OTRA - SD - Sturgis
Sep 19, 2013
Wow, was it windy today for our journey to Sturgis. I surely don’t think I’d want to be around these plains during the winter because there are no trees or buildings to slow that wind down!
Other than the wind battling us most of the way, it was an easy drive through some beautiful scenery and we pulled into the No Name Campground just east of Sturgis at 2:00 MDT after a drive of 100 miles. I like these short travel days. We watched for bison along the way but saw nary a one. Actually didn’t see much of anything…houses, ranch buildings or traffic…but we did see lots of cattle grazing out in the middle of nowhere. Mostly black Angus with a brown and white (Herefords?) thrown in here and there.
The campground is located right down the road from the Black Hills National Cemetery. It is so neat, yet sad, to see the rows of white headstones so perfectly lined up and over the hill.
Today we drove to the grocery store in Sturgis to pick up a few items. Sturgis is, at first..and second… glance, a definite motorcycle town…bar on every corner and some in between. Shops with leathers and accessories, motorcycle museum and Hall of Fame. I do NOT think I’d want to be here during the motorcycle rally in early August. They say you can hardly walk down the sidewalks OR streets, there are so many people here. Of course, they also have the Wild West Days Festival in mid-June, the Camaro Rally in late June, The Black Hills 100 Endurance Trail race that, in 2013, ran concurrently with the Tatanka 100, a bike race that leaves from the same location and uses some of the same trail, but is a loop course so the runners aren't expected to cross paths with the cyclists at all. Wouldn’t think such a small town had so much activity, would you?
Up, walk the dog, and hit the road for Wyoming and Devils Tower. Wyoming (this part, at least) is almost just like I pictured it in my mind…miles and miles of grasslands (though not real green at this time of year) filled with cattle and horses and clear mountain streams flowing through and every once in awhile, ranch buildings tucked into a hollow. I imagine it’s a much different picture during the cold winters, though. Still no bison and no elk
We passed the Aladdin Tipple so had to turn around because Bob thought it was an old gold mine. It turns out it WAS a mine but a coal mine that’s been designated as an Historic Place. He did some exploring around for awhile and then we continued on.
You see Devils Tower from a distance at first and it gets larger and higher the closer you get. It is magnificent! There are several stories of how it came to be. From Wikipedia:
According to the Native American tribes of the Kiowa and Lakota Sioux, some girls went out to play and were spotted by several giant bears, who began to chase them. In an effort to escape the bears, the girls climbed atop a rock, fell to their knees, and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. Hearing their prayers, the Great Spirit made the rock rise from the ground towards the heavens so that the bears could not reach the girls. The bears, in an effort to climb the rock, left deep claw marks in the sides, which had become too steep to climb. (Those are the marks which appear today on the sides of Devils Tower.) When the girls reached the sky, they were turned into the star constellation the Pleiades.
Another version tells that two Sioux boys wandered far from their village when Mato the bear, a huge creature that had claws the size of teepee poles, spotted them, and wanted to eat them for breakfast. He was almost upon them when the boys prayed to Wakan Tanka the Creator to help them. They rose up on a huge rock, while Mato tried to get up from every side, leaving huge scratch marks as he did. Finally, he sauntered off, disappointed and discouraged. The bear came to rest east of the Black Hills at what is now Bear Butte. Wanblee, the eagle, helped the boys off the rock and back to their village.
Back then it was called different names by the different tribes. Again, from Wikipedia: Tribes including the Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lakota, and Shoshone had cultural and geographical ties to the monolith before caucasians reached Wyoming. Their names for the monolith include: Aloft on a Rock (Kiowa), Bear's House (Cheyenne, Crow), Bear's Lair (Cheyenne, Crow), Daxpitcheeaasáao, "Home of bears" (Crow), Bear's Lodge (Cheyenne, Lakota), Bear's Lodge Butte (Lakota), Bear's Tipi (Arapaho, Cheyenne), Tree Rock (Kiowa), and Grizzly Bear Lodge (Lakota).
The name Devil's Tower originated in 1875 during an expedition led by Col. Richard Irving Dodge when his interpreter misinterpreted the name to mean Bad God's Tower, which then became Devil's Tower. All information signs in that area use the name "Devils Tower", following a geographic naming standard whereby the apostrophe is eliminated.
I like the names relating to the bears better than Dodge's.
We decided it was nice enough (weather-wise) to take the walk around the base so off we went. We stopped to watched some climbers at the front of the Tower and, if you’ve ever seen “American Ninja Warriors” on TV, there was one guy doing the same thing they do on the “Jumping Spider”…he was climbing between two tall sections using just his hand and feet on opposing walls. I think he’s the one in the red shirt in the one picture. I wasn’t too sure what he was going to do once the walls spread farther apart than his legs and arms could reach but…..We saw turkey vultures circling around the top of the Tower, taking advantage of the updrafts it afforded, and everyone was joking they were waiting for one of the climbers to fall. Macabre! We had two earthcaches to find as we walked around the base and did find both of them. I was getting a bit winded near the end (yes, I forgot to take my oxygen!) so it took us a bit longer than many of the other people but we did it. It was the hills that really got me. So out of shape!!
We saw the wooden ladder built by 2 local ranchers on the southeastern side; there are huge boulders in the boulder field that have fallen from the tower over the years, and the views from the tower over the surrounding land are just gorgeous. This is one magnificent structure!!
Today our journey took us to Spearfish Canyon...another absolutely fantastic drive. We saw a lot of motorcycles out here today and we figured they really like this road because it is so very curvy! We drove through Lead and Deadwood (that's a neat town I'd like to come back to see some day!) but our goal was the Roughlock Falls because I figured that would be a nice walk along the trail from the parking lot up to them but, once again, my saturation levels wouldn't stay above 88 even while I was just standing in the parking lot and I did not have my oxygen with me so we walked as far as the dam then came back to the truck and drove to the falls. But oh my, that took us to the TOP of the falls...but there was a nice steep paved walk to the bottom of the falls and it was such a beautiful day for a walk and it was all downhill so..... In one of the little coves along the walk, we saw a small wedding. Oh, what a beautiful place to have that. We continued to the bottom of the falls, took our pictures, and then started back up. Ohhhhhh............very steep but thankfully they had level areas with benches along the way so we'd stop at each level area, breathe for awhile then continue. Made it back to the top with no serious problems.
We didn't know it at the time but had we driven on the dirt road a little bit past the where we parked, we would have come across the encampment from the movie "Dances With Wolves".
Tomorrow we backtrack to a campground about 20 miles south of Rapid City, closer to Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park.