The Black Hills

The Black Hills were named so by the Lakota Indians because the hills were so densely covered in pines and looked dark from a distance. The Black Hills are situated West of the vast expanse of plains in South Dakota. The area, occupied by the Lakota, was excluded from white settlement by treaty in 1868. However, all this changed when gold was discovered in the hills in 1874. The Lakota were pushed out of the area as the Black Hills Gold Rush resulted in a big onslaught of settlers, some of whom were moving from earlier gold rush sites in Colorado and Montana.

Deadwood
Main Street

Main Street, Deadwood

Founded immediately after the beginning of the Black Hills Gold Rush, Deadwood quickly grew into a lawless town of 5,000. This was the home of famous characters such as ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok and ‘Calamity’ Jane, and populated by mainly male gold pan handlers, saloons, opium dens, and brothels. Popularised by the TV series, Deadwood today takes advantage of its colorful past, preserving many of the names and locations, and staging shootouts for the benefit of tourists.

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  • Deadwood, South Dakota

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    Deadwood, South Dakota

  • Mount Rushmore

    One of the most photographed places in the world, what’s to be said? It was a beautiful warm blue-skyed day. Our favorite photo shows the original model inside the artist studio with the actual sculpture through the window.

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  • Mount Rushmore National Monument

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    Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota

  • Custer State Park, Crazy Horse, and Custer City

    Wildlife LoopCuster State Park is very beautiful with rolling grasslands, grazing bison herds, and mountains of granite cliffs and pinnacles. In the 1930s, Peter Norbeck, a SD Governor, Senator, and naturalist, traveled throughout the park by horseback, laying out park facilities and roads, making sure people would come to enjoy the natural features and animals in the park. Norbeck also spearheaded the Congressional effort to raise financial support for Mt. Rushmore.

    This early bird found his wormWe stayed in a campground with a lake by the Visitor Center. Just like this robin, Colin was an early bird hoping to catch the dawn light photographing the area around the campsite, Family of Geese crossing the roadincluding a family of Canada Geese. They were so disgusted by Colin following them around the lake, that they walked across the road to the Visitor Center to complain.

    We toured the Wildlife Loop on our first day, seeing Pronghorn Antelopes, herds of Bison, Prairie Dogs and a group of ‘Begging Burros’ that demanded to be fed by passing cars. Cheryl was amused by the Pronghorn’s antlers which looks like musical clefs and by the antics of the Prairie Dogs. The Bison herd is managed and numbers over 1,300. We started calling them ‘raisins’; the hillside was so thick with dots it looked as if raisins had been sprinkled over them.

    The second day we drove Needles Highway, a narrow road that wound its way through the granite pinnacles and long rock-hewn tunnels. The tunnels were only just big enough to accommodate us. One tunnel was listed as 10’7″ high against our ‘nominal’ (measured by Colin) 10′. See movie below.

    Colin went off to climb the Cathedral Spires trail while Cheryl found a narrow parking space along the road (the trailhead parking was full) and stayed in the van, working and catching up on emails. Not 10 minutes went by when, next to the van’s open door, 5 climbers appeared with equipment and rope. Cheryl had a front row seat to see how a group of climbers made their assent of one of the pinnacles. When Colin returned, the climbers were just packing up to drive to another location for another climb. What nerves and stamina they displayed.

    Next we visited Crazy Horse Monument and Museum. This is a project in mid-completion, the head of Crazy Horse is ten times as large as the Mt. Rushmore heads while the extended arm and horse are still yet to be completed. This mountain carving is only supported by private funds, no government funds have been asked for nor will it ever. It seems fitting that this mountain carving, honoring one of the most recognized iconic American Indian figures, should take its place in the Black Hills, not far from Mt. Rushmore.

