Written by RoBoNC on 24 Sep, 2013
There is so much to see in the Black Hills that we could have used another day or two. While we made sure to visit all of our must see destinations, we tried to sneak in a few extra places along the way.…Read More
There is so much to see in the Black Hills that we could have used another day or two. While we made sure to visit all of our must see destinations, we tried to sneak in a few extra places along the way. A few of those places turned out to be very fun and interesting and it was a shame that we couldn’t spend more time there. My family and my wife’s sister’s family took our first vacation together. My brother-in-law and nephew are avid Harley-Davidson enthusiasts. They try to visit every Harley-Davidson store as each one sells poker chips that have the store’s location printed on them. Many Harley-Davidson fans collect these chips to frame. Our quest to collect poker chips took us to Sturgis, the most famous motorcycle town in the US. Sturgis, South Dakota is a small town of 6000 people but in the first week of August, the town grows in size to nearly 500,000 people. Motorcyclists from around the country make the journey to Sturgis to attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the largest motorcycle rally in the US. The rally originally started in 1938 and it continues to grow in popularity every year. Although we were about two weeks too early for the rally (thank heavens!), we still got to experience a little bit of the rally fever. Businesses were already getting prepared. Merchandise trailers were already set up, banners were being hung, and many of the local residents were already planning to leave town. I spoke with a person who was born and raised in Sturgis and she said that she has never seen the motorcycle rally. Since she was born, her family has always left for that week for vacation so that they could avoid the crowd. She said that is common among most of the residents who live in Sturgis. Our brief stay in Sturgis began with lunch at the Easyrider’s Saloon, located in the center of town. It was one of the few saloon type restaurants that were appropriate for children. Although my family is not the motorcycle type, we had planned to pretend that we were hard core bikers even if only for a couple of hours. After lunch, we stopped by the Mecca (so to speak) for motorcyclists, the Sturgis Harley-Davidson store. We shopped for some Sturgis gear and although I am not a collector, we grabbed a poker chip for the kids to mark our visit to the legendary town. We left Sturgis and headed about 14 miles to Deadwood to visit our next Harley-Davidson store. Had it not been for the Harley Davidson store and needing a poker chip, we would probably have skipped Deadwood and that would have been a mistake. The town is smaller than Sturgis of just over 1000 people. Deadwood became synonymous with the Wild West. It was a town of lawlessness and it attracted gamblers, prostitutes, gunslingers, and criminals. Saloons and brothels were staples on Main Street. The saloons are still there but the brothels have been replaced with hotels and the street is filled with shops, small casinos, and of course, the Harley Davidson store. After a quick visit to the Harley-Davidson store, we strolled along Main Street checking out some of the shops. I quickly learned some of the history of the town as I walked down Main Street. It appears that Deadwood became famous after the murder of Wild Bill Hickok. A hero of the American West, he was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall while playing poker. He was captured and tried for the murder, but Deadwood lived up to its reputation and he was found not guilty. McCall then fled to the Wyoming territory where he was tried again for the murder of Hickok. He argued that double jeopardy applied and that he could not be tried again. But Wyoming officials stated that he could be tried again because Deadwood did not have any law enforcement or court system. McCall was found guilty and hanged for the murder. All along Main Street, sites related to the murder of Wild Bill Hickok still remain. Starting with No 10 Saloon (originally called Nuttal & Mann’s saloon) at 624 Main Street is where Wild Bill was murdered. No 10 Saloon has since moved to a different location on Main Street along with some of the original items including the chair that Wild Bill was sitting in when he was shot. In front of the Goldbergs casino hangs a sign marking the location of the capture of Jack McCall on Aug 2, 1876. The Masonic lodge in town is also the site of the first trial of McCall. Mount Moriah cemetery is the final resting place of Wild Bill. During the summer, history comes to life on Main Street. We happened to be in Deadwood to witness one of the street show re-enactments that occur three times a day at various locations along Main Street. At 4pm in front of the Celebrity Hotel, we were treated to a poker game that resulted in a shootout that left two dead in the street. The re-enactment was taken from historical records as a news reporter was there the day it happened. The other shows occur at 2pm in front of the Four Aces and at 6pm in front of the Franklin Hotel. Visitors can also relive the shooting of Wild Bill inside No 10 Saloon at 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, and 7pm. At 7:30, the capture of Jack McCall is re-enacted and then visitors can head to the Masonic Lodge at 8pm to witness the trial. Although we only got to experience a small portion of what Deadwood has to offer, it is amazing that we almost didn’t make it there. Close
