Monday, June 1, 2015

Touring "Paha Sapa" - The Black Hills

After weeks of endless rain, we finally have some decent motorcycle riding weather!  We hit the road, touring Custer State Park, Needles Highway, and the Black Hills National Forest.  Words don’t properly express the magnitude of beauty, serenity, majestic vistas, and natural wonders!  Riding here is truly a spiritual experience.  You can visualize how the area looked 100, 200, even 1000 years ago.  And after learning about the cultural belief of many of the Plains Indians, I understand why I feel a oneness with nature here.

The Lakota Indians called this area Paha Sapa, “Black Hills”.  These lands are the “heart of everything that is”, a part of their very being, their soul.  They and the land are one.  To them, no one can buy or sell these lands, for they do not belong to mankind—they belong to the animals and plants who inhabit these lands.  These lands are sacred, holy ground.  So putting up towns, tourist attractions, even carving Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial, are interpreted by some American Indians as sacrilegious, like desecrating a church or synagogue.  Whether you agree or disagree with this belief, we all can concur that these lands are unique, offer wondrous panoramas, and are deserving of our preservation and conservation.

We traversed on Iron Mountain Road, 17 miles of twists, turns, switchbacks, pigtails, one-vehicle tunnels, splits and nerve-wracking, finger-clenching riding!  This is the equivalent of Dragon’s Tail in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina!  And for the life of me, I don’t know why I was riding with Mommy, who doesn’t like these types of roads.  All I can say is that PoPo practically pooped his pants from anxiety!  I was whooping and screaming as if on a roller coaster!  I no sooner calmed myself down, then we were on Needles Highway, riding along the mountain cliff with no guardrails!   But despite the scariness, it was some awesome ride!

Saw lots of animals on Custer State Park’s Wildlife Loop Road.  Everything from buffalo, prong-horn deer, some elf calves, and even some burros and donkeys with their young babies!  RV Rambling Rat must rant a bit about the stupidity of the human race!  Signs all over say, “do not feed wildlife”, “view from a distance”.  Yet it amazed me how many people disregarded the notice, feeding the animals (Cheez-Its no less!) and petting them.    I finally felt the need to speak up and tell people that these are wild animals, living off the land—this is not a petting zoo!  Most of the folks didn’t appreciate being told this, especially from an oversized stuffed biker rat!  But I had to call them out on it.  If one of the animals kicked or bit them, they would blame the poor animal.  If you ever visit Custer State Park, PLEASE RESPECT NATURE AND FOLLOW THE RULES.  I’m now counting to 10, breathing easier, and having a Seinfeld “serenity now” moment.
As Cute As They Are--This IS NOT A Petting Zoo!
Where The Buffalo Roam
And The Deer And The Antelope Play
One of the coolest points in Custer State Park is Mt. Coolidge Lookout.  On a beautiful, clear day, you can see Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore, Needles, Harney’s Peak, Ellsworth Air Force Base, and the Badlands.  What a view! 

View of Crazy Horse Memorial from Mt. Coolidge Lookout
On a sad note, there are a boatload of dead Ponderosa Pine trees in the area.  I learned that almost 1/3 of these pine trees in the Black Hills National Forest and surrounding lands have succumbed to damages caused by the pine beetle.  Unfortunately, the infestation is not under control yet.  Hopefully, these wood boring insects will take a hike soon.

Speaking of wood, we stopped in at the National Wood Carving Museum.  What visionaries—taking a boring block of wood and carving intricate animals, western scenes, caricatures, even furniture!  Impressive stuff.

Hand-Carved Wood Carousel
"Justice" Caricatures--Notice the Details on the Jury Faces

Life-like Wood-Carved Avians

Notice the Details on the Face of the Desk. The Desk Feet are Shaped Like a Horse's Hoof

Gotta run!  Time to take a warm, bubbly bath and put some aloe on my sunburn!  Talk to you soon!


1 comment:

  1. Looks like a great area. Glad to hear you finally have some blue sky.
    Safe travels!