Tuesday, 4 October 2016

South Dakota road-trip (days four and five)

Sadly it was time for us to leave the beautiful Badlands, so after a much better nights sleep - where we were not woken up by the neighbours dogs - we had packed up the car and were ready to leave by 0900. As we stopped to drop the key off we grab bananas and juice from the breakfast buffet. We picked up the I-90 and headed north west to Rapid City to refuel ($21.99 for 9.7 gallons).

We noticed a Target store across the road and thought it was as good a place as any to pick up a few bits included the much sort for 'Pumpkin Spiced Cheerios' to take back home with us as they seem to be out of stock everywhere in Madison. We also pick up a pair of lovely enamel mugs so that we don't have to use the paper cups in the hotel rooms and a handful of other supplies.

We pick up the road heading to Spearfish Canyon, and, getting close to our destination our tummies began to rumble and we decided to stop for brunch, after negotiating the many road works we pulled into Perkins Family Restaurant where we split a breakfast of eggs, hash brown and toast, coffee and a stack of pancakes, just what we needed. Back in the car we did not have long at all until we parked up just outside Spearfish to enjoy a mile long walk along the creek. The autumnal colours we're just showing and everywhere was looking rather lovely, on our way back to the car we were lucky enough to catch sight of a deer as it ran along the creek and up into the woodland.

Back in the car we continued on our way and began the drive along Spearfish Canyon towards Cheyenne Crossing, before taking the mountain pass to the mining town of Lead and then on to Deadwood. The scenery was absolutely stunning the vast height of the bluffs on either side reached up to meet the sky. We stopped off for several photo stops along the way including the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls.

Finally reaching Deadwood we parked up at the visitor centre - only $1.00 per hour - and walked to Main St and onto the Welcome to Deadwood sign. We stopped for photos under the sign and again at the statue of Wild Bill Hickok before continuing back up the other side of Main Street where we decided that a stop at the Wild Bill Bar was in order. This is on the original site of  Saloon No 10 where Wild Bill played his last hand of poker before he was shot in the back of the head by the assassin Jack McCall. A lesson for everyone to never sit with their back to the door. We took a seat at the bar and ordered a couple of beers, Paul opting for local Rapid City Firehouse Breweries Red.

Next we wanted to check out Mount Moriah Cemetery, we had read that it was a short walk from Main St, what it didn't tell you was of the incredibly steep climb up and that you felt you was ready for your own grave rather then looking at them when you got there. At the cemetery, we first headed to the view point overlooking Deadwood, it was here that we got confused about how much time we had left on our parking meter so after visiting only the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane we rushed back down to the visitor centre - turns out we had a good 40 minutes left, typical!

With the extra time we decided to head back up Main St for the all important postcards, then set of for the final part of today's drive to Keystone and Battle Creek Lodge where we were staying for the next 3 nights.

After a very friendly check in we were given our room key and went to take our stuff up. On opening the door the first thing we notice was that there was a case in the room, strange. It was then we noticed that the room was already occupied! So quickly locking it back up we went back to reception and received another room by our most apologetic host and was finally able to settle in.

Supper was left over pizza from the previous day in Wall which we ate in our room, then down to the fire pit for an evening of beers and s'mores. What a charming evening, we had a good chat with the residents whose room we had gate crashed earlier and enjoyed the evening until the gas for the fire-pit ran out. Must be bedtime then!

We awoke this morning after a lovely nights sleep to find the room decorated for my 44th birthday - someone had been busy, thanks Paul. We made a coffee and settled down to open some cards and pressies that had arrived before we had left, a Suicide Squad graphic novel, cash, craft things, to name but a few which were greatly received. We then headed to a lovely breakfast in reception and tucked in to toasted bagels and fruit before leaving about 0845 to head into Custer State Park and Sylvan Lake where we planned to hire a canoe.

We couldn't have asked for better weather, the sun was shining, the air was still which made for really impressive reflections on the Lakes surface. We filled in the necessary paperwork, which basically says they accept no responsibility, no matter what!, paid the $34 for the hours canoe hire and donned life jackets and we were soon out on the water.

I was up front, (I think you will find the pointy end is called the bow - P.) Paul steering at the rear. Slyvan Lake is absolutely beautiful, the views we had were stunning and so peaceful, there were very few folk about, we probably only saw another ten or so on the water plus a few hikers passing by. I think we did rather well, no crashes or near misses. It was all too soon to take the canoe back in and we treated ourselves to an ice cream to share - we know had to live.

Now it's here in the tale that depending who tells the story you will get a very difference of opinion on how much we enjoyed the Sunday Gulch Trail. It started all well and good, our hike started just off the lake-side trail, and had short steep pull up. We were both mesmerised by the sparkling quartz and mica that seem to be in abundance everywhere we looked, a true faerie path. We hiked through delightful wooded areas spotting little critters as we slowly climbed down to reach the riverbed. It was a well marked path and only once did we take a wrong turn over the tops of some boulders, but we quickly realised and didn't really go far off the trail. Now the problem when you go down is that you then have to go up, we slowing began to climb back up crisscrossing the river, over stepping stones and makeshift bridges made of logs. The terrain becoming more and more strenuous as we continued.

Now Paul was rather enjoying the challenge, me not so much by this point, and I made sure Paul understood my feelings with many expletives and stern looks along the way. The final part was technically very difficult with large boulders that you needed to use the hand rails to pull you up, I had well and truly had enough! Although the trail is only 2.8 mile loop it's rated as strenuous, but it only lets you know this via a sign when you already half way round!!! No pictures at this point, if Paul had got out his phone I would not have been held accountable for my actions (google Sunday Gulch Trail and remember we were having going up).

Thankfully we dragged ourselves back to the car, and celebrated by way of sharing an apple and a bottle of water, I did contemplate chucking my boots in the lake just to make sure Paul couldn't drag me on something like this again, but I resisted. Back on the road and we headed to drive the Needles Highway, a 14mile road through granite mountain and spruce forest. The name comes from the needle like granite formations that pierce the horizon along it. We briefly stopped at the tunnel to catch a glimpse of Needles Eye, named for the opening created by the weather. It's not a quick road to take out of the park, it takes about 45mins, but it's incredible scenery that you wouldn't want to fly by.

Picking up the highway we drove past the ambitious Crazy Horse monument.

Now out of the park and on a mission to buy a cake suitable for a birthday celebration we headed through Custer and into Hill City, where we found a local supermarket and brought a blackcurrent crumble cake and some Reds Apple Ale for later. Whilst at Hill City it would have been rude not to stop at the Miner Brewing Company and partake of their beer flight of six 4oz pours, we also included a pineapple cider to the tray. Favourites were the pineapple cider, a mango cream ale and light sweater weather ale. There wasn't much to eat at the brewery and we were feeling ready for late lunch/early dinner so we went next door to the Prairie Berry Winery and had a delicious birthday meal of hummus and crudités, pitta breads, olives and Greek orzo salad, and a glass of delicious Lawrence Elk for the Birthday girl.

Feeling suitably stuffed we headed back to our lodgings at around 6.30 and our plans of beer and s'mores round the fire pit went out the window in favour of slobbing out in the room with birthday cake, a beer and our books. Crashed out by 10pm.

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