Written by whenilk38 on 10 Jan, 2010
The only bad part of this trip, if there was a "bad part," was the drive to get into position for the sightseeing. I had to drive 1,500 miles to Sioux…Read More
The only bad part of this trip, if there was a "bad part," was the drive to get into position for the sightseeing. I had to drive 1,500 miles to Sioux Falls, South Dakota before I could start taking pictures. I also had to drive home from Denver, Colorado over the flat plains of Kansas and on down to Georgia over familiar and boring territory--well, boring to me, because I had traveled it so many times in the past and had seen virtually everything along the way. All of the preliminary planning really paid off, because I know that I visited places that millions of folks drive right on by without ever knowing they are so close to a breathtaking sight. My best example of that took place over in central Washington. I'll cover that later in the trip on Day 4 But enough of the explanations, it is time to go on a brief and scenic ride with me through the northwestern corner of this great country. I will not bore you with the first and last three days of travel, but will start off as though the trip begins in South Dakota and ends in Colorado. First stop was the Corn Palace in Mitchell. This is the only building in the world that is decorated once a year with artwork composed almost totally with ears of corn. The ears are different colors, but mostly yellow, brown and black. Native grasses are used where appropriate, but corn is the main medium. Yes, I admit it is pretty corny as a beginning, but you have to agree with me that it is unique. Even the inside of the building is decorated with corn art, but it wasn't open at the time I visited. I had been there in 1991 and had been inside, so I was disappointed that there was no chance to get in this time. On across the state, I skipped the Badlands and Wall Drug (been there, done that) and went directly to the Black Hills. I had been to Mount Rushmore several times previously, but a major renovation took place in the last ten years. What used to be a terraced parking area is now two multi-level garages, named the Washington Garage and the Lincoln Garage no less. The grounds now have a full granite plaza, a walk of state flags, and a huge amphitheater. There is also a walking trail that goes right up to the base of the mountain for a heads-up view of the presidents. Much of the Black Hills is part of Custer State Park, a 71,000 acre park that includes a huge herd of bison. If you're lucky, you might see them crossing the main road through the park, but they are usually scattered throughout. We did see a stampede back on a prior visit, and it was impressive. This trip, however, I didn't see the main herd at all. Iron Mountain Road bisects Custer State Park, as does Needles road. Both have tunnels and switchbacks that add to the driving pleasure. A feature of the tunnels along Iron Mountain road is that when you go through the tunnel northbound you are looking at Mount Rushmore several miles distant. At Sunset the faces are highlighted and look almost angelic from inside the tunnel. On my loop trip around to Iron Mountain Road, I also saw the progress on Chief Crazy Horse Monument, but I must say that it hasn’t come along very fast. It looked somewhat similar to what I remembered from our trip to the Black Hills in 1991. Eighteen years, and there is very little to show for it. I’m beginning to doubt that it will ever be finished. Another interesting sight that did impress me was the great job that has been done to clean up the undergrowth and fallen trees in the entire Black Hills Forest. All along the roads I saw huge stacks of wood. Someone has taken a lot of time and effort to clear the area so that forest fires will not be as severe as they have been in other areas of the country. It sets a good example for others. I had dinner at the restaurant at Mount Rushmore, and then hiked out to the base of the mountain and back to the amphitheater. The grounds have been significantly improved from the last time I had visited the monument. During the summer months there is a movie shown in the Rushmore Amphitheater every night just after sunset. It is a very patriotic movie about the presidents featured on the mountain and about the artist/sculptor, Gutzon Borglum. The show culminates with the lighting of the monument and a patriotic song—I think it was "God Bless America." It is a soul-stirring event for everyone in attendance, not a dry eye in the house. Close
Written by Mandan Lynn on 09 Sep, 2007
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…Read More
