Salman Aslam

Candid Schmooze

Sojourn to the US Dakotas

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The 2016 year was an exhilarating experience for us as we planned a sojourn to one of the most sought after tourist attractions in US mid-west Mount Rushmore, Black Hills and Devils Tower in Wyoming. The jaunt was to originate from a quaint city Eau Claire in the US state of Wisconsin. It was great sigh of relief to beat the sweltering heat of May in Pakistan and find recluse in the cool temperate climate at Eau Claire. This state of Wisconsin had an enviable reputation famous for its dairy products and cheese. In close proximity lay the US state of Minnesota famous for its 10,000/ lakes, Minneapolis Mall and twin city of Saint Paul.

On the fringes of Wisconsin- Minnesota border is the town of Rochester surprisingly rated as second windiest city of US. Renowned for having the headquarters of US number 1 hospital- The Mayo Clinic. To satiate our wanderlust we embarked on our odyssey from Eau Claire to Rochester skirting the periphery of Minneapolis on to interstate 90. This highway is ranked as the longest highway starting from Boston to Seattle over 3500 miles on the trot.Interestingly the terrain Enroute was studded with Wind Mills generating power. The first stop on our itinerary was Sioux Falls largest city of South Dakota at a driving distance of 6 hours. Speed limit was enhanced to 80 mph in this state. Next morning our destination was Wall/Rapid City another 5 hour cruise. Corn palace was an added attraction to saunter to in the city of Mitchell. Entire palace edifice built in corn really presented an enthralling sight.

Journey from Sioux Falls to Wall and Rapid City was monotonous and tedious. The landscape was rather an eye sore and dull. Wide expanses of land with no population insight studded the highway. Wall city itself a quaint town with friendly people greet tourists. Our abode was Sun Shine Inn Wall. I was always on the lookout for restaurants and hotels providing senior citizens discount. Seniors here are held in high esteem and veneration in USA. The unkindest cut of all is that this culture of senior discounts has yet to make inroads in Pakistan.

Our next destination was Badlands State Park. A park beset by sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires studded by vast expanses of prairie land. The sights of Bison prowling in the area are stunning. Apart from the prairie dogs raising their heads as we drove through this part of the area presented a lack lustre look.

Devil's Tower
Our course took us to the famous Custer State Park. This was an historic segment of Black Hills named after the Legendary Custer of the West. I was always awed by Custer’s Last stand as depicted in various movies. This was the area of great Gold Rush of 1874 triggering the Lakota wars. At the Battle of Little Bighorns in 1876 Custer’s 7 Cavalry with its 700 men were annihilated to the last man in the worst defeat for US army. Crazy Horse emerged as the hero of this action attaining a legendary status. Wounded Knee massacre was the last nail in the coffin of these tribes who were driven to their reservations for good. Our lodgings for the next 2 days were the Bavarian Inn at Custer city. It presented an amiable ambiance, German cuisine with tea and doughnuts. Indeed a memorable stay. Bavarian Inn deserves 4 stars for hospitality, food and environment.

For the next 2 days we traversed and gallivanted every nook and corner of Black Hills keeping Custer city as our operational centre. Flora of Black Hills

Include ponderosa pines, bur oak and birch. Ponderosa pines are afflicted by a beaver virus. Black Elk Peak is the highest summit at about 7200 feet. Fauna comprised Bison’s, Elk, Deer, pronghorn and Coyote. For the adventurous this area affords maximum pursuit of ones dreams in the form of biking along Michelson’s trail, hiking, trout fishing along meandering streams/rivulets riding shot gun and water sports.

Added attractions to visit are a labyrinth of cave systems Wind Cave national park and Jewel Cave near Custer are a MUST on one’s exploration list.

The biggest attraction of the Black Hills was the Mount Rushmore presidential monument. Ensconced and nestled in backdrop of the domineering Blackhill’s stands Mount Rushmore above with the engraved sculptures of four legendary US Presidents. The presidents are Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt. Sauntering on the president’s trail gives a panoramic view of the site.

