I found this comfortable campground outside of Hot Springs to spend my first night in the state of
South Dakota. The Army COE campground at Cottonwood Springs Lake was cheap ($5 with my Interagency Park Pass), clean, quiet and well kept. I was able to take the Ruckus around the recreation area and down to the lake for a nice sunset. After some great sleep, I woke late, made breakfast, and headed north toward Wind Cave National Park.
Mustang Colt with Heterochromia, “in explore” by David & Shiela Glatz Via Flickr: An individual with heterochromia has two different colored eyes. This young Mustang colt has this condition. His right eye is blue and his left eye is brown. Even his right eyebrow is a different color. This guy didn’t stray too far from his mother very often. Here his curiosity got the best of him and he approached very close to check us out. Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, Hot Springs, South Dakota.
I enjoyed this beautiful drive through the Black Hills area, along with hundreds of motorcycles from the neighboring Sturgis bike rally, and eventually made my way up to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This memorial was crowded, but I found it very clean and well designed. Taking a short walk and some photos is just about all I could do before lightning and storm clouds rolled in. Less than a mile down the road from the memorial I found Wrinkled Rock, a recreation spot specifically for climbers. I had asked the park rangers and they said that overnight parking and camping was permitted. I setup in the parking area with a handful of other vandwellers; we hung out, discussed our travels and rigs, and enjoying the scenery while waiting for sunset. A quick climb to the top of some nearby rocks proved to be an excellent view for the evening. The next morning was beautiful and I took my time with breakfast before continuing my drive North toward the town of Rapid City.
Headed up the first pitch of the classic Black Hills route Waves (5.8) on a somewhat stormy July evening. Thankfully, we snagged a clear weather window and were able to watch the remnants of the sunset from the top.
I’ll be honest, I struggled with this climb. I had to be the first to lead, as I was the only member of my group who knew how to top belay as well as the most experienced. The climbing here is fairly runout and incredibly different from what I’m used to- slabby and crystalline. A fall here would mean scraping skin against rough granite. The most frustrating component was knowing (and feeling) that I was very physically competent, but that I was limited by my fears. I took after clipping several times and struggled significantly with the beginning, where stances weren’t great. Fortunately, I had a patient belayer and was able to truly use technique to my advantage as I climbed to the top, just shy of couple hundred feet from the start. I know what areas I need to work on (primarily mental strength, falling outdoors, power moves) and as intimidating as it is, I’m glad.
I recently discovered this national park in the Black Hills of South Dakota and set aside some time to check it out on my way toward Mount Rushmore. Ranger-led tours into Wind Cave are frequent and cheap (and the only way to get inside), so I decided to join a longer tour through the cave around noon. There are currently ~142 miles of explored passageways in the cave and it’s estimate that there is much more. The distinct feature of this subterranean landscape is in it’s lower levels where you will find ceilings consisting of web-like patterns of calcium referred to as “boxwork”. It’s certainly unique and alien looking; almost like it’s alive. I spent most of the 1.5 hour tour hunched over in the narrow passageways trying to get a decent photo. Overall, this was a neat experience for the price, but the cave isn’t really on par with the likes of Carlsbad Caverns or Mammoth Cave.