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 ago, no shade. We hiked on a hot, hot day, and that took a lot of the enjoyment right out of it. But when you get to the top...wow. Take care not to disturb the prayer clothes left by the Native Americans.3. M Hill. Located right there in Rapid City - you don't even have to leave town! Find the trailhead across the creek by the Abourezk law firm. It's a fairly easy hike, but it's secluded - we only saw one biker (BIKE it? are you CRAZY?) and we had the M all to ourselves as we sat and watched the busy street below.4. Skyline Drive. You can follow the road or trek off through the many trails in the woods. Come to the top by the communications towers or Dinosaur Hill! On the way back down, trudge through the woods and see the amazing examples of petrified wood. This is an easy, short hike, and you'll have to share the road with some speeding cars, and you'll probably have to share the lookout points with horny teenagers, but watching the sunset from up there is a lovely experience, indeed.5. Old Baldy. Near Deadwood, it's a fairly easy hike with mediocre views of the prairie and hills. So why did it make the top five? I was keeping phenomenal company the entire way up and back, we had a delightful picnic at the summit, the weather was lovely, and someone else carried my water. It just goes to show, it doesn't matter so much where you go - just so you're with people you really enjoy. Close
Written by Mandan Lynn on 28 Aug, 2007
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 --…Read More
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 they'd never get a chance for that over there. So we hauled out a bucket and a handful of firearms: a 30.30, a .22, and a shotgun. They had a great time, and Bas put a big ol' hole in that bucket with the 30.30.I insisted they go horseback riding, and Bas and Rik were eager to do so. Ruud had been dreading it since arriving in the States, but even he had a good time. Unfortunately, we only have one "safe" horse at the ranch nowadays, so we couldn't take them all out on a long ride across the prairie; instead, we settled for taking turns on our gentle horse Buddy in the corral. The guys still got the general idea of what it's all about.We only had one short day at the ranch before we headed back to Rapid City, where we would base ourselves for the remainder of their time in South Dakota, but I couldn't let them leave without giving them a roping lesson. Bas took right to it and caught the roping head after a few tries. Ruud's lesson took much longer and was much more frustrating, for him and his teacher: me. He finally caught that thing, though.Before they left, we made sure they tasted some good beef as well as some Rocky Mountain Oysters. We let the boys taste them before we explained exactly what they were, and a good thing -- they all enjoyed them and had a second helping, but admitted that if they had known what they were, they wouldn't have tried them.It's fun to share my ranch home with my friends. Growing up, it wasn't always easy to appreciate -- such as on the days that started at 6am helping dad fix a fence, or when we bundled up in all the clothes we had in the middle of a snowstorm to watch the gate while dad fed the cows. Of course, now it's easy to see that growing up there was one of the richest experiences of my life -- and that is only re-enforced by experiencing it along with my friends as they experience it for the first time. Close
Written by Mandan Lynn on 26 Aug, 2007
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…Read More
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 different people: the actors head off to the Old Theatre for rehearsal, the painters, carpenters, prop people, and costumers hole up in their respective shops, the electricians get busy in the theatre, the ticket clerks open up the office, and the snack bar workers put the coffee on. Lunch is at 12; work resumes at 1 or 1:30, again depending on whether we’re behind or not. Unless we’re really struggling to get the next show ready, we quit work at 4:30 and have dinner at 5:30. Meals are usually followed by intensely competitive games of volleyball. Sometimes we have teams of three, sometimes teams of 12, but it’s always a lot of fun. The old standard rules of volleyball apply, but we have a few of our own, as well -- such as that balls are playable off the building to which the net is attached, unless it hits the building below the line of the net.By 6:30pm or 7pm we’re all focused on that evening’s show. Cars are sometimes pulling up by 7pm, a full hour before the curtain goes up. Actors take their post-volleyball showers and start the costuming and make-up process. Workers from all the shops take on their duties as designated for this particular show -- maybe as a spotlight operator or set crew member, maybe as an usher or car park. Very few people are left with nothing to do before the show, and if someone is, you can bet he or she will be busy the next night!In addition to the jobs we’re hired for, we all have other duties to help keep the camp running. There is a rotating duty schedule which has us washing and drying dishes or cleaning the theatre and bathrooms. We only get seven days off the whole summer: Mondays in the middle of the runs. There are no shows on Monday, so if we’re in the middle of a play, there’s no work to do on those Mondays that can’t wait until Tuesday. However, if we’re opening a new show this week, Mondays are very busy! The plays close on Sunday afternoon, and we start immediately, even before the last audience member has driven away, tearing down the old set and putting up the new one, which has to be ready for the Wednesday night preview. We have no specific hours (and definitely no volleyball) during these intense few days -- we work