Monthly Archives: March 2013

Black Hills Trip Report: Day Three

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Today we headed a little over an hour east of Rapid City to visit Badlands National Park.

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You know how there are times when you watch a what is most likely a fairly mediocre movie, and because you are in just the right mood at the time you love it?  That’s how I felt when visiting BNP.  I have been to much more spectacular places, but I loved the subtle beauty of the Badlands.  I was there with my family, camera gear dangling off me, with a whole day to explore a cool new place.  It really doesn’t get any better than that.

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Taken by Jessica, age 9 –

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While the landscapes were amazing and I had fun looking for good photo opportunities, I also took some impromptu portraits of my family that I’m very happy with.

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Except maybe for this one…

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And this one…

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We visited the famous Wall Drug on the way back to the hotel, but they were closing for the day so our stop was cut a little short.  If you are anywhere within 100 miles of that place, count on seeing a sign about every 10 feet.  They are all nicely done and well kept, though.

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Natalie stole my cap, glasses, and camera, then walked around doing her best impression of me.

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A swim at the hotel and a bunch of pizza capped off a great day.

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Black Hills Trip Report: Day Two

Saturday morning we decided to drive the scenic Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park, then loop over to Mount Rushmore via the Iron Mountain road.

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The Wildlife Loop was great.  It started out very empty and still, I thought it was going to turn out to be a huge flop.  Then we came up on two different groups of Bison and got to watch them from a close distance.

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Including the biggest one I have ever seen.

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That was cool, but then we rounded a corner and spotted a herd of pronghorn.  WAY cool.  I have never been so close to them before.  Usually all you see are a few white butts way out in the sagebrush.  These guys let me watch them for a good 30 minutes and I loved every second of it.

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We also spotted the infamous pack of wild burros up on a hillside.  We’d get a much closer look at them on Monday…

Thanks to my pronghorn-watching we were now a little behind schedule and stepped up the pace a bit.  While we were driving over to Iron Mountain, we spotted 7-8 turkeys crossing the road.  Good timing!  My wife said it was good she had urged us to hurry up or we would have missed them.  I said it was good I had taken so long with the pronghorn or we would have gone through before they crossed.  So it goes…  Anyway, it was great to see them and there wasn’t any traffic so I was able to stop and take a quick snap.  I haven’t ever seen colors like these guys displayed.

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We started up the Iron Mountain road and spotted some bounding whitetail.  I love seeing the wildlife! The road was built in the 1930’s and gets very narrow in spots.  There are 3 small tunnels as well.  Two of the tunnels were engineered to line up perfectly with Mount Rushmore off in the distance, that was neat!

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Perfect blue sky and clean air made for an incredible visit to Mount Rushmore.  We had never been there and enjoyed having the whole afternoon to soak it all in.  Pictures just can’t do it justice, seeing it firsthand was impressive to say the least.  It was fascinating to learn all about how the monument was created, and I found it very interesting to learn why each of the presidents were selected.

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Posing like the presidents –

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Cool shot taken by LJ –

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It was well worth the trip!

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Black Hills Trip Report: Day One

What to do with a 4 day weekend in February? Go to South Dakota, of course!

When things started coming together for a weekend getaway over Presidents Day weekend, I never imagined we would end up driving north. I wanted to go somewhere within a 4-6 hour drive so we wouldn’t spend all of our time on the road. New Mexico was looking to be the likely choice, but after checking forecasts for several days it looked like the weather would be a mixed bag. Fairly cold and somewhat unsettled. That wouldn’t have been a huge deal, but the weather up north was looking so much better that we decided to head that way.

I’ve only driven past the Black Hills before and have always wanted to go back and explore that beautiful slice of the country a bit more. With a Saturday forecast of sunshine and 50 degrees, the deal was done.

We boarded our dog Thursday night so we could get a nice early start on Friday morning, with the goal of getting to Wind Cave National Park in time for the final tour of the day. It turns out I botched the tour schedule on the website and was off by 30 minutes, but we arrived 45 minutes early so we were all good.

The place was empty, it being a Friday afternoon in February, and we had the awesome experience of being the only ones on the tour. The ranger was in no rush and took plenty of time with us to answer questions and tell us a bunch of cool stories and anecdotes. It was great!

First discovered opening to the cave.

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The tour was only 1/4 mile, but at just about an hour long, it seemed just right. They have actually mapped 120 miles worth of tunnels and are still exploring. There are teams that head down to an advanced basecamp of sorts and spend 3 days at a time working out the new passages. Cool stuff.

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The tour guide came to the part where they turn off all the lights and have you stand there in the pitch black darkness. As we were standing there talking, she told us to all be very quiet and we would experience something that the early cave explorers got to experience. The ranger was meaning the absolute silence, but after we had been quiet for what seemed like a long time with no sound at all in the darkness Jessica piped up in a quivery little voice and said – fear?? It cracked everybody up including the ranger. Jessica was so sincere, but it was too funny.

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After the tour, we drove through Custer State Park at sunset on our way to Rapid City. We stopped and watched a huge herd of elk, 28 bulls total. They were taking turns sparring and put on a great show for us.

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