Black Hills Journals

My Black Hills

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An August 2007 trip to Black Hills by Mandan Lynn

Stop! Photo, Black Hills, South Dakota More Photos
Quote: The beautiful Black Hills and its many offerings -- the place I was lucky enough to be born and raised.

Prairie Berry Winery

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Attraction

Prairie Berry Winery Photo, Black Hills, South Dakota
Quote:
The Prairie Berry Winery, near Hill City, offers wine tasting all year around -- and you'd be silly to miss your chance. This winery focuses and uses fruits native to South Dakota, and they do a fine job of it. Their wines consistently win national and international awards.My friends and I went for a tasting just last week. You get to taste five wines for free; you can taste five more for $5. When you're with friends, it's a good idea to all taste something different, and you can share.We were given a sheet listing all the available wines. I went straight for the sweeter wines -- my favorites are the three-starred ones. (One star being the driest wines; five stars the sweetest.) I...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 26, 2007

Prairie Berry Winery
23837 Hwy 385
Hill City, South Dakota 57745
(605) 574-3898

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

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Attraction | "Mt. Rushmore National Memorial"

Mount Rushmore National Memorial Photo, Keystone, South Dakota
Quote:
If you're in South Dakota, you wouldn't want to miss Mt. Rushmore. It's a national symbol of freedom that nearly every American recognizes (even though not everyone knows where it is!).As you walk down the alley between all the state flags and those faces come into view, you can't help but get a little misty-eyed. I had the pleasure of visiting last week with my Dutch friends, and it made me even more proud as I saw it through their eyes, as they saw it for the first time.Gutzon Borglum and his 400 helpers began sculpting the great monument in 1927, and they finished in 1941. He went through several different versions of the sculpture before he decided on the final design. The shape an...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 26, 2007

Mount Rushmore National Memorial
13000 Highway 244
Keystone, South Dakota 57751
(605) 574-3171

Crazy Horse Memorial

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Attraction

Crazy Horse Memorial Photo, Black Hills, South Dakota
Quote:
If you thought Mt. Rushmore was big -- just wait until you see Crazy Horse, the giant sculpture in progress, created to honor the Native Americans. Standing Bear wanted the white man to know that the red man had great heroes, too, so Korczak Ziolkowski dedicated his life to carving the monument. He started in 1948 all by himself. Work continues to this day (and will continue -- I don't expect to see it completed in my lifetime) even though the sculptor died in 1982. His wife and seven of his ten children are continuing his dream.Part of the reason the monument is taking so long to complete is because they refuse to accept financial assistance from the government. All their work is completed th...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 26, 2007

Crazy Horse Memorial
Highway 385, 4 miles north of Custer
Black Hills, South Dakota

Evan's Plunge

Attraction

Quote:
Evans Plunge is the world’s largest natural warm water indoor pool. The water is heated naturally (it’s the water that gives the town of Hot Springs its name!) and stays at a glorious 87 degrees Fahrenheit.The Plunge has water slides, a hot tub, steam room, weight room, tarzan rings, an outdoor pool with a slide, a kiddie pool, and a gift shop. One admission fee is good for the whole day, though you do have to pay extra to use the health club.The last time I used the weight room, it was nothing to write home about. It's no longer your only gym option in Hot Springs, so if you want to work out, I would go elsewhere.A pool is a pool, but the Plunge is famous the wo...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 26, 2007

Evan's Plunge
1145 North River Street
Hot Springs, South Dakota 57747

Black Hills Playhouse

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Attraction

Black Hills Playhouse Photo, Black Hills, South Dakota
Quote:
Tucked into the Hills in Custer State Park is the Black Hills Playhouse, a small professional theatre that produces five plays each summer. The Playhouse consistently produces fine work and employs professionals and newcomers alike. They work with directors who come straight from Broadway, actors who must get permission from the unions to act on the BHP stage, and designers who spend their winter months working on sets in New York and Los Angeles. Jenny Fehlner, who starred in Broadway’s Mama Mia, Jarod Emick, who won a Tony for his work on Broadway in Damn Yankees, and Ahna Packard, who works on the sets for television’s Star Trek and Monk, have all worked at the Playhouse, both before and after havi...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 26, 2007

