At last, I turn South on the final side of the rough rectangle back to Denver where I started way back in June. The Black Hills area of South Dakota are a pretty fierce set of granite hills and dense forests, but aside from mountain goats their chief claim to fame is the home of Mount Rushmore.
You've got to admire the sheer hutzpah of the visionaries/crazies who conceived of the idea of sculpting a mountain way back in post-depression 30s USA.
Once again I did a little rewind and play from my time at Devils Tower by arriving late in the evening when the hordes had thinned and coming back early morning when it was just me, chipmunks, squirrels, deer, a single parent mountain goat family and a bloke jetwashing the concourse. Going to sleep when the sun does at 9:30pm and waking when it comes back at 5:30am is fine, but I hope 2 months on this natural rhythm don't leave me cursing it when I come back to the rat race and don't have to be anywhere until 9am.
After Rushmore, with rain chasing me, I stopped in to Wind Cave, one of the world's longest cave systems to swap pitch black clouds for pitch black caves. Way back in the 1890s, a young man called Alvin McDonald spent his final teenage years exploring the cave system with only candles and balls of string. In the three years prior to his death (from typhoid, not caving) he managed to explore about 10 miles worth of passages. Today, spelunkers still haven't found an end to the cave system which stretches in a hugely complex maze for over 140 miles below the South Dakota countryside.
With only a point and shoot my few pictures don't really do it justice, so have a browse on Google images