Day Five - Costner, Calamity and the Cosmos!

Day Five, Wednesday 3rd May.

Costner, Calamity, Cosmos and Canyons.

Wednesday turned out to be a very wet and cold day indeed. The weather forecast tuned out to be 100% accurate for that area of South Dakota. Grey skies and only about 10 degrees centigrade so it was with a thankful heart that I had made it to Devils Tower on the Monday and swapped the itinerary about. So I checked out of the Super8 in Spearfish, said my goodbye’s to the incredibly helpful Roxanne and her staff and found my way back on to H85 heading south to Deadwood some ten miles away. En-route I stopped to take a quick look at one of the decommissioned Nuclear Silos, same as the one at Delta 9 way over east on the I90. It was literally about a mile from the hotel tucked in between a couple of houses on the side of the road. It amazed me that these really were hidden in plain view and no one batted an eye lid living next to a massive silent nuclear weapon in these parts. I wondered if the UK had done the same thing and how people would react to finding out all these years later.

It was raining and the mule needed warming up a lot. I couldn’t believe the different weather I was seeing here: 83deg on Devils Tower, 37deg and snow on Crazy Horse. Rain and cold here on the I85.

I took my time in the bad weather, next stop: Deadwood!

 

Deadwood: I’d heard of this place when I was a little kid from movies and books and probably from the Doris Day film 'Calamity Jane' which featured the famous Deadwood Stage song as well as the much more famous ‘Whip Crack Away’ tune. But I had largely forgotten about it until I saw adverts for a TV series way back in the early ’02 - ‘03. I didn’t have sky TV so I never saw it. I only recall it had Ian McShane in it who we used to go and watch making ‘Lovejoy’ which was filmed once or twice in our own village and surrounding villages way back in the 80’s.

 

Once again, Corey, my friend who lives in Minneapolis and holidays in these very hills in the snowy season, told me about Deadwood and how important and influential it was to the surrounding countryside and its place in the history books as being next to the second largest gold mine in the western hemisphere. As well as being a totally lawless town with some of the most famous western inhabitants this side of the James Gang.

Before I flew out, I bought the series on DVD and immersed myself in Deadwood of 1876, and realised I’d missed out on one of the best TV series ever written. Fantastic attention to detail and fantastically foul language along with political underscores rivalling that of a roman play. Brilliant stuff and full of famous and infamous characters brought to life per the real version of events, not the pretty Doris Day, all sweetness and light version – oh no….this was based entirely on fact and it made for hilarious, uncomfortable and somewhat complex viewing. I love it! So I couldn’t wait to get there and see this place for real and walk the streets of Deadwood and cuss every SOB who done lookit me wrong! Yeehaa!!..

Don’t get me wrong, obviously it wouldn’t look like a scene from ‘Back to the Future III, but it was still going to be cool actually being in the place where so much American history was made and disseminated, and by so many classic characters.

But just before you begin to enter the city limits on a very steep hill that winds its way past hotels and casinos from the top of the black hills, there is another famous film related location that I really wanted to visit.

Tatanka; Story of the Buffalo, is a monument and exhibition to the plight of the Buffalo hunting that took place in the last years of the nineteen century and the devastating effect it had on the native Americans to whom the buffalo played an integral part of their lives for hundreds of years.

It’s a bit tricky to get into the place as it’s on the opposite side of the road as you come into Deadwood and it’s not immediately easy to see as your too busy watching the hill and traffic ahead. But if you pull over to the gravel area just as you see the massive DEADWOOD sign on your right, which is about ten feet wide and quite low to the ground, this areas is a great place to safely turn around and climb out of the city and Tatanka is easier to pull into on your right almost at the top of the hill.

 

The one-way road swings around into a car park. I bet it gets chaotic in summer months but today it was 09:00 in the morning on a very, very wet and cold day. It was actually snowing when I finally parked and the place looked deserted.

But being the tenacious Brit that I am, I piled on the North Face puffa coat, grabbed my woolly hat (I came out here prepared as heck – thanks to the Devils Tower National Monument staff advising me just before I flew out.) and trudged up to the visitors centre.

