Here we are in Spearfish, South Dakota which is just East of the Wyoming border and 20 minutes North of Deadwood in the Black Hills. We basically drove due north from Cheyenne to to northern part of Wyoming today. It was history day and lots of fun.
Maggie, back in her rightful spot on the windshield, took us to Devil’s Tower via cool towns named Lusk and Chugwater.
Our first stop was Guernsey. Here several trails converged–a super highway of emigrants. Oregon Trail, California and Morman Trails, Pony Express, too. It’s right on the Platte River which was a monster to cross. Today, it looks rather mellow, but that’s because there are dams on the river that keep it from getting too rambunctious.
Right at the crossing was a favored encampment where the emigrants recovered from their Platte Crossing Ordeal. It was also a spot to carve one’s name into the soft sandstone cliffs, called Register Cliffs. Hundreds and hundreds of names are scrawled there ranging from the late 1800s to 2012. I wonder if anyone ever etched their name there to let someone coming later know that they had forged the river safely?
Further up from Registration Rock were the Oregon Trail Ruts—deep groves left by the wagons as they crossed the hills….
In Lusk, there is a museum where the last Deadwood to Cheyenne Stagecoach is housed. Look at that little thing! Can you imagine bumping along in the dust?
I took a picture of an old photo of the stage fully loaded– Beats walking. Rose, the museum curator, wasn’t going to let us just look at the stagecoach and then head to Devil’s Tower. Oh no. She took us from room to room. It was interesting. There was a mold of a T-Rex skull that was found near by. Some old clothes of teeny tiny people who did not grow up on chocolate chip cookies like I did. An old piano, an old victrola. Lots of photos of unknown people. And in the back, an actual covered wagon….a Prairie Schooner! Those things are so small. It’s hard to imagine families and their belongings living in them, traveling west. Also in the back is a one-room school house, a store front and several other wagons.
After the museum in Lusk, we continued to Devil’s Tower–which was called the Bear’s Tipi and other Bear-related names by the Plains First People. It’s a sacred sight and there are many prayer offerings–strips of cloth–tied to trees surrounding the monument. Awesome energy. Al says it’s the kind of energy that makes you want to whisper, and I think that’s a good explanation. It feels quite similar to Mt. Shasta in Northern California. We spent about and hour or so, walking around the monument and soaking up the stillness, listening to the wind through the ponderosa pines.
And you can’t forget the Prairie Dogs…..
Besides Prairie Dogs, we saw lots of dear and antelope playing. I really enjoyed exploring this part of Wyoming. Lots and lots of history. One other stop that was quite fascinating was the Vore Buffallo Jump. It wasn’t open, but Al and I went through the fence and poked around. It’s a sink hole that couldn’t be seen by stampeding buffalo until it was too late. They’d be chased to the edge and the woolie guys would fall in and die. Then, they’d be processed into skin and meat in preparation of winter. Here’s a cut/paste from their website: The Vore Buffalo Jump is on the interface between what were once great bison pastures of the northern Great Plains and the Black Hills, making it highly attractive to various groups of buffalo hunters. In about 300 years, the site was used by five or more tribes.
There’s now a building where the excavation sight is at the bottom of the sink hole where lots and lots of bones and artifacts are being uncovered. A prehistoric meat processing plant.
Tomorrow, we’re driving across South Dakota to Souix Falls. It’s a 5 hour drive, not too bad. We’re listening to World War Z by Max Brooks as an audiobook. It was recommended by a friend (that’d be you, Faith) and I’ve never gotten around to reading it. Very cool book. I’ll probably have to read it, now as well.