All night it rained. All day today, it rained. With the exception of a few moments of sunshine, it’s been a complete washout. Not good for one’s mood, not good for travel, not good for enjoying the sites. Fuck me! This precipitation has no end. I haven’t seen this much rain in a very long time. Did I mention the rain?
Despite the conditions, I had a genuinely interesting day. No way in hell was I going to stay in my motel and just hang around Hill City. So I headed for Deadwood. I was a huge fan of the HBO series of the same name and I figured I couldn’t go wrong paying a visit to this historic and infamous town. The drive up although you guessed it, rainy, was gorgeous. Ponderosa hillsides, crayon yellow Aspen leaves, and lovely streams were a sight to behold as I headed north. I reached Deadwood an hour later, ready to get into character. I think I would have been Charlie Utter, the coolest resident of the former mining town. I parked the car and started my walk. Wow. What a fucking disappointment! Where was the dusty, dirt filled Main Street? Where were the wood plank buildings, the canvas tents that served as stores, the whores hanging out on the hotel balconies, the Chinese laundrymen and opium dens? Where were the horses, filthy gold prospectors, and seedy characters?
This might have been the most disappointing day of my life! Instead, I was smacked in the face with a Main Street full of casinos and their slot machines, cheap and tacky souvenir shops, burger joints and bars, more mid range bland motels, and paved streets. To make things worse, one of the stores prided itself in its collection of Trump paraphernalia. You have to be kidding me. This is Deadwood? I mean, at moments it felt like it as I peered at the steep hillsides that loomed above the gulch that the town resides in but overall, I felt like I was in just another tourist trap. The bar where Wild Bill Hickok was murdered was pretty cool but the room where he was playing cards just before he was shot from behind was closed today! My luck sucks! Al Sweringen’s Saloon and whorehouse, The Gem, was nothing more than a den of slot machines. I tried to feel the spirit of the town’s past, but it proved almost impossible. Until just before I left.
I decided before heading back to Hill City that I would head up to Mount Moriah, home of the Deadwood cemetery were Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, and Seth Bullock were buried. The steep road to the parking lot at the base of the cemetery offered beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and town below. Right in time for my arrival, the wind picked up, it got colder, and the place assumed an eerie, melancholic vibe. I walked up to the spot where Wild Bill is buried. I forgot that Calamity Jane is interred right next to him as per her wishes before she died. Finally I felt something, I felt the spirit of the past overcome me. It was weird. I felt sad that these two, that the other famous and not so famous individuals that were resting below me were no longer around. What would they think of Deadwood now? I mean, the gambling is still there in another form but nothing else remains except a few brick buildings that date back to that infamous era. I walked up the hill to Seth Bullock’s gravesite and it was here that I really felt the energy of that bygone era. His grave sits almost at the top of the mountain and offers a wonderful view of the surrounding hills and valleys. In the end, I guess he deserved such a spot. He was, arguably, the most morally grounded resident of the town. On the walk back down I felt glad I decided to make the quick stop to the cemetery. It felt authentic, it felt like I escaped the faux reproduction that lay below me. I can’t imagine what this place was like before the turn of the twentieth century.
I made my way back to Hill City stopping at the local brewery before heading to my camp for the night. I had my first conversation of significance since I’ve been out here. A couple from Sioux Falls treated me to a lovely convo the ran the gamut of topics from history, to nature, a bit of politics and Trump, and our thoughts on humanities present course. It felt great. I finally felt like a part of the world again. For that hour, I had a couple of friends. Before parting ways, I shook hands with one of them, a middle aged gentlemen, and as I reached to shake his wife’s hand, she stood up and said, I’m a hugger. What a beautiful gesture, what a beautiful moment. I really needed that.
I didn’t want the leave the couple but I had to head to Sylvan Lake to set up camp. The fog was as thick as soup. You could barely see the road in front of you. I pitched my tent in, you guessed it, more rain, and under the pitter patter of droplets on my tent ceiling, I prepared myself for sleep.