It was dark and apparently empty and I was about to snuck away when the door opened and a friendly face asked if I wanted to come in from the snow.

I was the only person there and as it was off season I got a solo guided tour of the whole place by this kind lady who also took care of my back pack full of camera gear. I had seen a bit about the Buffalo hunting when I was at Crazy Horse two days prior and knew about the terrible consequences to the population but this place was just as fascinating as it drilled way deeper on the aspects of life in the Midwest for the Indians and how much they depended on the buffalo for so much of their daily livelihood. Film fans will know that nearly all of the Oscar laden epic ‘Dances with Wolves’ was filmed very close by. But what they may not know is that Kevin Costner, after immersing himself in the story of John Dunbar and the lives of the Dakota tribes, was moved so much by the tragedy of how we immigrants hunted the buffalo and thereby starved the local tribes to death, that he paid for this exhibit and museum to be a permanent reminder to the events and impact all those years ago when the British and French nearly wiped out the Buffalo herds for their fur and meat.

Showcases of props from the film Dances with Wolves

So the museum is also chock a block with artefacts from Dances with Wolves such as clothing, tools, props etc. Bargain for this film fan.

If you haven’t seen 'Dances With Wolves'' then you’re missing out on one of the best ‘western’s' ever made and if you want to see what South Dakota it’s like without coming here, then watch it as it features almost 100% on-location footage of the surrounding South Dakotas. The monument is a massive life sized statue of Native Americans herding Buffalo over a hill, in bronze. It’s brilliantly sculpted and then cleverly embedded in the ground via cantilevered supports to make it look very real and powerful. By the time I came out of the exhibit hall and into the fresh air to walk around the sculpture the weather had eased off considerably, still very cold but brighter and no snow!

So I snapped a few pics of the sculpture and read all the plinths and learned more about the monument and how it came to be made and Costner’s involvement in its production etc.

It must look awesome in the right light – late sunset on a blue sky day, but today it looked a bit drab as the bronze didn’t pop out against the grass and grey skies…oh well…as long as it’s sunny for when I go back to Devils Tower I wasn’t that bothered. Plus it meant I had to grab some excellent morning coffee!

So I went back inside to warm up and mother of god! It was crammed full of tourists!

Nah…just kidding, there were just two older folks from Kansas motor homing around the country in retirement style.

There was also someone else perched over a laptop, eyeing me briefly as I bust through the freezing doors into the centre. It was like a western movie when someone walks into the saloon and everyone stops what they’re doing and stares him out.

This person was a rather imposing looking Native American but he went straight back to his laptoppery. The American folks stared cautiously as this bearded stranger wearing duck down stood taking his portable duvet off and shaking his camera obscura’s dry.

‘What do I do to get a hot drink around here’ I asked the tour guide and as soon as I opened my British gob, the mood settled and everyone was peaceable again – no gunfights at the so-so corral today folks!

Costners' uniform from the movie along with other props  and exhibits.

I was just in time for the morning’s lecture from Billy – the aforementioned native American- whom despite his imposing stature, could not have been nicer or more knowledgeable. I won’t say what he presented as it would be unfair to steal the thunder but it was a good 45 mins of insightful and entertaining facts and figures of life from the Dakotan Indian point of view back in the 1850s to the 2000’s. I can tell you that it was actually quite humbling and thought provoking. I’m not American but I know persecution and tyranny when I see it. I went to school in Essex.

 

It was very much like the movie Avatar but without CGI or blue-skinned folks riding around on banshees…but the story was very familiar. Pesky immigrants find gold and fur, wage war on the locals to clear the way for stripping, locals get a bit pissed off, have a few fights, take a few wins from the immigrants, immigrants totally overpower the locals and take everything including their food and livelihood leaving the locals with nowhere to go and nothing to eat. Immigrants take gold and everything else including the land. Natives die. Classic tactic.