Black Hills Playhouse
24834 County Highway 753
Custer 57709
(605) 255-4141

Custer State Park

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Attraction

Custer State Park Photo, Black Hills, South Dakota
Quote:
Custer State Park is a fantastic place for all sorts of activities. Even just driving through gives you great views of the Black Hills and numerous species of wildlife, especially the Park’s large herd of American bison, which most locals call “buffalo” even though that’s not technically accurate. You might also catch a glimpse of deer, antelope, elk, mountain goats, big horn sheep, and prairie dogs. We saw many deer and antelope on our latest journey.There are several lodging options within the park, including the State Game Lodge and cabins at various resorts such as Blue Bell. I’ve stayed at Blue Bell -- we woke up with a buffalo blocking our front door! It’s funny and a great photo op...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 26, 2007

Custer State Park
13329 US Hwy 16A
Custer 57730
(605) 255-4772

Kool Deadwood Nights

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Attraction

Kool Deadwood Nights Photo, Deadwood, South Dakota
Quote:
At the end of August, Deadwood hosts Kool Deadwood Nights. The main event seems to be the classic cars, whose owners may register them on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. The cars are then on display for the entire weekend and are judged on Saturday morning. On Friday and Saturday night, Main Street is blocked off so people can set up chairs and enjoy the free concert. Our chairs made up part of the third to last row -- and we could barely see the stage! There were so many people. In the front (we walked down there to take a peek) couples were dancing to the music of Johnny Rivers and DD and the Fayrohs between 6pm and 10pm. On Sunday there is a parade and then some of the cars are au...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 26, 2007

Kool Deadwood Nights

Deadwood, South Dakota

Range Days Rodeo

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Attraction

Range Days Rodeo Photo, Rapid City, South Dakota
Quote:
The Range Days Rodeo takes place every year during the Central States Fair in August in Rapid City. For anyone who loves a rodeo -- this is one not to miss.I had the pleasure of taking my Dutch friends along with me -- it was their very first rodeo. We went on Thursday night, and it happened to be military appreciation night. As we honored the troops, I felt even prouder having my Dutch friends beside me, and they were glad to be part of the event, as well. A B1 bomber flew overhead (from Ellsworth Air Force Base just outside of Rapid) -- the Dutch visitors loved that, as well. The rodeo started with the bareback bronc riders. One poor guy had a poor bucking horse, so he was of...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 26, 2007

Range Days Rodeo

Rapid City, South Dakota

Mammoth Site

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Attraction | "The Mammoth Site"

Mammoth Site Photo, Hot Springs, South Dakota
Quote:
Mammoth SiteDaily 8am - 8pm (closes earlier in the off-season)Perhaps you’ve read about the Mammoth Site in National Geographic or watched a program about it on the Discovery Channel or the Today Show. Several years ago, plans were underway to build something (a house, I believe, though I don’t remember for sure) in the location of what is now the Mammoth Site, when a bulldozer hit something unexpected: the bones of Columbian mammoths, woolly mammoths, giant bears and other ancient creatures. Needless to say, they ceased production on the house and got to work excavating these treasures. Excavation of this sinkhole is ongoing, led by Dr. Larry Agenbroad. Today it is the only place in North...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 27, 2007

Mammoth Site
1800 West Hwy 18 Bypass
Hot Springs, South Dakota
(605) 745-6017

Dinosaur Park

Attraction

Dinosaur Park Photo, Rapid City, South Dakota
Quote:
Dinosaur Park8am-8pm (June-August)9am-5pm (May, September, October)Dinosaur Park was one of my favorite places when I was growing up. The best part? It’s free! It’s a great place to spend an afternoon for the dinosaur-loving child in your family.The park is pretty basic. It’s just five life-sized replicas of our favorite reptiles. We went time and time again when I was a kid, just climbing on and taking pictures with each dinosaur. I still have a picture of me with both of my grandparents -- one of the rare pictures my grandmother allowed us to take of her.It’s located on Skyline Drive -- way up high, which gives you excellent views of Rapid City. There’s also a snack b...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 27, 2007

