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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 51: Black Hills

Woke up early, and drove a few miles down the road to eat breakfast with a lake side view. Then set off and found the headquarters for Black Hills National Forest. Talked to a ranger and got maps, info, and recommendations. Based on that decided what to do for the day, and as always got ambitious about it.

Drove an express route back west on 90 to Spearfish. Then started back east on scenic byways. The drive through Spearfish Canyon was superb. I hit it early enough that there was little traffic. The rising sun lit up the ridges and walls of auburn rock, natural cathedrals enveloped in foliage. I got to drive the way I like to, switching gears and hugging turns.

Stopped in Deadwood to let my mind run wild with western cliches, and pay homage to a few larger than life legends. Did the self guided walking tour of downtown, and visited the town's collected history at the Adams Museum. Main Street is still hustlin' with vices, gambling and saloons, though tourist traps have taken the place of brothels. The museum was an wonderful showcase of the diverse people and influences that came together to found and develop Deadwood. People came from all walks of life and every corner of the globe, united by a pioneering spirit and the drive to make a reasonable life for themselves. That's America to me. Lastly headed up to the cemetery above town. Visited the graves of Wild Bill Hikcock, Seth Bullock, and a personal hero, Calamity Jane. She was a fearless adventurer and faithful friend in dangerous times, and for that I admire her. I left a bouquet of local wild flowers and a PBR bottle cap at her grave in respect.

Took more back roads east through Rapid City and onwards to a back entrance of Badlands National Park that had been recommend by the ranger. As the sun slowly descended, I drove through most of the north and main section of the park, frequently stopping to take photos in a vain attempt to capture expansive panoramas. Prairie fills basins and tops buttes, while sandwiched between earthen rainbows melt in strange and wonderful forms.

Went fairly directly to the main campground. The temperature spiked over 100 degrees today, and I didn't want to be too far from clean water. Caught the evening ranger program on astronomy. Tomorrow hiking and more extensive exploration.
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