This trip was planned a year ahead of time. On it, we joined the Volkssport Association of America on its semi-annual Volksmarch at Crazy Horse – a 6-mile RT walk from the parking lot of the Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota to the base of the completed Crazy Horse face. So here we go!
Sat., June 7, 2014:
Left the farm with the topper and red Ford Escape packed to the gills at 11:15 am. Stopped in Gettysburg, SD, for oil, topped up the engine oil by 1 quart. Bought a supreme pizza – I ate 3 sections, Verna ate one. Girls/Marge didn’t want any of it.
Stopped in the state capital, Pierre, at Wal-Mart – bought picnic items for the next night, plus Gracie’s prescription, etc. Everyone but me had Subway sandwiches.
Claire drove with Grace in front to Wall Drug. Spent 1-1/2 in there – eating, buying sourvenirs, donuts of course! Then on to Harney Camp Cabins via I-90, S then S at exit 61 to US 79 to Hermosa, then US 40 W to Keystone, then US 244 past Rushmore Monument to US 385/16, then S on 385 about ¼ mile to US 87 S [Needles and Sylvan Lake Highway], and 1.5 or so to the Harney Camp Cabins. Cold rainy and wet day. Cabin a little dingy, no bedroom furniture smallish kitchette, gas stove. After checking in we headed for Hill City for dinner at the City Café. Food so-so. I have the buffet, Marge and Grace had chili (lukewarm), and Gramma and Claire had the soup-salad bar. We had wi-fi at the café, so we
Sun., June 8, 2014:
A great day. Up in time for breakfast, again at the City Café in Hill City, same waitress (Crystal), often in communication with Rausches (Linda and Rick) by phone. We were right on schedule but the Rausches had serious problems getting to the site on time. 1st, they were going to meet us at our cabin and go together, then they were just going to meet us at the registration, and THEN they almost didn’t make it on time, due to “slow driving by Linda,” and they “got messed up with directions.” Ultimately, they were the 2nd-to-last people to be allowed in the walk! We went ahead and started with the hope they could catch up. We eventually made it to the top, after 4 check-in stations where you got your entry card stamped with a letter, eventually spelling a word: M – R – S – Z = Mrs. Ziolkowski! (yesterday’s walk work was R – U – T – H in remembrance of her death on May 21, 2014.
It was a grueling, cold, RAINY, muddy walk, up and down, with a total rise of 500 ft from start to finish, and an altitude of 5810 at the top where Crazy Horse’s head is, BUT – it was a pleasant enough walk with the girls, even in the drizzle and rain and wind. Luckily we had ponchos and umbrellas, but we still got chilled to the bone. As we approached to top, we noticed everyone going down had big smiles on their faces! We understood why, of course. The last stretch after check-in #4 was part of the hardest uphill AND coldest, due to altitude. Once we got to the top, it was BITTER COLD, WINDY, RAINY and foggy down below! But everyone tried to ignore that and kept smiling and taking pictures. Some girls were in shorts and even flip-flops! Don’t know how they took it! All of a sudden I get a phone call from Rick and they’re past check-in #4, on their way to the top. In another 5 minutes, there they were, looking a little straggled out, esp. Linda. Anyway, we got pictures and then outathere! Walking down was SO much more fun, and we had big smiles on our faces, too. Visited with Rick about lots of things.
Went to 15-minute historic video (excellent), then gift shop area for sweatshirts (for Tom and me) and postcards. We had agreed with Rick and Linda to meet between 5-5:30 at our cabin. While waiting, I decided to go get drinks in Hill City, which I did at the local convenience store and gas station – lemonade, Michelob Ultra and root beer. Rauches were not yet there when I returned, but they did show up soon. We had a LOVELY party, their grass-fed beef and condiments, our potato salad, baked beans, chips, lemonade, root beer and Michelob Ultra beer! Good time had by all, stories of Marine boot camp, etc., told. They had their English sheep dog “Hope.” R & L left ca. 8:15, then we all to bed. Fun day.