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  • Custer State Park

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    Custer State Park, South Dakota

  • Traversing Needles Highway Tunnel

    Along the Way

    The Badlands of South Dakota were named so by the Lakota Indians because of the extreme temperatures, lack of water, and rugged terrain making them difficult to travel in or through. We had planned a day stop at a small campground in Salem, SD but, hearing of the heatwave forecast, we  stayed an extra couple of days so we finally got to the Badlands, we could experience them without the extreme temperature. (We planned to stay in primitive campgrounds without the benefit of electrical hookups, which we need if we are running the AC for more than a few hours). In Salem, the temperatures rose to 103F during these two days, which gave our AC its first test and kept us cool.  Eastern and Central South Dakota is flat farm country, lots of Biofuel plants now, as was our route through Minnesota from St. Paul. We kept ourselves entertained on the long straight roads by looking up information about the little communities we passed through. For example, the little town of ‘Norwood Young America’ processes virtually all the rebate, coupon, and marketing programs for US businesses. The town receives vast quantities of mail and has over 20 zip codes, including 55555. Strange, isn’t it?
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    Badlands National Park

    We spent our first day touring and hiking the area, staying in the Cedar Campground near the Park Entrance. The contrast between the rugged hills and the grasslands above was stunning. Colin hiked the ‘Notch’ trail up a canyon to the top of the ridge overlooking the valley, which included a ‘ladder’ and some challenging trails along the rock face. Next, we traveled the Sage Rim Road, unpaved and shaky, to our next two day’s campsite, which we spent at the Sage Creek ‘primitive’ campground. This route gave us our first opportunity to see and photograph Bison which roam free in the park, stopping along the way to watch a Prairie Dog ‘settlement’. We crossed Sage Creek, an amazing yellow-green color and found a spot in the ‘no fee’ campground before a storm blew in and soaked several campers pitching tents. The campground is a starting off point for Horseback Trekking as well as hiking. The last evening Colin climbed the hill for a view of the campsite and watched a Ranger talk about the Lakota’s hunting technique using an arrow launcher. After the moon set, he took some photos of the night sky through the clear air. The next day, we left very early for Rapid City and encountered some ‘pink fog’ in the morning light, as well as a Bison that exercised his right of way by crossing the road in front of us.

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  • Badlands National Park, South Dakota

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    Sage River Primitive Campground, Badlands NP, South Dakota

  • Canal Park, Duluth, MN

    Lift Bridge today

    When they learned we were heading South from Lake Superior North Shore through Duluth to St. Paul, several of our friends encouraged us to visit the area around the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth including the Maritime Museum. The bridge, spanning the Duluth Ship Canal, was completed in 1930 replacing a 1905 aerial gondola system which transported cars and people across the canal.

    gondola

    Gondola 1906

    We were pleasantly surprised at what a happening place it was, renovated buildings and restaurants in the area. Like many other tourists and locals, we stayed in Canal Park to watch one of the bulk carriers complete its entrance into the canal (see movie below). Duluth is the biggest exporting port on Lake Superior supplying Eastern US cities with coal, corn and other bulk goods, bringing in more than $40M annually.

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  • Canal Park, Duluth MN

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    Canal Park, Aerial Lift Bridge, Duluth MN

  • Como in St. Paul, MN

    We made our way to St. Paul to visit Dick and Diane Hensold. Dick is a professional musician, world class Northumbrian piper, and Diane is a retired librarian. Colin met Dick at a Northumbrian Piping event and decided he wanted to take lessons from him. Dick needed some work on his website, so a barter bargain was made. Over the last few years, Dick has been to our home and out sailing on our boat while on tour on the east coast. Perhaps our neighbors remember seeing Dick doing his daily walk through our community? He’s pretty unique looking with his white, long beard, so you would remember him if you saw him! While at the Hensold’s home, Colin had a pipe lesson and then they played some music, checking out Dick’s new and unbroken-in chanter. Diane and Dick’s hospitality included a tour of St. Paul, a wonderful local restaurant, and an unforgettable walk through the Como Park Conservatory. Dick and Diane have been growing Bonsai and there was a special exhibit at the Como along with a gorgeous Japanese garden and tea house.

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    Conservatory Flowers. Click on any thumbnail below to see larger image gallery.

  • Como Park, St. Paul, MN

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    Como Park and Conservatory, St. Paul, MN