Colorado Springs, CO to Hot Springs, SD
I had planned to leave early the next morning, but I was so tired from last night, I didn’t really get started until 9. The previous night, Lydia had hidden various treats in all of my bags and though I tried to give them back, she would have none of it. I also assented (though more easily) to taking a full box of strawberries. I hadn’t had a chance to see Lydia’s sister Jan so I spoke to her briefly on the phone, showered once again in praise and blessings for a good trip. With bags already packed, I quickly grabbed them, packed the car, and said goodbye to a tearful Lydia.
The drive along the eastern sides of Colorado and Wyoming were almost as boring as Kansas. But this time I had strawberries, tons of tiny snickers bars, and a consistent NPR station. So I was happy. Before leaving, Lydia had told me that if I see Buffalo, to immediately pull over to the side of the road to watch and take pictures of them, because I might not get another chance. I saw a scattering of Buffalo on the other side of the road just before I hit Wyoming, but passed them by thinking it was too dangerous to pull over and that I would have to see others in the more notorious Buffalo states of Wyoming. Luckily, I ended up being right, but it took awhile.
I arrived in Hot Springs, South Dakota in late afternoon, a few hours before sunset. The town had one of those two-block downtowns with the old fashioned store fronts. The most modern thing there was maybe the movie theater and even that only played three movies once a day. I ambled into the (real?) log cabin visitor center, and shyly asked the guy if there were in fact any hot springs in Hot Springs. He smiled and pointed to the door, not to kick me out for such stupidity, but to direct me to a very nice river/hot springs trail. I sauntered down to the river, admiring the stone Episcopal Church on the side of the hill and the tiny bright white gazebo. At first I just walked beside the river, taking in its cool smells and calming sounds, but at a mini-waterfall, I set my bag down, kicked off my flip flops, and waded in. The water was…ok. I mean it was water. I suppose it was tepid for what should have been a very cold, snow-melt river. But nothing worthy of the name hot springs. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place. Nevertheless there was a nice little trail that I followed for a few miles. The trail smartly ended at a Dairy Queen so I bought vanilla soft-serve cone, swung on a swing at a nearby park, and headed back up the street to my car.
I drove a little up the way and camped at the almost full Wind Cave National Park. It must be Memorial Day Weekend. I set up my tent amidst a very complicated game of tag amongst some of the children camping over. I usually don’t bring much into my tents, but tonight I wanted to write about my travels, read, and plan the final stages of my journey. At the end of the drive up here I had switched to laptop music, which unfortunately had completely drained my battery, so my first task of writing was put aside for the moment. Next I spread out all of my maps on the floor of the tent. Four National Parks were within just a few miles of each other, so I made the bold decision to see all of them tomorrow. I fiddled with other plans of how to finish my journey within the next three days and still see everything, and marked which roads I planned to take. With the planning done, I opened up my Houdini book and fell asleep to stories of escape at the ripe hour of 8p.m. Before dawn, I woke up in a puddle.