Mon., June 9, 2014:
Up early (7:10 am), dressed, packed, stepped outside into a glorious, picture-perfect day, clear, crisp and sunny. I took the dog outside to do its ablutions, took some outdoor pics of the cabins, then had a bowl of oatmeal and banana, eventually got others up and ready for breakfast at the Hill City Café, which we did do. Nice, leisurely breakfast there, said our final goodbyes to the wait-staff, picked up a calendar and fridge magnet of the Hill City Café, then walked around downtown, first to the W terminus of the 1880’s train station, headed to Keystone (train about to leave at 10:00). On way back to car, visited with older local gentleman mowing his lawn with a 1955 Sears ELECTRIC mower, complete with long extension cord! He let me take a picture of the outside and even the underside of the contraption! Quite proud of it, I could tell. Marge & girls wanted to buy $300 worth of gold, but I discouraged it and luckily she let that impulse pass. We all drove back to the cabin, packed up and left, just before official check-out time of 11:00. Drove down US 87, through the Needles Eye, past Sylvan Lake, then took the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop. Saw lots of buffalo, pronghorn antelope (2nd fastest animal alive! – can go from 0 – 60 mph in 3 sec.s!!), prairie dogs, and deer. Eventually left the BH and headed N on 79 to Rapid City, and then E on US 44 to Interior and eventually Badlands NP and Cedar Pass Lodge. Arrive just at 4:00 pm, as projected by “John F. Fibsher.” Checked into the cabin (#115) by 4:25 pm, a beautiful, brand-spankin’ new structure, with large main room, lovely back porch with chairs and view of the badland buttes, AND handicap facilities. VERY nice facilities, and we were grateful to have.
Went to dinner at the Cedar Pass Lodge restaurant, where there were tons of bicycle riders staying overnight, eventually crossing South Dakota from W to E. Claire spoke to some of them and hopes to ride part of their route with them tomorrow morning. Restaurant situation not good, with personnel unstaffed, not enough bus people or dish washers, plus TONS of people waiting (10-deep in groups), very frustrated, not happy campers. We were served in a very professional, timely fashion with no problems. Marge and I played a game of art-cards – she tried to name the painter and title on the deck of cards she had. This made the time pass quickly. Had the pulled pork sandwich, FF and salad, then raspberry-and-cheesecake ice cream from Brookings/SDSU. Very nice.
At 9:00 pm I went to the “Oh, Ranger…” program at the amphitheatre, which was head-and-shoulders above most previous programs we had seen there. Girls sat on a butte up above the seating area, I was down below. Very informative program, learned a lot about the Badlands, SD flora and fauna and general information about the area. Excellent technology and pictures.
Afterwards we stayed for the SkyWatch program with telescopes. The resident “astrophysicist,” Becca, a recent graduate of Michigan State U’s astronomy program, was just excellent! She had a long-range laser light where she could point out stars and planets very easily. Showed the Big Dipper (one of those points is actually at least two stars, and was the basis for check eye acuity in potential pilots for the armed forces), Polaris, then “arc to Arcturus,” “speed to Spica,” from there to Mars, then the Moon (waxing gibbous), and finally “saunter to Saturn.” Becca also pointed out Jupiter, on the horizon, with 3 of its 4 Galilean moons visible (2 were in too close alignment to be distinguished) – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – plus Castor and Pollux just above it, AND, in another direction (straight S), the red heart of Scorpius, Antares, whose name means literally “not Mars”! The Greeks named it thus to avoid confusion with the real Mars, both of which are approximately the same magnitude and reddish color. Mercury, the smallest planet and one closest to the Sun (and the only one I haven’t seen at this writing – June 10, 2014), is hard to find and has to be seen just before dawn or after sunset. Its orbit in small and is always close to the sun, hence its limited viewability. We ended up seeing Jupiter and. Magnification was not much different than my telescope, so that was a little disappointing. We also got a look at the Moon, with a filter on, but the result also was about the same as my telescope, and not much of a revelation. But still fun to be there and learn about the sky. Home by 10:35 pm, and to bed.
