June 11, 2010, Friday, SD to Wyoming

     After a short drive through Deadwood in the sunshine, we headed north to Belle Fourche.  The actual geographical center of the entire country, including Alaska and Hawaii, is 20 miles north of Belle Fourche.  In celebration, a 21-foot-diameter monument in the shape of a compass rose has been carved out of South Dakota granite.  The Center of the Nation Monument can be seen at the chamber of commerce.  There is also an old cabin built in 1876 moved to the site that you can visit.

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     We took the scenic route to our next stop and I took a wrong turn and we ended up in Montana, so we turned around and headed for America’s First National Monument:  Devils Tower.  In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the first national monument under the new Antiquities Act.  His action made Wyoming the home of both our first national park – Yellowstone in 1872 – and our first national monument.  Roosevelt acted to protect the Tower from commercial exploitation. We couldn’t see anyone climbing the Tower because the National Park Service advocates a voluntary climbing closure during June to promote understanding of American Indian tribes culturally affiliated with the Tower as a Sacred Site.  I went up the walking path a little bit for a picture and they had signs saying not to remove any religious bundles.  With the high elevation, I thought my lungs would burst!

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     About a half-mile from the entrance is a prairie dog colony.  The black-tailed prairie dogs are communal and are delightful to watch.  These rodents bear no similarity to dogs except their call is termed a bark like that of a dog.  French Canadians named them “prairie du chien”, and later English-speaking plains explorers apparently followed the French usage. They are members of the squirrel family.

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     We then proceeded to Rt. 90 and headed to Gillette and checked into the Settle Inn.  We found a nice local place for dinner, the Village Inn.  The hotel had free laundry, but we didn’t take advantage of it.  We are going to have to expand our piece of luggage for the ride home!  This trip we packed each day’s clothing into space bags and will do this again for other trips.  It made it very easy to unpack and pack.

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