Saturday, September 08, 2007

Lean Horse Recap

Warning! Long, detailed (potentially boring), and somewhat picture-heavy post ahead!

Last weekend (and the week) turned out to have less blogging time than I thought. A couple of runs and two days of housecleaning, plus friends visiting from Baltimore (hence the housecleaning) conspired against me. It was a great weekend, despite the housecleaning.

Here's a South Dakota recap. We arrived in Rapid City (after a lengthy delay in Chicago), picked up the car, then headed out to Custer State Park to find our campsite. It took longer than we thought, because of the twisty roads on the Needles Highway. The views, however, were worth it:

We finally arrived at Sylvan Lake Campground and found our site (#13). After we set up the tent, Tom inflated the air mattresses (no more sleeping on tiny backkpacking sleeping pads!). I put the first mattress in the tent and quickly realized that we had made a major logistical error. We didn't check to see if both mattresses would fit inside the tent (they didn't). After trying various things to try to get both mattresses in the tent and close the tent door, we gave up in defeat and headed into Custer to try to find a place for dinner. We met up with Mike and had dinner at the Sage Creek Grille, which had excellent food and service. Then we bagged the camping idea (at least for the first night) and checked in at the Rock Crest Lodge. The rooms were funky but clean and relatively comfortable. It was definitely more comfortable than sleeping in a tent with the door open and all manner of bugs and critters coming to visit!

The next morning, after eating a huge breakfast at the Cattleman Steakhouse and Fish Market, we headed back up to Custer State Park to do some hiking and to further think about our little camping dilemma. Our first stop was the Eye of the Needle formation:

There were rocks there, so we just had to play. What's this?'s my husband in climbing mode!

We also hiked the Cathedral Spires Trail, which made us realize that the elevation in South Dakota is much higher than it is in Virginia. The hike was beautiful and we saw a mule deer which didn't seem to be at all phased by hikers. After the hike, we had lunch at the Sylvan Lake Lodge, which was a bit of a disappointment. We headed back to the campground and debated once again whether we should stay or go. Given that there was a very good chance of rain in the evening, we decided to pack it up. This was a big disappointment because the air was so fresh and scented with pine and the wind moving through the branches was soothing. Oh, well...that's what we get for not testing our equipment before leaving. Farewell, sweet site...we hardly knew ye.

Thursday dawned cool and rainy. The rest of our running friends arrived Wednesday and we met them for breakfast, except that it was a non-breakfast. Mini-muffins and overcooked hard-boiled eggs. Phil and Marcia headed off to see the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mike headed out to look for some land, and we opted to hike part of the Mickelson Trail. The scenery leaving Custer wasn't so pretty, but about a mile out of town, the vistas changed dramatically. Imagine having this in (or as) your backyard:

Or these fine critters for neighbors:

We hiked five miles south, a little ways past The Mountain trailhead, to get a view of the Crazy Horse Memorial:

Then, because it was cold and windy (and Tom was wearing shorts and a t-shirts), we headed back. The Sage Creek Grille serves up a lunch that is just as good a dinner and alas, I overate. This was not a wise thing to do, because our evening activity was the much-vaunted Chuckwagon, complete with cowboy hats and bandanas!

The Chuckwagon starts at Bluebell Lodge. After getting our cowboys hats and bandanas, they herded loaded us into the wagons and off we went into the hills.

We went by way of the Wildlife Route, so we saw prairie dogs, flocks of wild turkeys,


as well as pronghorn antelope and deer. We were entertained in grand style, singing all sorts of old-timey songs, with each person having the chance to accompany the performer with tambourine or coconuts. Even though it was a bit campy, it was a lot of fun. The food was good and even though my steak was closer to medium well than medium rare, it was surprisingly tender. After dinner, to get our blood moving and warm up our bodies (it was cold!), the organizers herded us all outside to particpate in a circle dance. Yet another chance for me to embarrass myself...

Mike and Phil saw that this would be an opportunity for blackmail pictures so they quickly exited the circle and whipped out their cameras. Tom wasn't so quick, so they've got pictures of him doing the Hokey Pokey and the Chicken Dance. I must admit that it was a lot of fun being silly. I should do it more often.

The drive back to Custer that evening was exciting. There are lots of deer in South Dakota and like the deer back east, they like to randomly dash across the road. One randomly dashed into our car, breaking the passenger side view mirror and putting two small dents in the side. We don't know what happened to the deer. A few minutes later, Mike narrowly missed colliding with a deer. After my run-in with a deer last summer, in which my car was almost totaled (the deer definitely was totaled), I'm very wary about driving at night in deer territory. It's almost to the point where I want to say "Sorry, can't go out at night. The deer are out."

On Friday we packed up and headed down to Hot Springs, picked up the race packet, and attended the race briefing. We made a run to the grocery store to get some last minute race items. I made a bee-line to the vegetable section and pounced on a bag of carrots and a bag of sugar snaps, I was definitely craving veggies after almost a week of eating nothing but meat and potatoes. Later that evening we attended the pre-race dinner at the Flatiron and pigged out dined on buffalo burgers, spaghetti, lasagna, soup, and cookies. A good time was had by all,

including our intrepid crew:

Then it was off to bed, since the race started at some ungodly early hour.

Race day dawned dark, chilly, and foggy. Fortunately, the start (and finish) line was right next door to our hotel. After roll-call, the runners lined up

and off they went!

Throughout the day they ran, and ran, and ran some more. They ran through prairie:

They ran on the Mickelson Trail:

They ran into the wee hours:

And into the dawn:

Of the five Loudoun Road Runners who ran, three finished. There was a 50K finisher (7:25:00):

A 50-mile finisher (10:46:00):

And a 100-mile finisher (25:02:00):

The winner of the 50-mile race completed the run in under 7 hours and the winner of the 100-mile run finished in 17 hours and change. Congratulations to all the runners!

The rest of Sunday was sort of anti-climactic. To spice things up a bit, we visited Wind Cave and took the Fairgrounds Cave tour. Wind Cave is known for the prevalence of boxwork formations. The cave is beautiful and if you ever visit the Black Hills region of South Dakota, you should put Wind Cave on your must-see list.

So, there you have it. I hope the wait (and the reading) was worth it. We had a great time in South Dakota. I'd like to go back and do more exploring. But next time, I'll be sure to bring some vegetables.


KSee said...

WOW, what an adventure. The place you saw are amazing. Thank you for sharing.

Sheepish Annie said...

Fabulous pictures!!! It looks like a great trip even if the tenting portion didn't work out too well.

Mommy Sheep always told me to bring along my vegetables. She is a big fan of having nutrition at the ready...

Anonymous said...

Wow, that place is beautiful!! ww

Anonymous said...

WOW! Thanks for sharing your pics! it looks like you guys had a great time!!!

Alison said...

I am so glad you had time to see parts of the Black Hills besides just Hot Springs area. Great pictures too!