Monday, August 06, 2012

Close Encounters with bears and hogs in the Wild West - 4 August 2012

Just a short drive from camp was Bear Country USA and we knew that feeding time was around 8:30 so we were there, driving through the wildlife park to see the elks, reindeer, mountain lions, arctic wolves and timber wolves being fed.  But the stars of the show, not surprisingly, are the black bears.
The bears were not being fed, they were simply lying about in the sun or having a good old early morning scratch.  Having camped in bear country for the last week or so it was great to be able to see them close up in a non-threatening environment.

After driving though the enclosures you get to park and walk around a more zoo-like section where the stars were a very large grizzly bear playing with a ball in the pool and a bunch of baby bears frolicking and fighting in a pine tree.

When we could bear it no longer we drove into Rapid City to see the Chapel In The Hills, a Stave Church which is a replica of the Borgund Stavekirke in Norway. Nestled in amongst the pines it looked right at home.

Avoiding the I-90 we headed north to Sturgis where the 72nd Annual Sturgis Motor Cycle meet was getting into swing.   The prime week is apparently the first full week of August but already the entire main street was motorcycles only and block after block was parked bikes; a row on each kerb and two rows down the centre line with the side streets also wall-to-wall bikes, again 95% Harley Davidsons, or "Hogs"

The array of beautifully presented, sometimes heavily customised bikes was magnificent but equally captivating was people-watching as the Harley-riders are an interesting crowd.  I would love to know  how many millions of dollars of bikes and exhibitor displays were in this small town, and they were pouring from all sides, either on the road, in trailers, on the back of pickup-trucks or in the backs of super large RVs.

All day the roads were never free of bikes and every small town or settlement we passed through was chock full of bikes with everybody trying to make a buck out of vending something to the two and three-wheel clientele.

Dropping a little south we stopped at Deadwood, home of a TV series but made famous by the murder of Wild Bill Hickcock and the antics of Calamity Jane.  Sundance (as in the Sundance Kid)  is not far away and the area has so many names and associations with stories of the Wild West.

We looped south a bit further to make the run north up through the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, as always accompanied by the bikers, and then it was 'Westward Ho' again along the Belle Fourche river valley to our destination where we could have our close encounter with the Devil's Tower.  We had plenty of time to do the 2km circular walk around the rock and marvel at the parties of climbers ascending this amazing geological outcrop.

In homage to the lacation, the campground shows Close Encounters of the Thrid Kind every night but we elected to watch the sunset paint the rock orange instead

223 miles today, 3449 total trip. States: South Dakota, Wyoming.

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