straight through, often late into the night, stopping only for meals. The work is serious, but we keep it fun. In the paint shop, we had dance breaks -- if a certain song came on, we all had to put down our brushes and start shakin’ it. Once, as one painter acted out her favorite part of the play we were rehearsing, an entire bucket of paint was knocked onto a set piece that another painter had spent a couple of days working on and had finally finished. In the face of such devastation, there’s only one thing to do: laugh. Another time, we had large tubes to use on a set as columns, and the carpenters invited us over to their side of the yard for a few minutes of rolling down the hill in them. I’ve met amazing people, many of whom I count among my dearest friends. I’ve also had the opportunity to bump elbows with a little bit of fame! I played volleyball with Broadway star Jenny Fehlner and worked directly under designer Ahna Packard, who has worked on the television show Monk. Others, famous or not, are so remarkably talented, whether as actors, directors, designers, carpenters, or whatever. I am honored to say I know them, let alone call them my friends.I look forward to more summers at the Playhouse. There’s nothing like working so hard with people you get to know so well to put something like a play together. There’s great pride in knowing that even if maybe you aren’t on stage, those people wouldn’t be, either, if it weren’t for you and the work you’re doing behind the scenes. It makes me giddy to hear the audience members talk during the intermissions about what a good play it is or how beautiful a certain set piece is or how they’re making plans to come out to the next show. I’m proud to be part of bringing such quality theatre to the Black Hills. Close
Written by btwood2 on 20 Oct, 2004
We’d barely entered the park on Iron Mountain Road when we saw about 10 or 12 burros poking around cars parked on the shoulder, and people, some inside their cars, some walking around. What were they doing? We pulled over and watched.…Read More
We’d barely entered the park on Iron Mountain Road when we saw about 10 or 12 burros poking around cars parked on the shoulder, and people, some inside their cars, some walking around. What were they doing? We pulled over and watched. The burros were quite obviously requesting food in no uncertain burro-body language, some thrusting their snouts right into the car windows as if to see and sniff for themselves. And many of the people were digging around in their car’s food supply and giving the burros whatever they came up with. In one case this was a head of lettuce, which is probably ok. But several others were getting chitos and chips – not the most nutritious food for people or burros. We were impressed with how gentle these fairly large, well-muscled, hooved creatures were, but had no desire to "feed" them, even if we would have had something in the car with which to do so. Something about the whole scene was faintly disturbing. At the other side of the park, on Wildlife Loop Road, we ran into a replay of this scene, not just on the shoulder, but extending into a large, open field. Again, we stopped, watched, and took photos. The burros looked healthy with shiny coats, and some of the females were quite obviously pregnant.
I was curious about this, so later looked for more specifics in Tatanka magazine, given to us at the entrance station. A "Please don’t FEED US" column announced that feeding any of the park’s wildlife is strictly prohibited. But these burros didn’t seem very wild, and no one was around to enforce this prohibition. I recalled a few miles before the park entrance a store was advertising "burro food". Burro food? I determined to ask a ranger. At the wildlife station, the ranger on duty informed me that the burros aren’t indigenous to the area, but were introduced in the 1920’s by an entrepreneur who used them to carry tourists up Mt. Harney. When his venture failed in the 1930’s, he let the burros loose. Currently there are two small herds, about 15-20 burros in each. Park policy is not to feed them, but "if you must, give them something healthy, like carrots, apples, lettuce, or other raw vegetables." Although the burros behave in an extraordinarily gentle manner, considering their size, they do occasionally kick with their hind legs, and sometimes will nip a tourist. The herds are kept within manageable size by selling some every year during the bison auction.
According to the American Donkey and Mule Society, ass is the correct term for the animals we more often call donkeys or burros. Ass comes from the Latin asinus, not from the old English arse, a crude term for the human rear end. Male donkeys are called jacks, females jennets. The Western U.S. tends to call asses burros, from Spanish, whereas the East calls them donkeys. Mules are the sterile hybrids that result from breeding a jack to a female horse. The less common hinny, also sterile, is produced by the breeding of a male horse to a jennet.
Christopher Columbus had four jacks and two jennies brought to the New World 3 years after he first landed on its shores. They soon multiplied and also were used to produce mules, which along with burros were used extensively out West for mining. As mining ventures and other projects failed, the animals were often let loose and wild herds grew.
