Posts Tagged ‘Hill City’

Making our way through the wilderness

July 21, 2016

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Up early and out of our BnB (no breakfast: just a B, I guess) in Spearfish.

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Drove to Deadwood where we parked curbside, hoping to eat before the parking meter enforcement began. No problem. Pricey breakfast in Bullies hotel and casino, and we headed on south on the scenic route.

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Next stop was two or three points around Pactola reservoir, surrounded by pine forest, with a few boaters already out on the water. Pleasant place.

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Then a quick stop at Hill City to enjoy the trains. Big crowd already lined up waiting for the train ride in an hour. We don’t see any point in that kind of thing, but it’s fun to wander around and look at the  big machines.

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Further south, the map showed Cascade Spring and Falls as notable roadside stops. We didn’t stay long at the spring; signs warned of poison ivy right at the picnic area and more down along the water, and we believed them. Not the kind of adventure we need today.

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But we stopped longer at the Fall, a distinctly optimistic description of a few vertical feet of rapids. Pretty place.

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I like to view the texture in fast-flowing water by setting the shortest exposure possible.

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A family was there, also enjoying the water.

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Much of the Black Hills region is quite pretty, but as we got further south and into Nebraska, we got more into the long stretches of rolling grassland that don’t have much to offer. Stopped briefly in Crawford, where we talked with an Information volunteer for a few minutes, and then we went on to Fort Robinson.

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The fort is back into the pretty country, probably as much because of water as anything else. Cavalry and infantry, late 19th century. Brick buildings, many of them, some adobe, some wood-frame. Big (big!) stables, as would be expected for a cavalry base.

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And stagecoach rides. The employee hitched up the team while we watched, and drove the coach out. The girl got to sit up top with him, and on the way back, she got to drive.

And then, more long miles in the hot, until we reached Agate Fossil Beds national monument.

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Above the visitor center is a trail to a couple of the hills where the big finds originated. We hiked up in hundred-degree heat, glad that it crossed the green of the Niobrara river flood plain, and that the total loop was only a couple of miles.

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When seeing the name, I have always wondered why agate geology and fossils were compatible. Turns out they are not, of course. The ranch was called Agate Springs ranch because of what’s called moss agate found in the springs here, and the spring got lost from the subsequent name. No quartz around here anywhere.

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Gazillions of insects along the trail, mostly grasshoppers, but also those who are happy to prey on grasshoppers.

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Even grasshoppers can be interesting sometimes.

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I think this little guy is a robber fly.

Getting on in the afternoon, and we need to find our BnB in Scottsbluff.

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Scott’s Bluff is the left end of this ridge, and Mitchell Pass is the low point between. Why, we ask, did the pioneers not just go around the end of the ridge, rather than climbing the pass? Good question. Apparently the badlands and muddy terrain along the North Platte flood plain were more difficult than the pass. (But Google Earth shows that the railroad builders went level along the river instead of winding back and forth up the grade.)

Our B&B is the Barn Anew, an old horse barn (percherons: big rooms on the ground floor!) that has been rebuilt for lodging. We’re told that the framing is original, but I imagine that the rest of it was reconstructed. Picturesque.

Into Gering for an evening with Dorthey, another long day, happy to be out of the car.

Black Hills of South Dakota

July 10, 2013

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.