 

Billy was remarkably unbiased in his depictions of the above so it was not all doom and gloom. It was fascinating. The phrase ‘Red Indian’ has been in use for many years. It originated when the first immigrants/ settlers saw the local Indians and called them that because they had red skins. In fact the Indians weren’t all that different in skin tone than the white man but being a clever bunch of folks had worked out that if they covered their skin in the red dirt that forms part of the geological Midwest, it protects them from sunburn. They washed it off but by then it was too late. Red Skins it was. Cool eh?

 

So after asking about 450 questions about the history of the place and Indian life, I bid my farewells to Billy and the team, saddled up the defrosted mule and moseyed back down the hill to the city of …

 

Deadwood! Yehaa!

 

Warning: rather colourful language ahead - but entirely in keeping with tradition and common language of 1876 in these here parts….now read the rest of my goldarn awesome diary! Ha ha!

Welcome to Deadwood!

After watching so many episodes of the political, and at times, hard to understand sex/swear fest titular TV drama, I was stoked to be entering a city so steeped in mythology and fact. A city so famous that it even held the grave sites of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok!

Roll me in the mud and call me a turd!……where do I get started!

 

Well, you know when you get so jazzed about something or someone and then you meet them and well……it’s a bit of a let-down? A bit like the last Bond film.

Well, in my whole week of madassed location hopping and sight-seeing, I’ll admit that Deadwood was nothing like I expected.

 

I guess everyone has to make a living and much like 1876, you do what you can with what you have, and modern day Deadwood has done that by capitalising on the gambling and eating this little dirt pit started out famous for in its founding years.

 

Once you’ve negotiated the roller-coaster hill that sweeps into town and braked hard to join the H14 from H85 you come around a gentle curve where you swing a right onto what is the main Deadwood street. Almost every shop is geared to parting you with your hard earned dollars in one way or another. It’s like Blackpool minus the sea….or the tower…..or the illuminations……or the pleasure beach……or the…….

 

But, undeterred, I put the mule into the local muletistory car-park (expensive - $15 per three hours) and headed off in search of outlaws, guns, loose women and high stakes winnings….and dinner after a cold start up on the hill tops.

 

Deadwood is 100% engineered to take your money and has no shame in doing so and for that I actually liked it. Sure it’s a tourist trap– so is Vegas- but it’s likable if you know that it’s going to be a part of your trip. So I went in the various gambling halls, restaurant and venues and soaked up the atmosphere of false hope, false fronts and falsely loose women! Sweet Jesus is nothing real around here!?? Threw a few dollars into the money pits and lost every one but hey, I could say I actually gambled in Deadwood….COOL!

 

The high stakes were a slight misnomer…in as much as there were steaks higher up in the second floor restaurants, so I searched out the Mineral Palace and settled in for a well-earned hot meal.

Why the Mineral Palace?, well, it stands on the site of the original Gem Theatre operated by ‘Mr C*cksucker’ himself Al Swearengen!

 

http://www.mineralpalace.com/history/

 

So after travelling around 7,500 miles to visit the true Midwest and take in a few boyhood – and adulthood - bucket list locations, what better meal to be served as the ‘dish of the day’ in a classic Old Fashioned Deadwood, frontier town to beat all frontier towns steakhouse????

 

Curry.

 

Curry!?

 

Yes folks, the irony was not lost and despite the plethora of choices on the menu, I plumped for the dish of the day: Curry.

And why might you ask? Well, it’s a little known fact that although steak was available out here in the Midwest in Deadwood’s heyday, it was expensive and hard to keep from spoiling in the staggering heat of summer so most of the gold miners who based out of the town ate meat covered in various sauces to hide the rancid smell. It was cheap, plentiful and there were all manner of spices and sauces to throw in the pot due to the amazing variation of immigrants staking claims to a gold mine within spitting distance of another one.

soo makes me laugh thinking of what to shout!

