Nebraska and South Dakota
Saturday 5 October
I'd long planned to do a trip to South Dakota while I was in Kansas as it would be relatively easy to get to, however too much time climbing had resulted in it not happening until now. It also meant it would be a shorter trip than I'd originally planned but as it turned out that was probably for the best as some idiots in DC couldn't agree a budget and so a lot of what I wanted to see was closed.
Friday evening I drove up to Nebraska and bivvied at a State Park virtually by the interstate. Next morning I started a slow relaxed drive across Nebraska on Highway 2. Turns out the highway, depspite being classed as scenic, is a bit boring. The first thing of note was a large church that looked awfully English in style but thanks to me forgetting to change my new camera back to automatic the photos I took were all black. Whoops. I next stopped off at a portion of Nebraska National Forest. The look out was shut (stupid politicians) but I still went for a small hike and it was nice to stretch my legs.
After driving most of the rest of Highway 2, which had got a little more scenic, I arrived at Carhenge. A "replica" of Stonehenge made out of old cars. Words really don't do it justice so you'll just have to look at the photos.
The plan had been to spend that night at a state park in South Dakota but it turns out there had been a huge amount of snow between where I was and the park - one drift I saw must have been easily ten foot tall - so in the end I didn't make it that far instead sleeping in the back of my car in a tiny bit of ploughed ground in a state park in Nebraska.
Sunday 6 October
Crazy Horse Monument
Next day I drove up towards Custer State Park. On the way up I drove through Wind Cave National Monument. It would have been cool to have stopped and seen it but once again stupid politicians denied me that pleasue so all I have is some pictures of Buffalo from the road.
When I got to Custer State Park I realised that there was still a shed load of snow around. I managed to go for a short hike to an overlook but it soon become clear that my plan to hike that day wasn't very practical so instead I headed to Crazy Horse Monument.
Crazy is an apt name for Crazy Horse Monument. In simple terms it's the Native American version of Mount Rushmore. Except bigger and even more destructive to the mountain. I wasn't very impressed with how they'd destroyed the mountain but having already totally ruined it I suppose they may as well carry on.
Next up was Mount Rushmore. This was also closed but I'd heard you coud see it pretty well from the road so I decided to go and find out. On the way I stopped at a pretty lake and took a few pictures.
Turns out that you can see Mount Rushmore from the road and even get some pretty decent pictures if you managed to dodge the law enforcement rangers that were trying to stop you stopping - quite how the government was saving money by cosing pullouts etc was beyond me but the whole situation was stupid. It would appear that if you stopped in a really idiotic place, i.e. the middle of a junction, they woud even given you a ticket, who would have thought? Anyway I managed to avoid them and get some reasonabe photos. I'm calling this Mount Rushmore ticked as I think the view will only be a little better from within the monument.
On the way to a campsite in Custer State Park I stopped at the visitor's centre to see if I could get more information on the snow. I couldn't but I did get some pictures of some deer. Arriving at the campsite, which was up and running if not completely ploughed, I once again chose to sleep in the car rather than dig out a hole for my tent. Before heading to bed I walked some of the Creekside Trail as it was getting dark.
Monday 7 October
Custer State Park - Prairie Trail
Monday morning saw me back at the visitor's centre to try to get more information on the snow and what was sensible. It was still shut and the park ranger outside was in the dark as much as everyone else, which wasn't massively helpful. I did however get some photos of some turkeys on my travels.
Given the amount of snow that was still around I headed to the Prairie Trail, thinking that what with being at a lower elevation it might be more snow free. Thankfully it was and after some macro photography I set off on the hike. I run into several Buffalo including one rather large collection that I had to detour around. Very cool!
Heading back to the snowier part of the park I managed I spotted some deer by the roadside. I stopped at Legion Lake, took some photos and then headed out on the Legion Lake trail. It was a total disappointment. As well as hiking through a lot of deep snow I didn't get to see the lake at all. It did however make my mind up that there was no point hanging around for another day as the hikes I still wanted to do would be too snowy.
Custer State Park - Sylvan Lake
Having finished the hike I headed off to the Sylvan Lake area which I'd not managed to get to the day before due to snow but today it was passable. And boy was I glad I tried again as it's a beatiful man made lake. Most of the "dam" is natural rock with only a small man made bit. I'd never seen anything like it before but it was very cool. There was even a small waterfall in the natural bit.
Next I started to head back to Nebraska. On the way I saw some deer in Wind Cave National Monument which were very different to the other deer I'd seen and not like any other deer I'd seen before. I also stopped in Hot Springs to take some photos of a roadside waterfall. That evening I camped in a pretty crappy Nebraska State Park - pretty much the only good thing about it was that it was convienent.
Tuesday 8 October
I started the next day by heading to Chimney Rock, arrivinga few minutes before the visitor's centre opened. The rock formation is pretty damn cool but there's not much else exciting there. After a little while I headed towards Scott's Bluff. This would be shut due to the shutdown but having a lot of the day left I'd thought I'd go and see what I could see from the road. In my opinion it isn't as exciting as Chimney Rock and I'm not sure what I'd gain by going when it was open so I'm calling this ticked as well.
I'd picked up a guide to several pioneer trails in the area at Chimney Rock and in it was Rebecca Winters Grave. This looked pretty cool and was pretty close by so I went and took a look. She was a Mormon pioneer who had died on the trail and a friend had marked the grave with a wagon wheel on which he engraved her name. After seeing that i started a slow drive towards Kansas stopping off at another rock formation.
On the way back I decided to stop off somewhere the guide said you could see ruts caused by cart wheels. I'd be damned if I could see anything but a field. As I still had quite a lot of time left I took back roads back to the interstate and run accross what was meant to be a child's grave with a sign explaining it. Then before I got back to the interstate I also run accross a Halloween scarecrow. Together they made the detour well worthwhile.
Staying off the Interstate but now on a main US highway I saw signs for the Golden Spike Tower and decided to go and investigate what it was. Turns out it's a viewing tower by the biggest railway yard in the country. I decided to pay and go and see the view and it was pretty cool - especially seeing a hump yard in operation. This is where an incoming train is split up with wagons pushed over a hump and then travel to their new train by gravity and switches. I'd heard about them but never seen one and so it turned out to be a pleasant little detour.
My last detour was to see a Pony Express Station. Given the time of day it was already shut and not massively exciting. As time was now getting on I headed back to the Interstates and Lawrence.
Copyright Daniel Money 2013