In 1971, the The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed to prevent abuse and attempt some management of these roaming herds in the ever-increasingly populated and shrinking West. At the time of passage of this law, herds of wild horses and burros were estimated at 17,000; by 1993 their census was up to 46,500. Excess animals are removed from the herds and adopted out privately. Because of horse and burro fertility levels and subsequent increases in their populations, the Bureau of Land Management, on whose lands they mostly roam, is conducting studies on temporary anti-fertility methods for the herds.
Last year we visited both the National Bison Range in Montana as well as Yellowstone National Park. We were disappointed in the former, only seeing bison way off in the distance so they looked like dark specks on the hillsides. Yellowstone was much…Read More
Last year we visited both the National Bison Range in Montana as well as Yellowstone National Park. We were disappointed in the former, only seeing bison way off in the distance so they looked like dark specks on the hillsides. Yellowstone was much better for bison spotting, with frequent sightings and bison jams. With Custer State Park’s bison numbering around 1500, this was the largest concentration of bison/ per square mile we’d yet visited. I was greatly anticipating viewing these magnificent animals during their "rut", their mating time, which runs from July through August. We hadn’t been driving the Wildlife Loop long when we came across a huge herd, maybe between 250-300 bison, with a string of cars and motorcycles stopped on the shoulder alongside. The bison were right by the roadside in a big open field, some crossing back and forth across the road. This was apparently a favorite wallow area for them, as very often a huge shaggy beast would flip right over with dust flying and feet kicking, taking pleasure in a dirt backscratch.
Standing by our car, I soon became aware of an undercurrent of sounds – something between a cat’s purr and pigeon’s coo. Low and rumbling, but with some vocalization as well, the voice of the herd. Calves were sticking close to their mamas, and now and then nursing. Bulls were doing their own thing, avoiding one another, but showing strong interest in the cows. Following, sniffing and nuzzling the cows, the larger bulls with massive heads incongruously gentle as the purring, cooing rumbling sounds continued. Sometimes a bull would sniff, dog-like, at a cow’s rear. We didn’t see many overtly aggressive moves on the part of the bulls, neither with the cows nor between one another. One particularly large bull began to chase off another one when he was getting too close to his cow, but they didn’t openly clash. We spent a good half hour there, looking and taking pictures, and I was sorry to leave. I felt like I could have watched them the entire remainder of the day in perfect contentment, with those lulling throaty sounds of the herd washing over me.
I was surprised at the lack of aggressive behavior, for I’d imagined we might witness some fighting between the bulls, at least some stamping the ground and bellowing, which reportedly sounds like the roar of a lion, so loud it can carry for 3 miles. Signs of impending conflict include loud grunting, hissing, spitting, head waving, tail raising, stiff-legged walking around one another, and eye rolling and staring. But this herd was relatively sedate as we watched. A ranger I spoke with later said there had been more aggressive displays at the beginning of the rut, but by the second month (August) the bulls were getting worn out.
Bison females calve every other year in their prime. For most of the year, they hang out in matriarchal herds with their calves and yearlings. The bison bulls remain solitary or roam in small groups, with other bulls. But during the rut, the bulls are looking for love, and find it, or rejection, or a fight – in the mixed herd. Bulls butting heads (and getting butted in other parts of their bodies) can lead to injury and sometimes even death. People watching bison at any time need to remember that these seemingly slow and gentle animals are anything but; they are wild and agile, can pivot on a dime, and can quickly gain speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. They can also jump, kick, and swim.
At its historical apex, the bison population has been estimated to number 60 million, ranging over most of what is now the United States, and well into Canada and Mexico. Pioneer settlement in the 1800’s decimated the last of the great herds by wanton and senseless killing of these beautiful beasts. By 1889 only about 1100 bison remained on the entire North American continent. As I’d learned on my visit to Crazy Horse Memorial, the Dupuis family, Indian (Minneconjou) ranchers north of the Cheyenne River, had captured 9 pure bison calves in 1883 and from them started a herd. This herd was later bought by Scotty Phillips of Fort Pierre, and continued to thrive. Around 40 animals from this herd started the Custer State Park herd in 1913. Today, an estimated 250,000 bison live in North America and are no longer considered endangered, but they came very close to extinction just over 100 years ago.
Custer State Park’s herd is actively managed, with an annual Buffalo Roundup in October. Here, the calves are branded and immunized; two-year old bulls are semen-tested, and sale animals tested for brucellosis, TB and the sale cows for pregnancy. The excess bison are auctioned off on the 3rd Saturday in November each year, to join other herds or become food for us. Thousands of private herds have been started from the Custer herd since the first auction in 1966, and the sales from the auction have contributed up to 25% of the parks income.
