Black Hills of South Dakota

by

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The hotel had a good breakfast buffet, starting at 6, so we ate well and early and got on the road. We drove south from Rapid City, past Mt Rushmore.

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It turns out that, although our park passes give us free admission to the national monument, car parking is a national parks concession, which is not included in the pass, and costs $11. So we skipped the formal site, and just drove around the back way.

Some beautiful scenery, including a profile view of Washington.

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Had I been responsible for all of this, I would have had grave misgivings about the fractures in the rock of the mountain. It’s granite, however, so presumably will last a long time in its current condition, fractures or no.

We stopped at one or two places, hiked for an hour in the pine forests. But the sky was dark and there was a lot of thunder, so we didn’t want to get too far afield. As it happened, there were a few raindrops and the day cleared up and eventually turned hot.

The next stop was Hill City, which has a railway museum and an 1880s steam train.

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We started with the railway museum. I thought it was interesting that these drive wheels had only a small flange, furthermore on both sides of the rail. I bet modern locomotive wheels aren’t shaped like that.

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I stopped in the washroom, and was delayed coming out because a spider had fallen into the sink and couldn’t get out. It took me a minute or two to a) photograph it and b) rescue it.

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Then over to the tracks where the steam Lok was getting ready to pull the first load of tourists out. Interesting to watch, and as well as photos, I got two or three movie sequences, one of the coupler fitting as the Lok connected to the lead car.

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Our next stop was Lake Sheridan.

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When I was in scouts, we came here every summer for a week of camping. I had the idea it was in Wyoming, and had looked for it several times on the map, without success. So it wasn’t Wyoming after all! Pretty place.

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As we left the observation area, four motorcyclists came along. The first tried to turn in, a 135-degree descending right turn, got his wheel too far over, and crashed. The second one tried to turn outside the first, but also missed the turn and crashed. The other two stopped on the road and waited, ready to help uprighting the bikes and getting things sorted out.

No injuries, as far as we could tell, but some damage to the bikes. And they will have stories to tell, if they’re brave enough.

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By the time we reached Deadwood, the day was getting hot and we were getting tired. We walked the town, a long strip between steep hills. There is a statue of Wild Bill Hickok, who was murdered here, and is buried up the hill, a 300-foot climb we skipped in light of the 90-degree heat.

We drove on to Lead (pronounced Leed), which is home to Homestake mining. As I understand it, the company no longer exists, but there is a continuing effort to clean up the sites, probably government funded. Nothing like an endless makework project!

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We stopped at the Homestake headquarters. There are some exhibits, which we enjoyed; the Lok above is powered by compressed air. Makes sense: undergound combustion just isn’t going to work out.

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The Pelton wheel is the most efficient form of turbine for high-head water power generation.

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Above, a view of the Homestake surface mining pit. The mining tour cost $8 per person, which was beyond our ambition level. We went on into the town of Lead proper, where we saw another compressed-air Lok. Notice the heat fins on the cylinder.

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From Lead, there is a wonderfully scenic route through Spearfish Canyon to Spearfish.

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We made several scenic stops, but the best was the Roughlock waterfall. As well as the fall itself, there was a beautiful little bird splashing around in the shallows and having a wonderful time.

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Doris tells me this is a black-headed grosbeak.

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Finally, Spearfish. We had thought perhaps to go on into Wyoming today, but it’s a hot day and we’ve been in the car long enough.

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Spearfish calls this statue Vision. My impression was that he should have been holding a telescope, but it got somehow omitted from the sculpture.

We found a motel, wandered into a pub, where we had 1554 dark ales (not bad) and a guy who was seriously into falconing told me all about it while Jacky listened on. Then we sought out a restaurant and called it a day.

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