Welcome to Wyoming!: Spearfish, SD to Sundance, WY
Friday May 24, 2013, 33 miles (53 km) – Total so far: 1,478 miles (2,379 km)
And so here we are. After 2.5 years of dreaming, scheming, route-plotting and reading about this state, we are finally at the border. My heart dances in my chest. I’m living out another dream.
Wyoming doesn’t necessarily have a good reputation. For many, the state name conjures up images of vast quantities of sage-brush covered hills, wind, and little else. It is seen as a place of gales and god-forsaken broken, rugged country. Some people may think of cowboys and roughnecks – macho men chasing cows, coal and oil.
And maybe it will be those things. I don’t know. But I’m going to give it a chance. It does have outstanding examples of geological processes, and I’m excited to explore that, if nothing else. I’m going into the state open-minded and ready to learn.
The state’s reputation for being windy is proven right away. Almost right at the state border, I pick up a 15 mph headwind as I ride toward Beulah – the lowest spot in the state.
I’m using old Hwy 14, which acts as a frontage road for I-90. Sometimes it is near I-90, sometimes far away, but there is very little traffic and the freeway doesn’t really impinge on my solitude, so it all works for me.
We are unfortunately too early in the season to visit the Vore Buffalo Jump. During the survey stage for construction of I-90 in the 1970s, workers came across this important sinkhole. Subsequent excavations have shown that the sinkhole is massive – almost 200 feet in diameter. Bone and cultural materials are found throughout. Archaeologists suggest that the site was used by five or more tribes over about 300 years. They have discovered the butchered remnants of as many as 20,000 bison as well as thousands of chipped stone arrow points, knives, and other tools. As I ride by, they are working on construction of a tipi to be used for new exhibits and restrooms. If you’re here in the summer months, it may well be worth a visit.
Just after the buffalo jump site, we stop at the new state Welcome Center. This nice building has water, soft drinks, snacks and clean restrooms. I pick up a bunch of brochures and seat my stinky self in one of the nice leather chairs. I go through the literature, tearing out relevant pages and ditching the rest.
As we head toward Sundance, we ride through several outcrops of the Triassic Spearfish formation. The Black Hills are a domal uplift with Precambrian rocks (all that granite we rode through in Custer State Park and surrounds) at the centre. Younger sedimentary rock dip away from the uplift on all sides. The Spearfish formation, which we saw in the canyon on our climb into the hills, encircles the whole Black Hills uplift. Because of this, it is known as the red racetrack. I love Triassic rock because nearly everywhere you come across it, it will be a bright red colour, whether it’s sandstone or shale. This period, between 245-208 million years ago, also sees the very first dinosaurs emerge in the fossil record.
Once to Sundance, we head up to the Mountain View RV Park. The owners are very friendly and have put a lot of work into the place. They let me pitch the tent in one of the back-in electric sites for a tent price, since they aren’t busy. Apparently, Memorial Day weekend is still a bit early in the season for them. For me, it feels late. I’ve already been on the road for nearly 6 weeks. I’ve still yet to see fully leafed-out trees, though.