Birder's Eye View

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

SD Saga: A Trip to the Past

On August 10th and 11th, we explored several well-known historical areas of the Black Hills, ranging from the fabulous Mt. Rushmore, to rough "old west" town of Deadwood.

From the travelogue:

8/10 - Went to see Mt. Rushmore in the morning, which was absolutely breathtaking. One of those things where you always dream of seeing it, and can't quite believe it when you actually do. ... There were workers on top of Roosevelt's head, which made for a unique perspective on the size of the carvings. Altogether, I was simply awed by the whole thing.

The history of Mt. Rushmore was disappointing to learn though. It was named for a New York lawyer, never completed, and the wishes of Borglum (the original sculptor) had never been fulfilled. From what I understood, it was actually supposed to contain an inscription describing what it was, for future generations. During WWII however, construction stopped and it was never completed.

The park was jam packed with hoards of visitors; it was very confusing to navigate, and because maintenance was being performed on the mountain, most of the trails were closed off.

As we were leaving the park, slightly frustrated with the crush-crowd, whiny children, and inconsiderate tourists, I was saying something about how we hadn't even seen Mountain Goats, which were said to live in the area.

No sooner had I spoken, when we came across a small herd of goats right by the path! There was one baby and a few adults, placidly grazing under the shade of the ponderosa pines. I was ecstatic!

The next day, we took a day trip north to the Spearfish area, which, like Mt. Rushmore, had rich and lively history.

We spent the morning at a Western heritage history museum, had lunch by Spearfish Creek (40 degree water! Numbs your feet instantly!), and then stopped by the historic DC Booth Fish Hatchery. I could go into detail about all these, but I think they're fairly self-explanatory, so I'll skip the long descriptions for now.

Around mid-afternoon, we made it to Spearfish Canyon, which is said to be something like 12 times older than Grand Canyon. I can believe that -- the limestone walls looked weathered and the inside of the canyon was forested with lush vegetation.

We explored Roughlock Falls for a bit (pictured above). I had heard that the American Dipper could be seen along Spearfish Creek, but I simply could not find it -- quite likely, I could have been looking the wrong place at the wrong time. Regardless, it was a beautiful area and I'm glad we had the opportunity to see it, even for just a short amount of time.

In late afternoon, we headed back to the town of Deadwood, which, if you are unfamiliar with it, was once the wild west town where gunslingers and lawmen like Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane, Seth Bullock, and others had been established in the 1800s.

Today the town has been turned into a casino strip that thrives on slot machines, saloons, and wild west reenactors and street performers. Fascinating place.

It was quite a day. We saw a diverse mix of the wild and the West, and gained some interesting perspectives on the history of the Black Hills area.

Part 8 will be posted tomorrow.

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