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Black Hills Magic

Horsethief Lake, Black Hills National Forest
(Click image for larger view)

(May 16, 2003)

The Wyoming landscape seems to stretch endlessly appearing to touch the blue sky. Throughout the 400-mile drive from Denver to the Black Hills of South Dakota my daughters and I are treated to stunning views of mountains, buttes, and grasslands. Still, driving along these scenic great plains can feel a bit lonely as other travelers are far and few between. But, we aren't alone as herds of antelope are visible throughout the journey. Thankfully, Wyoming has a speed limit of 75; of course I am going faster. Still, it isn't fast enough for the occasional Stetson wearing cowboys zooming past in pick-up trucks. I am eager to get to the land of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, the mighty Sioux Nation, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, bison, and prehistoric woolly mammoths.

They Really Are Black

As we cross into South Dakota, the Black Hills begin to emerge; a dark hilly oasis of dense Ponderosa pine and spruce. It's a stark contrast with the light grassy expanse of prairie and clay colored buttes that arise from the surrounding areas. Appropriately, the Lakota people named the area "paha sapa", meaning "hills that are black".

The Black Hills cover a sizable corner of Southwestern South Dakota -- approximately 125 miles long and 65 miles wide. These ancient mountains (older than the Rockies) encompass rugged rock formations, grassy meadows, along with crystal clear streams and lakes. It's no wonder 4.5 million visitors flock to this region each year.

>>> Next, Mount Rushmore

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