Dinosaur Park
Dinosaur Park, Skyline Drive
Rapid City, South Dakota 57701
(605) 343-8687

Journey Museum

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Attraction | "The Journey Museum"

Journey Museum Photo, Rapid City, South Dakota
Quote:
The Journey Museum chronicles the history of South Dakota from the time of the dinosaurs through the Wild West and into the present.You start your visit with a 14-minute video: a lot of beautiful pictures and not a lot of information. Enjoyable nonetheless, and not to worry -- you'll be bombarded with info as you go through the museum.When the lights come on and the doors open, you continue through the Star Room, which is unimpressive. Just a dark room, lots of little lights, and a recording giving you some information that we didn't listen to. We just scuttled on to the geology exhibit.The rock wall shows the type of rock that makes up the Black Hills from Harney Peak to the n...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 28, 2007

Journey Museum
222 New York Street
Rapid City, South Dakota 57701
(605) 394-6923

Harney Peak

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Attraction

Harney Peak Photo, Black Hills, South Dakota
Quote:
At 7.242 feet, Harney Peak is the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and Europe's Pyrenees, so it is a very popular hike. And it's not terribly strenuous. The path is clear and when you approach the summit there are stairs that lead you to the tower.I took the Dutch boys on a rainy sort of day, but I expected it to clear up. No luck. We got to the top, and it was so cloudy that even the rocks below the tower were hazy. The guys didn't get to see the spectacular views that Harney Peak gives you, and I felt like a bad tour guide.Having hiked the mountain several times in my life, I can tell you -- the views are amazing. You won't see them in these cloud-white pictures, but we are ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 28, 2007

Harney Peak
Black Hills of South Dakota
Black Hills, South Dakota

Devils Tower National Monument

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Attraction

Devils Tower National Monument Photo, Devils Tower, Wyoming
Quote:
Devils Tower (America's first national monument) is a short two-hour drive from Rapid City through some lovely Wyoming county, so we made the trip. And technically, it's still in the Black Hills, so it fits perfectly into this journal.You see it long before you reach its base. It towers above the flat area surrounding it. I can't imagine what the early settlers must have thought as they laid eyes on it for the first time, but if I had to guess, it would probably go something like, "What the...?"Three miles from the base of the tower, you pay a $10 entrance fee per car ($5 for motorcycles), and the pass is good for seven days. Follow the winding road to the visitors center and the monum...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 29, 2007

Devils Tower National Monument

Black Hills

Storybook Island

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Attraction

Storybook Island Photo, Rapid City, South Dakota
Quote:
Storybook Island was one of my favorite places to visit while I was growing up, and it still holds a special place in my heart. This free children’s park is full of our favorite storybook and cartoon characters -- Winnie the Pooh, the Flintstones, Black Beauty, Barney, Cinderella, and countless others. There are lots of swings, slides, and things to climb on. There is a free children’s theatre that stages shows all summer long.Ruud and I went on a hot, hot day, so we shuffled through it pretty quickly. I had memories of it being this huge place, but actually it's not so big. We did it in an hour, but if you have kids you can count on it taking a lot longer -- you could probably spend a whole a...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 31, 2007

Storybook Island
1301 Sheridan Lake Road
Rapid City, South Dakota 57702
(605) 342-6357

Reptile Gardens

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Attraction

Reptile Gardens Photo, Rapid City, South Dakota
Quote:
Reptile Gardens is located just outside of Rapid City. Don’t let the name fool you -- there’s a lot more going on here than just snakes! Reptile Gardens has an impressive collection of lizards, snakes, turtles, frogs, and birds. You’ll also get to meet Maniac, an enormous crocodile from Australia.If you’re a fan of the Crocodile Hunter (which I was and remain), you’ll love the alligator shows. When Ruud and I visited, Travis was our alligator wrestler. I learned that even though alligators have nearly 2,000 pounds of closing force in their jaws, they have only about 20-40 pounds of opening pressure -- so if you can get the jaw shut, it's not hard to keep it shut. In fact, Travis said that "any...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 2, 2007