Next on the list was Crazy Horse Monument. Etched in memory of the great Lakota warrior who decimated Custer’s 7th Cavalry at Big Horn in 1876 is the largest sculpture in the world still under construction since 1948. This monument overbears and overshadows Mount Rushmore by its size and domination. Custer State Park is a huge park which at least needs a drive through to have a tete-a tete with the animals. Bison, prairie dogs, Burros, cougars and big horn sheep romp the park at will.
Next on our list was a drive through the Needle Highway. It was a driver’s nightmare. Twisting serpentine like winding roads with a dizzying effect added lot of thrill. Needles area is famous for rock climbing and repelling. Eroded granite pillars, spires towers straddle the region adding a mystic touch.

We left Custer City for our next layover at Rapid City Coyote Blues Inn. Nestled and snuggled deep inside the coniferous ponderosa pines it was a perfect retreat to revitalize after a hectic schedule. The couple running this inn were an emblem of hospitality and good demeanour making our stay memorable.

From here we embarked on the final segment of our wanderlust. Our sojourn would be incomplete if we did not venture across to Wyoming State to visit the Devils Tower the first National Monument and Sundance with its legendary and surreal significance.

The movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid inspired us to visit Sundance. A place in the Wild West where an outlaw nick named Sundance kid gained notoriety.

Devils Tower has a special reverence and esteem for Native Americans. As per legendary folklore narration as it goes two Indian girls were being chased by a few grizzly bears. In a bid to avoid being eaten they climbed a small rock and prayed to THE Great Spirit for help. The spirit made the rock rise high to save the girls from the bears clutches. The bears made frantic efforts to climb, leaving behind deep claw marks which are seen.

Devils Tower is a laccolithic butte composed of ingenious rock formation and is an awesome sight. We decided to perambulate the entire two mile circuit around the tower periphery. This indeed proved to be a befitting grand finale and culmination of our sojourn. This would indeed be evocative of remembrances of this great trip.

The Author in USA
In the next segment our travelogue will be dilating on the trip to The Grand Canyon and White Mountains of Arizona.

More images from this trip herehere and here

The below mentioned hotels and inns are recommended for stay.


Sunshine Inn
Address: 608 Main St, Wall, SD 57790
Phone:(605) 279-2178

Bavarian Inn
Address: 855 N 5th St, Custer, SD 57730
Phone :( 605) 673-2802

Powder House
Address: 24125 Highways 16A, Keystone, SD 57751
Phone:(605) 666-4646

Coyote Blues
Address: 23165 Horseman’s Ranch Road, Rapid City, SD 57702
Phone:(605) 574-4477

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posted by Salman Aslam @ 12:00 AM,


At June 10, 2017 at 11:03 AM, Blogger Jalal HB said...

If there ever is a landmark that I cannot forget that is the Devil's Tower or the Bear Lodge Butte of Black Hills as I have known this feature and tourist attraction since my childhood when I read a story about it. However, reading the accounts in this post, I am appalled to find no mention of it in this post specially when the photo has been shared and ignored altogether. It seems the writer is not aware of this national monument which is visited annually by some 400,000 tourists and climbers.

At June 11, 2017 at 11:35 AM, Anonymous Salman Aslam said...

Devils Tower folklore and myth has been mentioned. It was the first National Monument declared By President Teddy Roosevelt. Please reconcile

At June 11, 2017 at 11:39 AM, Anonymous Nayyar Julian said...

Wonderful narration of a dream land. Looking forward to read the next part of the travel through America.

At June 12, 2017 at 10:16 AM, Anonymous Salman Aslam said...

Thanks for your heartening comments please

At June 12, 2017 at 10:49 PM, Blogger Jalal HB said...

But not under the photo of Devil's Tower so that people should know which was Devil's Tower.

At June 18, 2017 at 12:19 AM, Blogger Deb Sistrunk Nelson said...

I find your post fascinating. Your descriptions of the destinations are vivid, as are your photos. I have not visited any of these national treasures because I've spent my entire adult life working long hours. It's not too late for me to start traveling more. I will use your post as a guide. Thank you for this.

At June 18, 2017 at 11:46 AM, Anonymous salman aslam said...

Thanks Deb for your encouraging comments. It is never to ate to titillate your wanderlust instincts and visit these scintillating national monuments.
Really enthralled by your lucid comments.
Take care.


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