Tuesday, August 28, 2007

(26) Hot Springs, Mt Rushmore, Blackhills South Dakota

Hot Springs SD
Mt Rushmore SD
Blackhills Forest SD
Custer State Park SD

Howdy Partner from out west. After leaving the Devils Tower area in Wyoming, I crossed over the border into SW corner of South Dakota. I decided to make my camping area around Hot Springs South Dakota because the bike rally is going on up further north in Sturgis SD not far from Mt Rushmore. The rally begins around the 1st of Aug and goes through the 14th. So if you decide to travel out this way, you may wish to avoid that timeframe as there are literally thousands of bikers in the area. And one has to be cautious. I almost had a biker run into me when he swerved into my lane. Fortunately, I was able to swerve on the shoulder as he swerved back into his lane and we avoided what could have been a deadly accident for him.
But getting back to adventures. The Hot Springs SD area has one major attraction, which is the Mammoth Site, besides of course the natural healing springs in the area. If I soak in and drink anymore healings waters as I cross the country, I may become a superman.
The Mammoth site is where large Mammoth got trapped in a sinkhole depression with a natural spring feeding into it 26,000 years ago. The large mammoth would climb down into the sinkhole for water and couldn’t get out. This is the only site “in situ”, meaning the bones have been left in-place. A 20,000 sq ft visitor center covers the entire site for tours and continued digs. How exciting to see an actual dig that is ongoing and to see the discoveries still intact where they were found.

Other finds include camel, giant short-faced bear and antelope. The site was discovered when digging began for a new housing development back in 1974. So this is a very recent discovery.

After spending a couple of days in the area, I drove up early in the morning to get to Mt Rushmore before the bikers descended on the area. My timing was perfect and I had no problem getting to Mt Rushmore. What a spectacular area of the country. I drove through vast prairie land, with grasses so uniform, it looked like someone had come through and trimmed it. Then I traveled west into the Black hills and was met by these ancient hills covered in forest. A wonderful contrast as I descended and rose again through the mountain range and forest before arriving at the small town of Keystone, pop. 311, just outside of Mt Rushmore. I would have liked to have had lunch there after visiting Mt Rushmore, but the town was already completely covered with motorcycles. No place for a big ol truck to park.
I had a neat conversation with one of the history buffs in the Gutzon Borglum studio. We discussed Borglum’s desire to have a Hall of Records built. Mr. Borglum had already started to build the hall of records (behind Lincoln’s head) without telling the backers of the project. When they found out, they had him stop it and complete the statues first. Probably a good idea, because he died right after completing the last statue. His idea was that all great civilizations die out eventually and there should be a record to go with the monument to tell people what it represented. I think we should encourage Congress to fund the completion of the Hall of records and store all the knowledge possible in some form (CD’s, DVD’s or some readable format) of the great knowledge of the world.

Could we have a nuclear disaster, an asteroid that could wipe out most of the population or an epidemic that could kill most of the population (currently at 6 billion people) or a holy war that would destroy this country and much of the knowledge of the world. Who knows. Having the worlds knowledge stored in a safe place, could help a civilization rebuild. Ok, I’ve ready way to many history and sci-fi books. But it’s something to think about. Think about it, what do we know about the Druids, The Anasazi, the Pyramid builders, the Aztec (who had thousands of written books but the Jesuit Priests destroyed all of them) and Mayan cultures. Only what little evidence they left behind.

Oh, his relatives were able to collect enough funds and have installed a small Titanium vault and deposited information on the four Presidents and some history of this country and printed it on porcelain plates. Partially fulfilling his dream.

I decided to take the “scenic” route back to the campground and discovered why the bikers like to ride in this area. Besides all the neat attractions, the Black Hills area has some super great twisty roads to bike on. For a truck like mine, not so much fun, but what the heck, it’s an adventure. Leaving Keystone, I drove through the Black Hills via 16a. A road that is not only curvy twisty, but has corkscrew roads and a half dozen tunnels to go through. Now you’ll have to picture this cause theirs no way I could stop and take a picture. The corkscrew roads area actually tight, really tight, circular roads spiraling upwards, that come around and over themselves, via log bridges, suspended high above the corkscrew below. Then, with bikers now in front and behind me, we travel over one way bridges and into tunnels that can only fit one vehicle at a time. Honk before you enter, to let the vehicles coming from the other direction know your coming through. Occasionally the narrow two lane road splits into single lanes each way, around the Black Hill trees and gullies.

Then as if that wasn’t enough, I enter the Custer State Park and the Wind Cave National Park via the Wildlife Loop Rd. Now with all of the motorcycles making a dearth of noise, I didn’t think I’d see much wildlife. The views expanded back between forest and prairie landscape dotted with evergreens spaced to look like a very well designed and manicured park. Well, lo and behold, wildlife was everywhere. Needless to say, us bigger vehicles and the bikers were constantly stopping, literally right on the road to take pictures. South Dakota’s largest bison herd is here, burro’s, and American Pronghorn Antelope. Wow! It’s like they all came out to say hi. Oh, if anyone is still in contact with Beverly Heroy, let her know that I saw the neat burro’s and I understand why her and her husband have gone into raising them. They are the darndest cute things you’ve ever seen.

Would a tour of South Dakota be complete without visiting the SD Hall of Fame? Tom Brokaw, Vana White (couldn‘t find Vana‘s picture) … and other notable folks…. Well, I wouldn’t go out of my way, lets put it that way.

I did do some off the beaten path touring, looking for Ft Defiance. Couldn’t find it, but did go through a Sioux Tribe Reservation and along the road overlooking the Missouri River (really awesome views), I stopped to take a few pictures. Looking into a gully, I spotted a car! Not sure if an accident just occurred or not. Got closer and closer and it looked like it had been there maybe a couple of months, but still relatively new. Didn’t see any dead bodies so I took some pictures and reported it to the local police. Come to find out, it’s on reservation land, and has been there for at least 4-6 months. No one is in any hurry to recover it. Looked like a fairly decent car. Abandoned after the accident.

I’m crossing the state on hwy 90. Think about it. I’ve started in the southern states going across hwy 10 and now I’m up along the northern states going across the highest federal highway. Wow. In any case, I had to stop in Wall Drug Store. It’s world famous as one of the biggest drugstores and most unique. Actually it has a bunch of kitschy stuff and lots and lots of tourist junk for sale. It reminded me of a haphazard country store that kept expanding into the next strip mall store next to it. Knocking out walls or openings into the next section. Eventually taking up nearly a whole block. Interesting for a state that doesn’t have too much going between one end to the other. A great state to drive through and enjoy the prairie scenery. Farms and ranches that are described in the thousands of acres, not hundreds.

My final big stop was in Mitchell SD. The Corn Palace. This is a must see. Originally built back in 1892 to dispel the Lewis and Clarks assessment that the prairie lands were only suitable for buffalo and that nothing could grow here except grass. The Corn Palace was built to display all of the agricultural products that are grown in South Dakota. This is the third palace, built in 1921. The fa├žade is redone each year at a cost of over $100,000. That’s a lot of corn and grains. It’s a nice town overall as well. I also stopped at a prehistoric Mandan Indian village (1,000 years old) that’s covered by an Archedome for archeological digs and study. Approx 70-80 lodges were built on this site and they are discovering new secrets about the Indian lifestyle with each successive dig.

PS, I’m staying in a small park that’s next to the site where the outlaw Jesse James leaped across Devil’s Gulch with his horse to avoid being captured after robbing a bank in Minn. With his brother Frank.

No comments: