XC USA 2015

Journal from 7 June

7 June 2015


I want to include this because it's the only "realtime" written documentation I have from the trip. I split up the one big paragraph and edited a few mis-named things (listed at the bottom of the post), but otherwise it is as I wrote it then. 

Day Three in South Dakota and I am amazed how the landscape changes so rapidly. From Minnesota the land was Midwestern, but immediately changed to tiny rolling hills with dry grass and little pockets of water, just as I imagined it. This instant state line landscape change seemed odd for a state that looks to be arbitrarily cordoned (it's a square after all), but within the state, the environment continues to evolve as one moves West. The area leading up to, around, and shortly after Pierre is quite dry, with hills that rise for a gradual mile, then down, and back up. The Badlands begin the state's great topographic shift, with the eroded towers and spires jutting up from otherwise flat terrain. This levels for a while before one reaches the Black Hills. Here the state becomes toothy with granite and conifers sprout from the exposed metamorphosed fingers of the mountains.

The area right behind Mount Rushmore is so like Bayern, and especially Bertchesgaden and Königsee that I wonder if the Germans had just cut a piece of the southern territory and brought it with them. The gurgling, and, at this time, overflowing, creek alongside the road was just like the waters that made marbles from stone in that mountainous country. Similarly, Horsethief's Lake is picturesque to the point of being a fairytale fantasy, rent from the books we all grew up with, and seen in a flash as we drove past. Continuing into the backwoods, the roads wind more tightly, the deer become more audacious (and numerous), and the towns become more unique. Rochford's main store is self-proclaimed the "Rochford Mall: The Small of America," and the Moonshine Gulch Saloon acts as a catch-all for the townsfolk, their harmless gossip, and hundreds of autographed baseball caps tacked to the ceiling (great article on these spots here).

Though the tourists clump in areas such as Custer and Deadwood, there is solitude to be found in gravel Forest Service roads, connecting some of the larger byways. I type this overlooking a once-pastoral valley, with a small creek running the length, the birds keeping better company than the sun, as it scampers behind the trees. The morning will be beautiful, just as long as we aren't disturbed before we meet it…

the view in the morning

the view in the morning


These are the notes I was keeping for planning the next destinations. If I remember right, the asterisks denote the locations I need to look into:

arches, moab,

5 hr drive

grand staircase -> ~dry fork?, definitely Peekaboo & Spooky (a few hours) WATCH WEATHER,

20 min drive

bryce canyon -> Navajo Loop and Queen's Garden Trail (a few hours),

1.5 hr drive

zion -> XXthe subway top-down (technical, needs rope) or bottum-up (not technical, will still take up to 9 hours)XX, the narrows WATCH WEATHER 10miles max, angel's landing EARLY AM 5.5miles roundtrip,

2hr drive

grand canyon north rim -> look at map when we get there (dropbox),

6hr drive

phoenix -> phoenix art museum (resonance of clay exhibit),

4.5hr drive

joshua tree*, san diego*, tijuana (?)*, LA*, angeles nat'l forest*, Zzyzx*, mojave nat'l preserve*, Lake Mead*, Las Vegas*, Red Rocks*, Death Valley*


Edit notes:

The route we took up to Deadwood, which has most of what is described, is 385.

The creek we slept off of was Middle Boxelder Creek, off Custer Crossing Rd. I actually found exactly where we were. There's a gravel turnaround just after the second cattle grate as you go East from the Rochford end.

I had called Rochford "Rotchfield", and the saloon "Moon Shine Saloon" (perhaps on purpose to be poetic?). I remember the saloon being tight and dusty, with no lights on, and the late sun struggling to reach anything in the town's little valley, just barely illuminating enough to get back to the bathroom. 

Jacob Sell Hicks