Further along the Wildlife Loop, we came across several more herds and groups of bison, but none as large as that first one. By the end of the loop, we weren’t even stopping anymore, although I wouldn’t have minded if we had…
Written by btwood2 on 30 Oct, 2004
Only 14 miles from Hill City, Keystone has chosen a more hit-‘em-over-the-head, commercial presentation of itself. It’s very centrally located, so it’s difficult to avoid it when driving anywhere. Our first introduction to Keystone was on the way to Mount Rushmore.…Read More
Only 14 miles from Hill City, Keystone has chosen a more hit-‘em-over-the-head, commercial presentation of itself. It’s very centrally located, so it’s difficult to avoid it when driving anywhere. Our first introduction to Keystone was on the way to Mount Rushmore. I was appalled by the excessive advertising in the form of billboards, large, garishly ugly signs, and gimmicky, fake-looking "frontier" and "mining" motifs in front of virtually every business. Stop lights, crowds, congestion, and gridlock; avoid Keystone if you’re looking to get away from these.
I must admit, though, that we finally purchased a wooden plaque for our motor home in Keystone, at a little stand in front of Keystone House. You’ve seen them, identifying the inhabitants of the motor home, often including pets. Since we don’t have pets, we had the craftsperson etch in a few cacti, reminiscent of our winter times in Arizona.
Keystone was founded in 1891, named after Keystone Mine along Battle Creek. In 1894, the more profitable Holy Terror Mine began operations, yielding $10,000 worth of gold per week, and the coming of the railroad in 1900 increased mining activities. After numerous cave-ins and a disastrous mine fire in 1903, the Holy Terror was closed and filled up with water. Through the years, draining attempts were unsuccessful. Nearby mines produced other minerals, such as tin, spodumine crystals, and feldspar.
But it was the building of the Mount Rushmore Memorial that established Keystone as a tourist hotspot. In the 1920s, the area immediately around Mt. Rushmore was restricted from further development; Keystone filled the gap, only too eager to supply the needs of Mt. Rushmore visitors. Rushmore Borglum Historical Center provides more information about the sculptor of the Presidents’ memorial. We didn’t stop there, because we felt we got enough information at the memorial itself and hated the excessive billboards advertising them literally all over the Black Hills, even into the Wyoming Devil’s Tower area. Presidents Alpine Slide promises thrills by taking you in a chair lift to the top of a hill, where you can eat a cheeseburger while looking at Mt. Rushmore, then take a speedy sled ride or a tamer chairlift back down the hill. The National Presidential Wax Museum is where you can find wax reproductions of US presidents in period costume amidst historical settings. Another billboard offender we didn’t visit was Beautiful Rushmore Cave, advertising a one-hour guided tour, gift shop and snacks. Big Thunder Gold Mine offers "free" samples of gold ore when you take the tour. There are also plenty of shops selling curios, t-shirts, and mostly cheap (and some expensive) souvenirs.
Keystone has lots of places to eat, and we ate quick lunches at two of them: Trail Drive Barbecue and Eno’s Pizza and Pub. The bison burger at the Trail Drive was tasty, but there was an extra charge for lettuce, onion, and tomato slices. At Eno’s, we split a big sub sandwich. It filled our stomachs but wasn’t anything special. During the weeks we spent in the Black Hills, it didn’t take many drives through Keystone to get our fill of that town as well.
Written by btwood2 on 09 Nov, 2004
After our visit to Crazy Horse Memorial last summer, thoughts were spilling out of my brain at lightning speed. It’s four months later, and now that I’m in Arizona for the winter, it’s almost as if my thoughts have congealed. Not congealed, exactly,…Read More
After our visit to Crazy Horse Memorial last summer, thoughts were spilling out of my brain at lightning speed. It’s four months later, and now that I’m in Arizona for the winter, it’s almost as if my thoughts have congealed. Not congealed, exactly, but struggling and groping to express themselves in ways that aren’t stereotypical, humorless, or too weighty.
