WEEK 7: ACROSS AMERICA 2019
WEEK 7 RUN-WALK-BIKE ACROSS AMERICA 2019 STARTS TOMORROW
Segment 15 Gillette WY to Sundance WY
Segment 16: Sundance WY to Rapids City SD
Segment 17: Rapid City SD to Kadoka SD
This week’s effort takes runners/walker/cyclists near more spectacular sites, for which the Great West and High Plains areas of the United States are well known. One of the most recognizable natural geologic features of this region is the Devils Tower National Monument, in the Bear Lodge Mountains near Sundance in Crook County WY. In 1906, it was named by President Theodore Roosevelt as the first national monument. If you have seen the 1977 Steven Spielberg movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” you will remember it as the structure some characters were obsessed with, and the place where the giant alien space ship had parked itself.
Apparently the 1200+ foot, solitary, pillar-like granite formation came into being as the softer surrounding land was eroded over millions of years. “One legend has it that a giant bear clawed the grooves into the mountainside while chasing several young Indian maidens”. The rolling prairie of the Black Hills area of Wyoming surrounds this tower, which is held sacred by several Native American tribes of the northern plains (they call it “Bear Lodge”). The National Park Service promotes this site in its marketing as an ideal location for Night Sky Viewing: “Half the Park is After Dark, At the Bear’s Lodge”.
The Sundance WY stop between segments 15 and 16 gave its name to the Sundance Kid, who was jailed there for a while. Traveling from eastern Wyoming, the route enters South Dakota and skirts the northern edge of the South Dakota portion of the Black Hills (a mountain range and a forest). The ponderosa pines covering the hillsides are so dark and light-absorbing that it is said they look “black”.
A “Travel South Dakota” webpage explains that besides the obvious majesty of the Mount Rushmore National Monument there is more to explore in the area. The article “7 Unexpected Things You’ll See in the Black-Hills National Forest” indicates there are caves, gold, waterfalls, and open prairies to be seen in the natural areas of this National Forest during the day, and amazing star gazing to be enjoyed at night. In addition, wineries and breweries provide refreshing tasting opportunities. Visitors to the site are reminded that although the Hills are named “black”, the “mosaic of green pines, the amber grasslands, and the multicolored rock formations” provides vistas that are not merely monotonous dark profiles.
Just north of the route, after entering South Dakota and before getting into Rapid City SD, there is a location that is designated the” Geographical Center Of the US”. According to a Wikipedia entry on the topic, it “is a point approximately 20 mi (32 km) north of Belle Fourche, South Dakota”, that has “been regarded as such by the U.S. National Geodetic Survey (NGS) since the additions of Alaska and Hawaii to the United States in 1959.” The entry makes a distinction with the “contiguous geographic center, which reflects the 1912 additions of New Mexico and Arizona to the contiguous United States and falls near the town of Lebanon, Kansas.” Apparently, the addition of AK and HI moved the US geographic center “approximately 550 mi (885km) northwest by north”. (see image above)
Rapid City is the second most populous city in the state, is named after the Rapid Creek. It’s native American name means “Swift Water City”. Another Wikipedia entry indicates it is known as the Gateway to the Black Hills and City of Presidents, and is split into eastern and western sections by a low mountain ridge.
After leaving Rapid City the route heads east, just north of the Badlands National Park to Kadoka, a place literally known as a “hole in the wall” (the Lakota Sioux tribe named it) and considered to be the "Gateway to the Badlands". This area of South Dakota is chock-full of sights, the most famous of which are the Mt. Rushmore, and the Crazy Horse National Memorials.
Although the more western national parks often get a lot of attention, I think this region is one of the most interesting to explore, not only for the beauty of its physical features but it’s history. In the southern part of the Black Hills, far from our route in Custer State Park, there’s an annual Buffalo Roundup held in late September that would be a truly awesome experience.
Enjoy this part of the trip, the Rocky Mountains have been left behind and the High Plains sub-region of the Great Plains stretches out before you.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
If you can’t tell by the length of this week’s virtual tour guide, this part of the route is one I would especially love to visit in person.
NOTE: The Weeks 7-8 Segment map PowerPoint PDF can be downloaded here; all are on the RESOURCES page.
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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