I sat there by the window looking down at the almost empty main street below. It was early May and not the season for tourists just yet so there were not a lot of folks I could happily shout loud obscenities at, or better still REALLY LOUD OBSECINTIES at from my balcony just like Al Swearengen or Calamity Jane did, yes folks, (sorry to burst your Doris Day virginal singing sweetie image) – Jane was, in fact, and in reality, a foul mouthed, dirty, drunken part time prostitute – so drab and foul-mouthed that she was almost always mistaken for a man.), - but she had the Wi-Fi password so I let her off – more on Jane later folks – she had a redeeming quality that was to put her into the history books for a much more agreeable reason.

So I scoffed my very good Curry a ’la Deadwood, swore at the waitress and manager in true Deadwood style and headed for the bogs. Now, just like Crazy Horse, for some reason I seem to stumble on awesome photographs on the way to the bogs and this place was no exception.

On the walls down the hall were hundreds of period photos of Deadwood and surrounding cities. Fantastic pics of real life in the Midwest and of Deadwoods early days. What a terrible place to eke out a living. People literally carving out a home in the dirt – I mean literally digging a hole in the bank of the ‘road’ and staking a claim on it and living cheek by jowl with all sorts of nationalities and cultures. All for the opportunity to strike it rich. Gold was indeed there and often literally found within a stone’s throw of where some lucky sap had put his tent up, but with the gold came the rush, and with the rush came the miscreants, the murders, the desperate and the thieves. These photos are of all these types of people and their surroundings. It’s worth eating here just to see these amazing photos and go back in time to the beginnings of the city in 1876 and all the infamous inhabitants and visitors that made this place so notorious. Don’t forget your eating on the very same spot that Al Swearengen built his famous Gem Theatre on in 1876/77 and it became the most profitable and popular entertainment venue in the whole Midwest – mainly for prize fights and prostitution. Ah the good old days before Xbox eh.

 

So out into the empty main street I went on the search for the Mount Moriah Cemetary which holds the graves of Martha Jane Canary AKA ‘Calamity Jane’ and William ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok.

Main Street is a somewhat forlorn affair but I figured it must come alive at night and much more so in summer when the tourist season kicks in and the place is buzzing....again, not dissimilar to Blackpool.

The lower facades of the street are glamorous and enticing with every conceivable ploy to get you inside to eat or drink or better still….gamble. I’ve never really gambled so I threw a few dollars at the machines and certainly down the drain just to say I did it and carried on in search of a somewhat more peaceful and rewarding return for my hard earned pesos:- Mt Moriah Cemetery

In the end, courtesy of a really helpful state trooper, I located the Cemetery about a mile out of town up a very VERY steep hill. I actually ended up going back to the muletistory, saddling up and driving to the cemetery and I’m glad I did. It was heck of a climb if you’re walking.

I’ll say this, the houses on the street up to Mount Moriah are really pretty and make for a good spot to take some historical architecture photos, but by heck they must curse the weather when it snows. It’s possibly the steepest suburban street I’ve ever seen. I mean literally, toboggan tastic! But a nightmare for kids walking to school. I don’t know how they must do it. It begs to be skateboarded, rollerbladed, ski ’id down trust me.

 

When you get to the top of Lincoln Avenue, via Van Buren, you arrive at Mt Moriah Cemetery.

There is a little parking spot opposite a small shop which is filled with all manner of Deadwood related merch and stuffed to the walls with books and tales of the Cemetery’s inhabitants. There is a donation box for visitors to go into the cemetery and its’ worth it for the lovely views up there alone, let alone the famous residents.

There are plenty of websites dedicated to this place so I won’t drag the day out by yammering on about the location other than to say that it’s got wonderful views of Deadwood far below you and the surrounding Black Hills far off in the distance. It’s a lovely place and the tall pines certainly add to the peaceful and tranquil location. A well-chosen spot for a final resting place if ever there was one.

