Posts Tagged With: Black Hills

Deadwood to Devils Tower

We made a quick stop in Deadwood then drove the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway on our way to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.  Although the comprehensive website, www.deadwood.org, invites visitors to come see what’s new in historic Deadwood, I only wanted to see what’s old.  Having been there before, I remembered that Deadwood sprang up when gold was discovered in 1874 and that Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed there in 1876 while playing poker.  What I’d forgotten is that the town was destroyed several times due to fire, the first time in 1879.  Consequently, historic buildings burned down and weren’t necessarily rebuilt where they stood previously.  Such is the case with the saloon where Wild Bill was shot.  Saloon No. 10 is now located across the street so there are signs to show where Wild Bill was actually shot and where his killer, Jack McCall, was captured.

Although Saloon No. 10 is not in its original location, the main attraction in the new site is still the shooting of Wild Bill.  Well, maybe the main attractions are drinking and gambling but this historical event does get attention.  The chair where Wild Bill sat with his back to the door, against his better judgement, is encased here along with a display of the cards he held at the time of his death, forever dubbed the Dead Man’s Hand.  There is agreement that he held black aces and eights but the fifth card is in question.  Although the display case in Saloon No. 10 contains a nine of diamonds, other accounts list the fifth card as a jack of diamonds or an unknown card.

There are lots of great things to see and do in the Black Hills but we selected just a few this time because of time constraints.  In previous trips we visited Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, and Mammoth Site.  My husband and younger son did a father son bonding trip several years ago and went trail riding at Country Charm Cabins and Corrals.  I highly recommend all of these places.

The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is a beautiful drive with several worthwhile stops along the way.

It’s just 2o miles long but it packs some great scenery into a short drive.  We were intent on finding the campsite in the canyon where we camped in our youth and we actually found it quite easily along with a film site from the final scene of the movie, Dances With Wolves.  We also stopped at Roughlock Falls and Bridal Falls before ending the scenic drive at the town of Spearfish, S.D. just 60 miles from our next stop at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.

By chance, however, traveling along Interstate 90 we spotted a sign announcing Vore Buffalo Jump just off the freeway, so a short side trip was in order.  Vore Buffalo Jump is a natural sinkhole used by the Plains Indians to trap bison.  The Indians would stampede the bison in the direction of the hole and the bison tumbled to their death.  The bison were then used for food, shelter, clothing, tools and even medicine for the Plains Indians.

Although the visitor’s center was closed for the season, we were able to walk around the area and read the signs.  The site was discovered in the early 1970’s when Interstate 90 was constructed.  Sinkholes are inherently incompatible with roads because of their tendency to settle further and swallow up cars, so the route for the road was altered.  Soon thereafter, archeologists from the University of Wyoming began excavating the area.  In 1989, the Vore family donated the area to the University of Wyoming and in 2001, the Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation was created (vorebuffalojump.org).

Devils Tower was the first national monument in the United States, established in 1906 by proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt.  Called Bear Lodge by Native Americans, the igneous intrusion was named Devils Tower by Colonel Richard Dodge in 1875 when he led a military expedition to investigate claims of gold in the Black Hills.  The first ascent of the column occurred in 1893 and if you look closely, you can still see remnants of the wooden ladder on the side of the Tower.  Today, around 5,000 rock climbers come from all over the world each year to climb the monolith (Devils Tower Official Map and Guide).   Several trails of varying length offer outstanding views of the landmark and surrounding landscape, as well as the abundant wildlife.  You’ll also notice Native American prayer bundles around the area with signs directing that they not be disturbed.  The prairie dog town just outside the monument entrance is a fun stop for kids of all ages.

By the way, did you wonder if Devils should have an apostrophe?  The official proclamation in 1906 mistakenly omitted the apostrophe so they kept it that way.  If you haven’t been to Devils Tower, add it to your list.  Even if you’re not a rock climber, it’s a great place to visit.

