Wednesday, October 19, 2016

There’s Gold in the Black Hills

Although we’ve spent two summers in the Black Hills, we’ve never been there in the fall.  We’ve always wondered what it would look like when the Aspen and Birch changed colors, and so this year we decided to find out.  Our first drive was up Spearfish Canyon to the Savoy Intersection and Roughlock Falls, one of the areas used in the filming of the movie Dances with Wolves.  This is an area that is spectacular on a summer day – this time of year it was absolutely magical!Spearfish Canyon1
Spearfish Canyon2
Spearfish Canyon3

Spearfish Canyon4

Roughlock Falls is a pretty area with a rushing, crystal-clear stream, just down from where the closing scene of the movie was filmed.

Roughlock Falls

Sundance Kid
We were thrilled to have a visit from an old friend from my Air Force days.  Sheryl and her mother had never been here, so the day after they toured Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, we took them Keith and Brenda Devil's Toweron a day trip to Devil’s Tower, Lead, and Deadwood.  On the way to Devil’s Tower, we stopped for lunch in Sundance, where Sheryl and her mom had a chance to sit with the Sundance Kid.  Then it was on to Devil’s Tower, one of the real wonders of the west.  Even though we’ve been here before, we’re always amazed at how this strange tower erupts from the landscape.  We had a great time showing our guests around – it’s always fun for us to share our knowledge of an area.
We returned to the Eastern Black Hills a few days later and were surprised at how the Aspen and Birch trees had changed.  There were so many great views – here are a few:

Fall Colors1

Fall Colors3
Fall Colors7
Fall Colors6
We took the scenic route back and came through the old mining town of Lead (Leed).  It’s an old town that reminds us of many of the rust-belt mining towns in Pennsylvania – narrow streets with homes built on steep slopes.  Lead, SDAs we drove down Main Street, we could see the Homestake Mine headframe.  Gold was discovered here in the 1870s, and the mine became the largest and deepest gold mine in the world.  Closing in 2002, the mine produced 31 million ounces of gold and seven million of silver.  The mine reached an astounding depth of 8000 feet before closing, and today the Sanford Laboratory conducts “Deep Underground Neutrino” experiments near the 5000’ level.  I have no idea what a ‘Neutrino” is but I think it’s good that they’re experimenting with them way, way, underground.
Niobara RiverFinally it was time to leave South Dakota and head for New Mexico for the winter.  We headed south to Valentine, Nebraska to visit two US Fish & Wildlife refuges, hoping that the fall migration of waterfowl and Sandhill Cranes had begun.  But the warm weather has delayed the migration, so we had to be satisfied with the surprisingly beautiful scenery along the Niabrora River.  But we did see Prairie Dogs – lots and lots of Prairie Dogs, madly eating to put on fat for the winter.  This one doesn’t look like he needs to eat much more:Prarie Dog
During our years on the road, we’ve encountered a number of obstacles while driving;  dust storms, construction, accidents, etc., but nothing like we encountered Cattle Drive1entering Kansas.    Cresting a hill, I looked ahead at what appeared to be a large brown mass in the road.  Moving closer, we realized we were watching a cattle drive.  Apparently it’s Cattle Drive 2easier to move the hundreds of cattle by herding them down the highway instead of trucking them.  We pulled to a stop behind the herd, and were a bit surprised when the young lady on horseback motioned us to follow her.  Cattle Drive 3So off we went, straight through the mass of bawling, mooing, and obviously unhappy cattle.  Amazingly, they moved aside as we slowly drove through, and although there were a few close calls, we managed to escape without  any damage to us or the cattle.  We try to stay off of the interstate highways because they’re boring – but hadn’t quite expected something like this!
And finally, we’ll leave you with this beautiful sculpture from outside the Wyoming visitor center:Wyoming VC Statue2
We’re in New Mexico now, and there’s always a lot to see and do here – check back and see what we’re up to!