It’s very easy to find the graves of Bill and Jane as they are only a short walk into this massive place, and both are right next to each other. I’m not massively knowledgeable about either persona and to tell the truth I pretty much got most of that from quickly ginning up on them before I flew out to the US. I saw the TV series and read up on them from Wikipedia but I certainly knew of them since child hood. I mean how hasn’t heard of these two Midwest legends…I was as surprised as anyone that they were, as was Deadwood and the Homestake Mine, a mere 70 miles or so from Devils Tower and only ten miles from my second hotel in Spearfish.

 

The graves are clearly much improved on their original conditions – probably as they generate so much trade for the town far below and also because they are as equally famous as they were when they were alive.

But this is not a morbid day out to see some graves, no sir! this is just another stop on the trip of a lifetime out here in the Midwest and a chance to hit a tourist spot in the middle of bad weather days, calm down a bit and take it easy, and hopefully get some nice scenery and a bit of rest before heading back over to Devils Tower tomorrow for what was planned to be the day of days!

There is one other person I wanted to pay respects to and he is perhaps more influential to the entire area than Jane and Bill combined. Seth Bullock is legendary in these parts, not just for his exploits in and around Deadwood but more so for literally creating the town of Belle Fourche (where my final hotel resides and end destination for today’s trip….can you see the tight planning I made to fit all this in? genius I tells ya …genius!)

 

Seth Bullock – one time Sheriff of Deadwood in the 1870’s - made his money from a hardware store co-run with his business partner Sol Star. They made enough money to purchase land about 80 miles north of the town on the fork of the Cheyenne and Belle Fourche rivers and eventually Bullock named the growing town ‘Belle Fourche’.

Bullock convinced the fledgling railroads to build a stop in his town in return for free use of the land and it eventually became the nation’s biggest cattle station and literally millions of cattle were transported through the city to the rest of the US.

Seth Bullock became lifelong friends with Theodore Roosevelt, long before he became a US President and his grave is strategically located nearly a kilometre away from the main cemetery up a step sloped path into the hills above. It’s located so that Bullocks grave faces Mount Roosevelt, such was his admiration and friendship with the President to be. It’s a really steep climb and perhaps not best for those of an older persuasion and certainly not for the disabled. Not just because it’s a steep climb for 750 metres, but because it’s essentially a forest trail.

 

The climb is worth it though as the view across the hills for miles around are spectacular and the setting is very peaceful and serene. There is plenty of wildlife up there with a bench to sit on and take it all in. You’re surrounded by tall pines and although it was very cold when I was there the trees create a wind break and you realise looking out that you’re actually very high up in the hills and way above the town below. The trail is not supported on one side and it drops away hundreds of feet to the bottom so you do need to be quite careful traversing the trail and to keep kids in grabbing distance if you have any. But you do see lots of chipmunks jittering about so it isn’t all bad!! They’re a lot of fun to watch in the rocks and trees.

I was only half way through the week and I was beginning to feel the grip of exhaustion kicking in and I sat on my own on the bench for a good 40 mins, I think I fell asleep as it was so quiet and I saw no one in the cemetery so far. It’s a very nice spot if can you make the climb.

Bullocks family grave is suitable huge and you can walk around it but really there is nothing else up there but the lovely views and that’s it.

 

 

So I wound my way back down through the trees, back through the empty cemetery, out the massive wrought iron gates to the patient Subaru mule and tallied back down to the main road and on to my final destination for the day.

 

Video: The Walk From the Bullock Graves

 

It was 16:00 and I was running out of time but my destination lay only a few miles away so I kicked the mule and climbed out of Deadwood to the City of Lead and the mighty…

Homestake Mine!

Lead (pronounced Leed) is a small town just outside Deadwood. It’s petty non-descript in as much as it’s a sidewinding town on either side of the road which itself leads up a very steep hill that eventually heads up to Terry Peak Winter Ski resort.

However, this is as deceptive a road as there could be. I was looking for the fabled Homestake Gold Mine. This mine yielded 40 troy million ounces of gold and silver or 1,240,000kgs between around 1878 and 2000, making it the second largest gold mine in the western hemisphere and the most successful.

