Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Stellar Day

Last night I camped at the Sage Creek campground. This site is down an 8 mile dirt road that rolls through the higher prairie in the park where the Bison graze. The bison had been docile when I’d passed earlier in the day but as I drove toward the campground trying to outrun another evening thunderstorm they seemed to be agitated by the weather too and were charging around in the field. As I tried to pass though, a group came bounding out into the road and halted at the sight of my car. I moved to the other side of the road and tried stay out of their path as I passed by.
The next morning I leave the campground and continue on the dirt road around the south side of the park. The road is still muddy from last night and my small tires fall into and follow the ruts left by large trucks that had passed through earlier. It gives the sensation of slipping in the mud when it’s really more like being a train car on a really crooked rail. The park border is a sort of horseshoe shape and the road passes through parkland and ranches and farmland.
The Conata road climbs back up into the sediment peaks where the reddish Brule Formation is exposed and the rising sun lights it up. The sunlight is just starting to stream over the cliffs in the distance and the grass in the canyons has that intense glow that the sun gives just before it rises so high that it washes out the color.
Later in the day I start to head towards Rapid City. Along the way I stop by an underground missile silo housing a Minuteman II ICBM that was deployed in 1963. I was surprised to learn that there are still 450 of these types of nuclear missiles deployed in the US today. Apparently the setup of the site with the silo cover rolled half way back and encased in glass is not just to allow visitors to see the missile but also to allow other country’s satellites to see that the site is not operational as per START II.
Once I get to Rapid, I head over to an art gallery showing cast paper sculpture that my friend from Rapid had told me about. There is a massive wall sized sculpture depicting hunters driving a herd of bison over a cliff during a hunt. I stop by the pub for a beer and walk around town for a while looking in the shop windows. Then I head out towards the Black Hills, on the way out of town I find this guy hanging out on a corner:

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