State #8 Down

I just crossed the South Dakota line and am posted up at a Warmshowers in Mission, SD in the Rosebud Sioux reservation. Two days from now, I should be in Badlands National Park! Unfortunately my hopes of getting in and out of there before the weekend are dashed, thanks in part to knee-related delays. Just my luck to hit two national parks right on major holiday weekends. If I’d planned more carefully, I may have chosen not to take those short days this past weekend, refreshing as they were. Oh well. 

I’m definitely in the prairie now, and the landscape is rolling plains, big skies full of theatrical cloud displays, and – hopefully soon – maybe some antelope and bison that I can get a look at. 

Distant rain. I’ve dodged most of it, though I had some showers today. It’s warm enough (when it isn’t hot) that the rain feels kind of refreshing. 

I actually do like these open plains enough that the views are not boring, at least not after just a couple days. However, the clouds are often where the real views are. They also offer more variety, given that they move and all. 

I mostly didn’t ride the Cowboy Trail the last two days, due to not wanting to ride 90 miles on gravel and, today, to some less than stellar trail conditions. This bridge over the Elkhorn River, though, was worth some rough riding. 

We’re out of farm country and into pasture and range land now. 

I camped last night in Wood Lake, pop. 64. They let campers use their little town park, which was very convenient with picnic tables, bathrooms, a water pump – and a little guestbook for travelers (mostly from the Cowboy Trail) to sign in. Around sunset I walked around town, hemmed in by cottonwoods, to see among other things a school building that suggested the town had in the railroad days been much bigger. A lot of its streets were empty of buildings; presumably houses had been torn downafter abandonment. Then I noticed a nice glow in the western sky and walked a ways out on the trail to find one of the most spectacular sunsets I can remember. 

More gray skies in this morning’s rain showers. The views are so long that you can see the weather for miles and miles around. 

Second high bridge, over the Niobrara near Valentine. This town felt yet more western; a high proportion of the men were rocking cowboy hats. And there was a giant , tacky looking “Western Wear” store. It would have been fun to browse, I’m sure, and I should have taken the time. 

Into state #9. The Rosebud reservation begins at the state line and, stereotypically I guess, the casino is right there. The next 20 miles to Mission were sparsely inhabited. 

The terrain is more rugged than you might expect of plains. Hints of limestone peeking out almost suggested the Judean Desert in spring. This would be a heck of a place to get lost in the days before maps, roads and horses. 


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