 

Video: Homestake Gold Mine from the edge

 

So I was looking for the entrance to see if I could have a look around and take a few snaps, maybe pan for some gold in a tourist fashion – typical Deadwood stuff. Upon reaching the middle of town I swung left and headed even further up to the main entrance to the Mine on……..street….I got to the top and found the main gate but it was closed to the public as I was so late arriving from Deadwood. I sat pondering my options and eventually asked a local if there was anything else to see nearby of interest. He told me to turn around and take a look- with a wry grin on his face.

I figured he was perhaps trying to figure out my accent. Nope. He was basically laughing at me.

Here’s why.

On my eagerness to locate the mine before it shut I had be concentrating on the road and the climb up the hills to the main gate. Only upon turning around and facing back down the hill did I see what the old boy was laughing at.

 

As you come back down the hill to the main road again, before you is a fantastic view of the Homestake Mine. Once the second largest gold mine in the western hemisphere, the remains of which dominates the surrounding countryside. It literally is gargantuan and at the same time almost a work of art in its simple but immense spiralling layout that leads the eye down below the horizon. No Google map or photo can truly do this scene justice, you have so see it with your own eyes to grasp the scale of the place in comparison to surrounding trees or buildings or vehicles. It’s already above the horizon as it was originally hills but as soon as a lucky couple of guys found gold in them thar hills….literally poking out of a stream wall, the rest of South Dakota and just about every person on the planet with a shovel and an eye for riches, rushed to the site and began digging deeper and deeper into the SD hillside.

As machinery got better the hole went deeper and eventually they went underground to eke out the deposits of gold, silver and ore. It changed the face of the town and the landscape forever and todays pit is a monument to the greed, hard work, shite conditions and sheer willpower of the men women and children who worked this place for over a hundred years until it eventually gave out and was shut down in around 2000. Since 1964, it once again began serving as a place of cutting edged discovery and anticipation, of wonder and of awe….not ore.

In the time it’s taken you to read these eleven words… about 50,000 neutrinos have passed through your body, undetected and you haven’t felt a thing. I bet until you read this you didn’t even know they existed. A neutrino is a subatomic particle that is very similar to an electron, but has no electrical charge and a very small mass, which might even be zero. Neutrinos are one of the most abundant particles in the universe. but they are incredibly difficult to detect, or, as Frederick Reines, an American physicist would say, "...the most tiny quantity of reality ever imagined by a human being". Sort of like x rays or gamma rays but to our best knowledge – harmless. However they are understood to be the only ‘object’ that can truly pass thru another physical object and continue penetrating past it for thousands of feet without causing any damage- unlike x-rays and gamma rays. They can pass literally pass thru solid objects. They can pass though through the whole planet untroubled. They do this all day and we don’t notice thing.

In order to study these amazing objects, you need a place far from the sun and impregnable from any other noise or beams or solar interference. Somewhere bloody deep and covered in millions of tons of rock to block everything out.

 

Welcome to Homestake Mine aka Sanford Lab Underground Research Facility

On July 10, 2007, the mine was selected by the National Science Foundation as the location for the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL)

It is now operated as the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF). Yes folks today, the mine lives on as a state of the art research lab dedicated to all sorts of experiments where total separation from interference, primarily from the sun is critical. So the 5000ft deep mine shafts serve perfectly as laboratories for about a thousand employees and scientist all hoping to discover the next Higgs Boson or microwave or atomic particle. What better place to study and capture neutrinos than far underground?

 

Back to the surface and back to me and the mule navigating the hill whilst at the same time dumbstruck at the view ahead, we hit the main road and directly opposite is the Sanford Labs’ Homestake Visitors centre. This is a modern facility showcasing the work going on under your very feet to discover more about the neutrino and its buddies. The view from the car park is awe inspiring. You can see way down into the mine and you can spot some vehicles on the far side that give an idea of the size of the place. True gold rush stuff here. The centre has exhibitions and wall displays, interactive stuff for adult and kids - I won’t spoil it in case you go there) – but it’s very interesting and quite unlike anything I’ve seen in this field as it’s not every day you actually get anywhere near this type of facility.

