Exploring the Black Hills

Trip Start Nov 15, 2011
Trip End Nov 14, 2012

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Where I stayed
Whispering Pines RV Campground

Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Monday we visited Lead and stopped off at the Ft Pierre Railroad Roundhouse. Next we headed off to visit Presidents Park, where likenesses, standing 20 feet tall, are displayed of 43 American Presidents.  However, on arrival we found the gates padlocked, and after much research on the Internet, it seems that the park closed down in 2010.

We drove along the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway and stopped at the Spearfish Falls, but the only way to get a good view of these was to hike 3/4 mile along a muddy path, so instead Cliff decided to drive along a muddy road to view the Roughlock Falls.  The scenery is beautiful along the whole byway. 

We paused briefly in Deadwood, which seems to consist mainly of casinos, before heading back towards the campsite.  The campsite is actually about 5 miles outside of Silver City so we decided we'd go and have a look.  We're not sure how six houses and a Community Hall constitue a city, but the area is very pretty, with Deer Creek running through it.  There are a couple of trails in the woods beside the campsite so we went for a walk along part of the 111 mile Centennial Trail.  This trail was created to mark the 100th anniversary of South Dakota statehood, and show the diversity of the area.

On Tuesday we went to Hill City to see the 1880 Train.  Cliff wasn't sure that he wanted to pay $24 each for a ride, as the reviews he had read were not very good.  The large number of noisy children waiting to get on the train made the final decision!  After a look around we went to see the Crazy Horse Memorial.  Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear invited Korczak Ziolkowski to 'carve a monument to let the white man know that the red man has great heroes also'.  The work was started in 1948 and you can see from the photos that, despite over 8.5 million tons of rock being removed, there is not much to see, except for the face.  Having paid $10 each to get in we thought we would get much nearer to the carving, however we could have saved our money and got our photos from the road.  The entrance fee only gives you access to a short film, and the visitor center, if you want to get any nearer (and it's not that close) you are expected to pay more money for a bus ride, you are not allowed to drive up the road.  We soon left and went.for a drive through Custer State Park where we encountered several buffalo taking precedence on the roadway.

Cliff wanted to drive Iron Mountain Road, which has height and width restrictions, to Keystone.  The road is so narrow we had one wheel on the white line (and there's no shoulder), and one wheel on the yellow line in the middle; passing oncoming traffic was done cautiously!  Near the top of the mountain, once we had negotiated the donkey who seemed intent on stopping all traffic, we could see Mt Rushmore in the distance. 

Peter Norbeck, first native Governor of South Dakota, US Senator, founder of Custer State Park, sponsor of Mt Rushmore Memorial, laboured to preserve the beauty of the Black Hills. In 1932 he spent many hours designing the Iron Mountain Road.  The tunnels frame Mt Rushmore, and as the elevation drop created complex engineering difficulties, the pigtail bridges were created by Cecil Clyde Gideon; the bridge surfaces are neither straight, level, nor flat. It's a beautiful drive.

Back in Keystone we stopped at the 1880 Train Station to await the arrival of the afternoon train.  Cliff managed to get some great photos of a hummingbird moth.  After taking photos of the engine, Cliff decided we would 'race' the train back to Hill City.  The route of the train crosses the Old Hill City Road 19 times so we were able to make a couple of photo shoot stops on the way - much more fun than riding the train!

Today the temperature has not managed to get above 8C and with the wind chill feels much cooler so we elected to stay in the trailer; we have a long drive tomorrow.
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