Ghost Town Tour yields no Ghosts, but Lots of fun
You just have to know that word about Bill Swanson's ghost town tours is getting around - "It's a must tour." Every trip has more people turning up. I counted almost 45 people in the Saturday, October 4, trip, and all of them were clearly looking forward to a fantastic tour. They would not be let down.
The starting misadventure, however, almost undid the entire endeavor. Turned out that Hill City was closed down because of the Crazy Horse Marathon. After some grumbling and threading through the street labyrinth of Hill City, however, we finally got organized and out of the town onto Deerfield Road. I just have to tell you that we greatly appreciated Gordon Van Loenen towing along the porta potty - it came in for some serious use. Robin Sager drew a huge laugh when she said our caravan looked like a redneck funeral - with everyone following the porta potty!
Our first stop was some amazing sand caves. During the 1940's and '50's a large sandstone hill was mined, and the sandstone blocks pulverized into high silicon-base sand. Bill pointed out a number of interesting features, including fossils in the ceiling. It was noteworthy that some large blocks had fallen from the ceiling, but fortunately all of us got out alive.
Next we stopped by the Reynolds Prairie Custer camp site, marked by a white sign. Bill quickly recounted the Custer tour of the hills in 1874, and noted that one howitzer had been abandoned by the expedition, never to be found. Many of you remember Cyndie Hall-McGee, tragically killed in a traffic accident about two years ago. She told Don London and me that she was sure she knew where it was hidden, and she looked forward to finding it. Well, for now it will remain hidden. Bill also told the story of Native Americans killing off a group of French explorers in the 1840's and taking their jar of gold and hiding it somewhere above the Reynolds Prairie. Another tale of lost treasure.
The Yellowbird mine used to be extremely imposing, but Bill noted that the Forest Service, in its infinite wisdom, tries to remove all signs of occupancy, but managed to lift up a large tractor or truck tire some 50 feet and leave it on the surface. The mine site was still fun to look at, and people were engaged in liberating ore samples all over the ground.
Off we went to the Myersville site, southwest of Rochford, scene of some abundant placer mining and some lode mining in the early years. We were taken aback to learn that the old safe - a noteworthy landmark - had evidently been removed or stolen. However, the large leaning house was still there in all its glory, and the old stamping mill and mill sites were there - very interesting.
Next we drove through Rochford, one of the best ghost town sites in the Black Hills, past the Glory Hunter claim and down to Mystic. Bill sketched in his encyclopedic detail the large amounts of dredging that happened there along Castle Creek, along with the amazing history of the railroads that went to and through Mystic.
It was a fabulous trip, folks, If you weren't there, you missed a treat. Your only consolation is that there will be more trips - just resolve to make the next one! And our most grateful thanks to Bill Swanson for another outstanding ghost town tour.