Reptile Gardens
Box 620
Rapid City, South Dakota 57709
(605) 342-5873

On Top of M Hill Photo, Black Hills, South Dakota
Quote:
1. Harney Peak. At 7,242 feet, it's the highest point east of the Rockies and west of the Pyrenees. Make sure you go on a nice, clear day - the views will take your breath away. With a round-trip of about six miles, it's not a difficult hike, but you do want to be aware that you have to climb over one little mountain in order to get to Harney...so on the way back, there's some uphill work to do! People often forget about that. Find the trailhead at Sylvan Lake. Go early, before it gets hot.2. Bear Butte. It's located by Sturgis and gives you a view of four states on a clear day. Hiker beware: it's a difficult, rocky trail with lots of steps and, thanks to the fire that burned there some years ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 9, 2007

Crazy Horse Memorial

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Attraction | "Climbing Crazy Horse"

Crazy Horse Memorial Photo, Black Hills, South Dakota
Quote:
Every year during the first weekend in June, Crazy Horse Memorial hosts a volksmarch. For a couple of dollars, you get the opportunity to climb the mountain and stand on Crazy Horse's arm! It's the only time all year you can go up there, and do it soon -- because eventually, the arm will be carved to the point where it is no longer possible to get up there. Admission is free on volksmarch weekend, with a suggested donation of food for the food drive.This event attracts thousands of people from all over the world, even in slightly inclement weather. One year, it rained the whole way down, and we took shelter in a little shack on the side of the trail (a shack that has since disappeared)....Read More

Crazy Horse Memorial
Highway 385, 4 miles north of Custer
Black Hills, South Dakota

Pedaling Along the Mickelson Trail

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Story/Tip

Stop! Photo, Black Hills, South Dakota
Quote:
The George S. Mickelson Trail is part of the state's Rails to Trails program, where they take old railroad routes and turn them into hiking/biking/horseback riding trails, and is named for our beloved governor who died in a plane crash. This trail runs 109 miles from Edgemont to Deadwood. There are several trailheads along the path where you can start or stop a short journey, if you're not up for 109 miles. The fee is $2 for the day, or $10 for the entire season if you plan to go more than five times. You can buy your pass at the self-service stations along the trail or online.In early summer, my aunt dropped my friend Joel and I off at the Dumont Trailhead. We only had two bikes, so it was de...Read More

Working in the Theatre

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Story/Tip

Playin' Some Volleyball Photo, Custer, South Dakota
Quote:
The Black Hills Playhouse holds a special place in my heart, and not just because I’ve been attending plays there since I was 10 years old. I’ve also spent two summers working there.The BHP is unique in that the company members live there as well as work there. It’s like a college campus -- we have dorms and a cafeteria. We’re with each other all the time. We wake up in bunks above or below each other, we eat with each other, we work with each other, and we play with each other. Each day looks more or less the same from the outside. Breakfast is at 8:30. Work starts at 9 or 9:30, depending on how much we have to do and how much progress we’re making. This means different things to diff...Read More

Happy New Year, Deadwood-Style

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Story/Tip

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Deadwood is a pretty cool town in its own right. It’s the former stomping grounds of Wild West heroes such as Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill Cody, and it’s where Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed. For a healthy dose of western lore, visit Deadwood.For a probably unhealthy dose of good fun, visit Deadwood on New Year’s Eve.If you’re in South Dakota for the turn of the year, Deadwood is the place to be. The streets are packed, the casinos full, the spirits flowing.We were there to welcome 2005 and had a great time. We started early and had a big dinner at one of the hotel restaurants. We hopped from casino to casino, pausing for drinks or to gamble a bit (or, in my case, to wa...Read More

Ranch Life

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Story/Tip

Keep 'em in Your Sights Photo, South Dakota, United States
Quote:
I grew up on a ranch in South Dakota, so all the new experiences my Dutch friends had when they visited me felt like just another average day to me. Unfortunately, it has been a very dry summer, so there is very little grass -- and what is left is brown and brittle. I kept telling them, "Believe me, it often looks much more beautiful than this." But I don't think they heard me. They come from the Netherlands, where wide open spaces are filled with houses and people in Europe's most densely populated country. Out at the ranch, they could see for miles and miles, sometimes without even spotting a cow, let alone another person.The first thing they wanted to do was shoot guns! They figured...Read More