08/21 - 5:30 am (Mountain Time)
Day four began with me sitting straight up, startled, in my tent, as I awoke to the cry of the Sasqualionwolf (Sasquatch + Mountain Lion + Werewolf) creature that had been stalking me throughout the night. Only this time I believed it to be a cry of frustration over my impenetrable tent that was protecting me from the Godless beast that must have lurked only yards away. Luckily I had the upper hand now as day was breaking which was certainly the beast’s primary weakness. I scanned the dawn forest, but did not see the killing machine that I looked for. I laid back down to try to catch a little sleep before morning fully arrived, but after lying there for 20 minutes decided it was time to pack up and resume my Neature Walk.
Feeling fresh after a solid 4 - 6 hours of sleep and with light slowly creeping it’s way onto the hills above I decided to actually pack my gear together in a more proper manner this time, instead of cobbling everything into my bag and carrying what wouldn’t fit (sleeping bag, pad, pillow). I had some paracord in my bag and cinched everything to my bag, packed up and hiked out of the valley and to my Jeep where I brushed my teeth as the sun hit me and started warming me up, I think it was about 55 degrees outside.
Once I got everything loaded into my Jeep I decided to take advantage of the early hour and see what wildlife I could find. Lots of deer were everywhere, both white tails and prong horn (look like antelope). I stopped at a prairie dog town where a herd of wild burros were grazing. Afterwards I stopped at the wildlife center and chatted with the nice folks that worked there and inquired about chances of seeing a big horn sheep. They pointed me to a couple spots where they’re seen, but said they are rarely spotted. They also told me that people see far more in the Badlands than in the park.
After that I saw several additional buffalo herds and began making my way out the park. The ranger at the exit station looked familiar; and as soon as I started to ask, she told me she was the same person that gave me my permit when I checked into the park and that they move her around. I suspect this was a cover for some sort of alien pod cloning that is being done at the park. I’m probably lucky to be alive, but then again maybe there is a clone of me still down in that valley being hunted by mountain lion?
Only a couple minutes down the road I was met with another escort-only road construction where I chatted with a possibly drunk road crew worker. She was from a nearby town and gave me some recommendations on my trip. After the escort vehicle arrived I proceeded through the construction to the other end where the lady driving the lead vehicle jumped out and started screaming at the lady directing traffic at that end of the construction. She kindly referred to her as a dumb-ass and asked her if she was stupid. She also threw in a few F-bombs for good measure. She was pissed because the lady was holding up traffic so far back that the blacktop semi that came through couldn’t turn around and she had caused gridlock. After that was sorted out I proceeded down the highway towards Needles and Mount Rushmore.
The drive to and through Needles was spectacular. I didn’t realize how beautiful the area was ahead of time. I have to say the roads were on par with Colorado for beauty and for the fear factor. Lots of narrow, tight, mountain roads without guard rails and old people driving at you who struggle with maneuverability. I stopped in a few places to take photos, but there is one place (maybe this is “Needles”) where a lot of people were stopped and taking pictures. This is right after you drive through the longest of the single lane mountain tunnels. While I was looking around I noticed there were some people rock climbing above us. There was one old fat guy who was very angry about the “immigrant tourists” being allowed there. Apparently they were doing something that he didn’t approve of, I couldn’t figure out what it was. I did wonder though how he knew they were immigrant tourists and not foreign tourists. His hatred was apparently very targeted at those that moved to this country to make a home for themselves and then had the audacity to travel outside of their homes to learn about the US.
After visiting Needles I was off to Mount Rushmore. This wasn’t really high on my list as I have conflicting feelings about this monument. On one hand I feel like it’s a defacement of the natural beauty of the area and is certainly an insult to the Lakota tribe whom the land belonged to before being seized by us. In that same vein, the Crazy Horse Memorial has similar controversy in that the black hills are being scarred. On the other hand, it’s magnificent piece of art and a tribute to our nation’s history. I suppose the Native American controversy was true to form, even if that’s not what it represents.
I didn’t spend long at the memorial, took a few photos and left. I momentarily considered climbing to the top of memorial to find hidden treasure, Nic Cage style, but decided I was very tired and I was ready to make my trek to Wyoming.
The drive to the Big Horn Forest in Wyoming wasn’t bad, but the past couple days in the Black Hills made me forget what real mountains looked like, and made me realize why they’re called the Black Hills and not the Black Mountains. It was very hazy that afternoon and I actually confused the mountains for clouds off in the distance. Goosebumps.
I eventually arrived in Dayton, WY where I grabbed a bite to eat and called my hotel (lodge) to see if they had vacancy, as I was arriving a couple days earlier than what I reserved. After a couple confusing conversations I had my reservation extended to one day early (oddly not two) and I would have to schedule tonight at the lodge, but they had plenty of vacancy.
So, I left Dayton and made the climb to the Big Horn Forest where the temperature changed from 94 to 65 over the 30 minute drive. I got to the lodge and I’m not sure why, but they gave me the first night for free and explained that it was because of the scheduling mix-up. I wasn’t about to argue to pay for an extra day, but I did make sure to confirm I would be leaving Sunday and not Saturday.
From there I made my way to my room, took a much needed shower, wrote yesterday’s post and went to sleep. And BTW, the shower head situation in the Arrowhead Lodge is much better than what I reported at the other places I stayed.
Oh yeah, from this point on, no cell service and super limited internet access. I think the lodge is operating on 56k modem, so image posts will be infrequent and very compressed.