 

 

For me this was a highlight of the trip as I was not expecting this at all, I thought I’d find Homestake and see a few touristy sales places offering gold panning for a few bucks – and fair enough – everyone has to make living right and there aint much around here apart from Deadwood. But it’s great to see this little town reinventing itself as literally the world’s foremost deep neutrino laboratory. Fantastic end to what was really a bit of a fill-in day between visits to much more well-known attractions. It just goes to show how much South Dakota has to offer.

So as time was marching on I grabbed a nice coffee from the local Gas station, fed the mule with some grade ‘A’ fossils, and hit the road for my third hotel of the week some 50 miles north up in Belle Fourche.

My friend Corey, who winter holidays in these here parts, told me about Spearfish Canyon Trail and that it’s a hell of a nice drive back to Spearfish from which I can then continue on to Belle Fourch. Fortunately the road out of Lead takes me right up past Terry Mountain Ski Resort – Corey’s’ holiday destination – and then way back down again to the valley floor past lots or roadside diners and bars, all of which looked really nice but weren’t open in early May, so on we went.

The road peels off right and signposts tell you you're on the Spearfish Canyon Trail. Again, like sooooooo many things in this crazy week-----I know right ---it’s only Wednesday folks - this road defies description in writing or photos or video. You have to see it through your own windshield.

It’s beautiful. The sunlight that evening was at the perfect tilt from the west and lit up the valley on one side like a watercolour painting and I had no choice but to crack open the Eric Johnson CD ‘EJ’ and let the acoustic guitar mastery set the musical tone for this natural wonder of a drive. The road follows the bottom of a very deep and steep sided ravine for about………….. miles or so and winds back and forth through ponderosa pines that clamour up the sides of the cliff faces.

Here is a short dash cam of the drive which only vaguely captures the beauty of the place.

The sunlight dappled on the hills and took it from dark and drizzly one minute to glinting sparkles the next. Kevin Costner filmed one of the final scenes of Dances with Wolves in this very canyon. You can park the car and walk about two miles in to the canyon proper and see the exact location he filmed the winter waterfall scene with himself and Stands with a Fist traipsing through the snowy mountain side. I was way too hungry to check it out so I left if for my 60th birthday and kept trucking through the canyon. It was a lovely drive and I hardly saw another vehicle apart from at Bridal Veil Falls which is a pretty waterfall coming out of the ravine edge high above you and looked ethereal in the fading sunlight. Eventually you come to the end and hit Spearfish city from where I headed up to my hotel in the quiet town of Belle Fourch.

 

Another great day in the Midwest of American with some truly iconic (albeit long dead) Americans and some truly iconic locations and views.

AmericInn Belle Fourche....great hotel - loved it!

I have to admit though, I was pushing it to the limit with cramming stuff into each day but I was not going to waste a single hour or get back to the UK wishing I had not wasted time here and there or lollygagging at some tourist trap or lazing in bed etc. I would sleep on the flights home! But I was beginning to feel the time zone and lack of sleep slowly catching up with me and the buzz of being over there amidst these incredible locations, so I set upon getting to my hotel and getting a comparatively early night ready for tomorrow’s hopefully epic day and night on Devils Tower.

 

Now…cast your mind back to my first day in the US, swimming in the hotel pool to piped-in Brookes and Dunn?? Well my hasty packing of wet trunks and leaving them in my suitcase was soon to catch me up! No sooner had I checked in to the AmericInn and started to make myself at home in the suite (which was gorgeous by the way) than my odourus swimming shorts started to permeate the room with bad vibes! I had to wash all my smalls and my trunks to get rid of the obnoxious smell and then blow dry them all dry before morning. I eventually finished at 02:00 in the morning and probably kept the neighbour’s awake wondering how much f*…hair did I have? Ha-ha.

And so ended my day. I was absolutely LOVING this trip but shit was I knackered!

 

Night all. See you in the morning for what was to become one of the best days in my life……

Glen.