Indians in the Black Hills -- vying with presidential themes, their presence is all-pervasive commercially, in motifs, t-shirts, souvenirs, and the very names of both Dakota states. They’re at Korzak Zielkowski’s Crazy Horse memorial and Kevin Costner’s Tatanka tribute. They’re standing sculpted on street corners in downtown Rapid City, those sculptures (pictured below) in front of stores selling Native American arts, crafts, jewelry, drums. Undoubtedly, there’s some money being made here, but evidently not much of it is ending up in the nearby Pine Ridge or Rosebud Reservations, from what we could tell driving through them. Statistics from a Pine Ridge Reservation website are chilling. Pine Ridge Rez, predominantly Oglala Lakota, population about 40,000, straddles the two poorest counties in the United States, Shannon and Bennett Counties. The unemployment averages 86%; 63% live below federal poverty level. Average life expectancy is only age 48 for men and age 52 for women, and the rate of infant mortality is double that of the rest of the nation. That’s right, a third-world country only miles away from countless tourist attractions where well-fed, adequately-accommodated tourists such as ourselves are spending our tourist dollars, obliviously having a good time.
How things got to be this way, as well as solving the situation, are both achingly simple and frustratingly complex. Between 1850 and 1875, the bison herds, the spiritual heart and economic basis of the Lakota tribes, were almost exterminated by white men. Stolen land and repeatedly broken treaties (Fort Laramie, 1851 and 1868), frequent and ongoing misguided federal policies, and severe reduction of much-needed funds, worsening during the current federal administration, only exacerbate the multiple problems. Due to abysmal funding, health care is second-rate or worse; housing is woefully inadequate in the severe plains climate of hot summers and freezing winters, with too many elderly living off by themselves, dying every winter from hypothermia; and suicide, alcoholism, and diabetes take their toll across the age spectrum, as well. Social services from the outside remove countless children from Lakota homes, terminating extended family rights without reason, ignoring the Indian Child Welfare Act and causing even more disruption and anguish to the families. Lately, some efforts have been made to discuss and begin to understand these and other problems facing the Rez, but much of it comes far too late and much too slowly.
One obvious answer for us as tourists would be to spend at least some time and tourist dollars on the Reservations. Pine Ridge’s Red Cloud Heritage Center displays Indian-made paintings, graphics, and sculptures, as well as traditional beadwork and quillwork. A simple stone monument marks Wounded Knee Massacre Site, where hundreds of Lakota people peacefully traveling with Chief Big Foot were woken out of sleep by a Seventh Cavalry attack to be senselessly slaughtered. The day was December 29th, 1890, almost 114 years ago. Wounded Knee was also where the American Indian Movement (AIM), together with some traditional Lakota and elders, took a stand in 1973, seizing the hamlet to protest federal policies and injustices, resulting in an FBI siege that lasted 71 days. At Little Wound Living History Village and Museum in Kyle, 13 teepees comprise a village where traditional dances, songs, foods, and games are demonstrated by student guides. For casino buffs, Prairie Wind Casino, west of Oglala, and Rosebud Casino, south of Mission on the Rosebud Rez, have slots, tables, bingo, and food. Both casinos also feature live entertainment and special events.
A few weeks later, when we’d moved further along, the shiny Walmart Supercenter in Valentine, Nebraska, was virtually empty in mid-afternoon, with the ratio of employees to customers about 1:1. We asked an employee and learned that, at the beginning of each month, the store fills up with customers from the Rosebud Rez just across the South Dakota border. In fact, the employee confided to us, if it weren’t for its Rosebud customers, this store would probably fold. Even more ominously, a small Nebraska outpost, White Clay, a few miles off the reservation across the state line, exists solely to sell alcohol to people from the Rez, where alcohol can’t be legally sold.
Tourist attractions on the Rosebud include the Sicangu Heritage Center at Sinte Gleska (Spotted Tail) University, in Antelope. The Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum in St. Francis contains many Lakota artifacts and a gift shop.
I have been so confused about what to call Lakota people. They used to be and often still are called Sioux, not their original name for themselves, but the name they were called by another tribe further eastward, meaning "the enemy". When I asked our Indian-looking waitress if she was Lakota, she responded, "No, I’m Sioux." "But I thought Lakota and Sioux were the same tribe," I ventured. "Actually, it’s really complicated," she said, "and it depends on variants of the language too." I may or may not have it quite right, but from what I was able to ascertain, Lakota, also sometimes called Teton Sioux, include seven bands: Oglala, Sicangu, Hunkpapa, Miniconjou, Sihasapa, Itazipacola, and Oohenupa. The Oglala predominate on Pine Ridge Rez. The Sicangu live on the Rosebud Rez. Dakota, also sometimes called Santee Sioux, include four bands: Mdewakantonwon, Wahpeton, Wahpekute, and Sisseton. Dakota reservations include the Sisseton Wahpeton, in northeast South Dakota, and the Flandreau, on the Big Sioux River. Dakota also live in Minnesota and Nebraska. Nakota bands include Yankton, Upper Yanktonai, and Lower Yanktonai, with a small reservation along the Missouri River, in the southern part of South Dakota, and larger Standing Rock, on Lake Oahe, straddling the South Dakota - North Dakota border.