 

References:

Vore Buffalo Jump,  retrieved from http://www.vorebuffalojump.org

Devil’s Tower Official Map and Guide, brochure, (n.d.) National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

Based on events of September, 2013

 

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore

For the past several years, my husband and I have celebrated our anniversary while traveling.  In September, 2013, we were in the Black Hills for the occasion. For me, the main attraction in the Black Hills is still Mt. Rushmore and, although this was my fifth visit since childhood, it never fails to impress and inspire me.

The idea for a monument in the Black Hills originated with South Dakota State Historian, Doane Robinson, to attract visitors to the state but his idea was to carve sculptures of western personalities. The sculptor he contacted in 1925, Gutzon Borglum, preferred instead to include four significant U.S. presidents, each representing an important period of American history. President George Washington embodies the birth of the nation; Thomas Jefferson symbolizes expansion with the Louisiana Purchase that more than doubled the size of the U.S.; Abraham Lincoln stands for preservation of our union through the Civil War; and Theodore Roosevelt represents our nation’s development with construction of the Panama Canal.

I would be remiss not to add a caveat here and mention that Native Americans, particularly the Lakota Sioux, opposed this project as a desecration of sacred Indian lands and Mt. Rushmore was known to the Sioux as the Six Grandfathers.  For more information on the Native American viewpoint, check out this link.

Borglum and four hundred workers earning $8 per day, blasting the mountain with dynamite and carving into Harney Peak granite, completed the project in 1941, after 14 years including weather and funding delays for a total cost of just under $1 million.  The resulting colossal memorial is 185 feet across and 150 feet tall; the faces are 60 feet from the top of the head to chin; each eye is 11 feet across; the noses are 20 feet long and the mouths are 18 feet across.

With nearly 3 million visitors per year, there have been necessary improvements and changes over the years to the facilities.  The Avenue of Flags, with the flags from all 50 states and 6 territories, was added in 1976 as part of the American Bicentennial celebration and an outdoor amphitheater that holds 2,000 people opened in 1997.  Today, there is a parking ramp that charges a fee (currently $11), but entrance to the national memorial itself is free.

Each time we visit, I learn something new.  I don’t know why I never wondered how Mt. Rushmore got its name, but it was interesting to find out it was named for Charles E. Rushmore, a New York attorney who visited the area in 1885 regarding some mining claims.  When he asked the name of the granite mountain, he was told it had no name but it would be called Mt. Rushmore thereafter.  When the mountain bearing his name was chosen as the most suitable location for the project and work commenced in 1927, Rushmore became a large contributor.

After hearing this information and more at the History of the Carving Talk conducted by the park rangers in the Sculptor’s Studio, we walked the new Presidential Trail.  It’s just a pleasant half mile loop among the pines with beautiful views of the monument.

Upon leaving the memorial, we drove to nearby Hill City for a totally different activity.  We visited three wineries and enjoyed a wine tasting at each.  This was obviously a concession on my husband’s part in honor of our anniversary because wine tasting is not something he would ordinarily enjoy.

After a highly recommended but unremarkable anniversary dinner at a restaurant that shall remain nameless, we returned to Mt. Rushmore for the evening lighting ceremony.  Along the way, we spied a group of mountain goats, a common sight climbing the hills around here.  Mountain goats are not actually native to the Black Hills.  The original six were a gift by Canada in 1924 to Custer State Park but they escaped their pen and today there are about 200 in the area.

Mountain goat

Mountain goat

Soon after seeing the mountain goats, we observed another kind of climbers– rock climbers of the human variety.  Although climbing is prohibited on the sculptures at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial  (understandably), other areas of the memorial allow rock climbing.  The Black Hills are very popular for this sport and there are many granite walls and pinnacles available for climbs.  This is not on my bucket list.

Rock Climbers in the Black Hills

We arrived early at the memorial and had our choice of seats in the amphitheater but it soon began to fill in.  Beginning at 9 p.m., rangers conduct a program with music, video, and a lighting ceremony.  The program, entitled Freedom: America’s Lasting Legacy, includes participation of military and veterans that is especially moving.

Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore at night

 

Do you spend your wedding anniversary somewhere special? Leave a comment to tell us about it.

References:

Mount Rushmore National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service), Retrieved from http://www.nps.gov/moru/index.htm

Based on events of 9/18/13

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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