealed. Yeah, touristy and small and all that other stuff, it was worth it.
It was a nice way to end a long day of driving and traveling. Tomorrow: Black Elk Peak.