Written by btwood2 on 22 Aug, 2004
Probably the best way to get a feeling for the real Paha Sapa is to attempt to escape civilization by taking to the trails. There are lots of trails that run through the hills. On one of our first drives into the hills,…Read More
Probably the best way to get a feeling for the real Paha Sapa is to attempt to escape civilization by taking to the trails. There are lots of trails that run through the hills. On one of our first drives into the hills, we spied the George S. Mickelson Trail next to Highway 385. This rails-to-trails project was started by a group of local residents in 1983 when the Burlington Northern pulled out. Named after Governor George Mickelson, a strong supporter of the trail, it was completed in Fall 1998. Accessible by 14 trailheads, its 109 miles traverse 7 towns, 4 tunnels, over 100 bridges, numerous old mines and historic structures, the ghost town of Mystic, and the old townsite of Redfern. At the trailheads are toilets, water, and self-registration stations to pay the $2 daily registration fee for the required trail pass. You’ll also find water fountains, shelters with picnic tables and benches, and interpretive signs along the trail. Foot and bike travel is permitted year round, horseback riding only when the trail is dry, and snowmobiling in winter from Deadwood to Dumont, on 16 miles of trail. The only disadvantage to this Cadillac of trails is that it does parallel the roads and highways fairly closely, as the railroad did, so you don’t fully get away from the sounds of cars. You can download a trail map, see photographs, and check on special events at the Mickelson Trail website. The state Department of Game, Fish & Parks publishes an excellent brochure about the trail available at visitor centers. Mickelson Trail Affiliates also publishes a brochure describing visitor facilities and services in the towns on the trail.
Passing through more rugged country is the 111 mile long Centennial Trail. Beginning in the prairie grasslands north of the Black Hills, Centennial Trail cuts through Black Elk Wilderness (only foot and horse travel allowed) west of Mount Rushmore, and continues south through the entire length of Custer State Park, ending in Wind Cave National Park. You’ll find a variety of developed and primitive campgrounds along this trail. The agencies involved publish a trail users guide you can find at visitor centers. The Mickelson and Centennial trails are but 2 of 38, covering 465 miles in the Black Hills National Forest. Its 1.2 million acres contain 31 developed campgrounds, and they also allow dispersed camping in most of the forest. Pactola Reservoir, Deerfield Lake, and Sheridan Lake allow boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking, and camping.
We took a number of scenic drives through the Black Hills. Iron Mountain Road, running 17 miles southeast from Keystone to Highway 36 in Custer State Park, features 3 "pigtail" bridges and 3 tunnels. These unusual wooden rustic bridges were conceived and designed by self-taught architect and builder C. C. Gideon. Each bridge loops around to a tunnel, a picturesque method of dealing with a steep elevation change. The road also splits up into one-way lanes on occasion, making its way through stands of light barked birch trees. At the summit, there are far views of Mt. Rushmore, Peter Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, and Black Hills National Forest.
We drove Needles Highway at waning light, bathing the dramatic spired granite peaks in warm evening colors. Thankfully, there were many pullouts. Around every bend, the views of these pointed igneous granite formations change. Their core is believed to be 10 miles deep. The "Eye of the Needle", pictured below, was formed by the forces of wind, rain, freezing, and thawing. Both Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway are part of Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, a loop drive through the heart of the Black Hills. Thankfully, no billboards have been allowed to be placed on the best parts of these drives.
Purple bee balm was blooming in every meadow and alongside the roads. Looking up, we’d often see solitary hawks or eagles sailing in the high breezes. Off road, we saw striped squirrel and tiny chipmunks. If we’d gone out further on the trails, we might have seen white-tailed and mule deer, although some white-tails occasionally visited the campgrounds. The hills are also home to coyote, bobcat, elk, and mountain lion. White mountain goats were introduced to the Black Hills in 1924, and like to climb the peaks around Rushmore and Harney.