Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lead and Spearfish, South Dakota

After visiting Deadwood we traveled further into the Black Hills to see these two towns.  It was my original intention to write about our day in one posting but I just had too many pictures to share with you our readers.  The scenery which we saw Monday is probably the prettiest to be found in the Black Hills.  We drove southwest from Deadwood to Lead.  Founded with the great gold rush of 1876 it soon became destined to be one of the deepest, longest operating and most profitable gold mine in the Western Hemisphere.  The site of the original discovery of the Homestake Ledge has long since disappeared into the Lead's open cut ("Lead", pronounced LEED meaning the trend of the gold vein).  Forty million tons of rock has been taken out of what once was a solid mountain.  Total depth of the mine was at 8 thousand feet.  The mine ceased operating in 2002 after producing in excess of 40 million ounces of gold.
A museum stands next to the site, and in the bowels of the mine is now the Sanford Underground Research Laboratory.  Since the mine's closing scientists have converted it into an underground laboratory where physics experiments can be conducted.  The laboratory needs to be deep underground to avoid cosmic radiation.  From Lead we took Spearfish Canyon Scenic Highway, which follows a clear meandering mountain stream.  Towering cliffs and ponderosa pines continued to surround us,  if you are looking for a paradise on earth this does come close to that ideal.  When we reached Roughlock Falls an interpretive sign near them captured my musing thoughts exactly:  "Spearfish Canyon showcases paradise".
Along the scenic highway we saw signs for several waterfalls, however, it was getting late in the day and we only had time to hike into Roughlock Falls.  The name dates back to the 1870s when wagons traveling through the canyon's deep ravines had to deal with excessive speed going downhill.  The drivers had to chain or log their wheels, which then allowed the wagons to slowly skid down the slopes.

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