Tues., June 10, 2014:
Up at 6:45-ish, so Claire could be up and ready for her ride to Wall, SD, some 60 miles RT, leaving between 8 and 8:30. Got ready, got her some breakfast, and were down at the café by 8:00. Dang! Most riders had already left! But there were 5 older cyclists – 4 men and a woman, mostly medical professionals – still about to leave, and they invited Claire to join them, which she did! She ended up riding 45 miles, didn’t go the last 8 miles into Wall, but rather stopped at the top of the hill of the last hill 8 miles shy of the town, with a view of the Wall water tower. She talked with several of the group members for about an hour, before leaving them there and heading back toward the Badlands. In the meantime, Grace and I hiked the Saddle Pass Trail, some 400 feet up from the lower Badlands to the Upper Badlands. Pretty rigorous climbing, making the heart pound and the legs quiver. Overall had a wonderful time, snaking up through the pass itself first, then taking on the same very high butte we had climbed several years before and where there had been a rattlesnake sunning itself at the very top! No rattlesnake today, luckily. Great views, perfect weather – sunny, cool, very little breeze, a wonderful occasion. We were gone some 2 hrs. before returning to the cabin. Claire showed up a short while later, all happy, flushed and brimming with pride and accomplishment!
After showers and cleanup, everyone had some lunch from the fridge, and then I went to the restaurant area for better internet connection/wifi and did school business, including revising the contents of the bijou sign at school. Afterwards, came back to the cabin, only to find that all were asleep! That included Verna sitting up but asleep on the fouton bed, refusing to lie down on it even after urging and direction by Marge! Very uncomfortable-looking! Ultimately it became clear that I couldn’t beat them, so finally joined them, gently sinking into the arms of Morpheus. However, I got up a half hour earlier than everyone else and wrote THANK-YOU postcards to my Wesleyan faculty colleagues for their generous contributions to my $175 Cattleman’s Steakhouse gift card, given to me at Julie McCoy’s faculty party on May 22.
After eliminating the options for supper in Interior, SD (Wagon Wheel Bar and Grill, Cowboy Corner Café, etc.), we headed to the usual: the Cedar Pass Restaurant, just up the road from our cabin! Everyone had either burgers or soup or a salad, which we then shared around. Also ice cream for dessert. Quite nice, and just the right amount of food. Then souvenir shopping in the gift shop [me: postcards, Badlands/Black Hills screen saver, and Joseph Marshall III bio of Crazy Horse.] Back at the cabin we couldn’t get in since we originally had had two reservations and the key made on the first one expired after one day. I had to make a trip back to the CP Lodge desk and get the key remade! Oh, well…before turning in there was a BIG thunderstorm, seen from a distance, and moving very quickly towards us; had lots of dramatic wind, rain and lightning! We quickly battened down the hatches of the topper and locked up the car just in case. Luckily it went through quickly and by 10:00 pm was all over.
Wed., June 11, 2014:
Today was a cooler, blustery day with grey clouds overhead. We had an 11 am deadline to be out of cabin #115, so breakfast in the Cedar Pass restaurant – again – was the first order of the morning. Claire again, however, did not join us but ate food from the cabin fridge and headed out – sur la bicyclette – for Wall Drug for the 2nd time in two days! This time the plan was to meet us in Wall – hence the 2½ hour lead time. To our surprise Grace received a message from Claire while we were still waiting for our delayed breakfast – it asked us to meet her along the way, that she didn’t now think she was going to make it to Wall, due to heavy headwinds and general blusteriness of the day. Of course this spurred us in our efforts to finish breakfast, pack and get moving, which we finally did do about 11, as originally.
The drive from Interior to Wall is in fact a circuitous one, with lots of twists and turns, narrow-passage roads and altitude differentials. So, in spite of our best efforts to catch up with Claire as soon as possible, and save her the extra exertion, when we finally did encounter her, first as a little speck on the side of the road a couple miles ahead, then with her colorful yellow-black-and-red biking jersey becoming ever more clear, the die was already cast: she was only one mile from the city limits of Wall! As we started to pass, she motioned that she was “going in on her own steam,” so we just followed on the shoulder the rest of the way into town. It was such a great accomplishment – 30 miles – in some fairly adverse weather conditions – and we were all SO proud of her! And she wasn’t that much the worse for wear when she did finally stop. So she got her full dose of exercise as originally planned, AND the pride of accomplishment that goes with seeing a difficult task to the finish! Her reward was a nice meal at Wall Drug, including donuts, and one last shopping opportunity before the end of the trip. As we approached the ‘Big Muddy’ (Missouri River), we decided to stop for a few groceries at Sutley’s Market in Fort Pierre, on the W side of the river, before completing the rest of the journey through Agar, Onida, Gettysburg and Lebanon, and onto the farm property at about 10:30 pm. Certainly a memorable and fun trip!