We spent the last six days in the gorgeous Black Hills of South Dakota. Wow! We have been here three times, and we have loved each time! The summer days are warm and the summer nights are chilly. The Black Hills (actually mountains) literally spring up out of the extensive rolling prairie that surrounds them, like an oasis. Stories abound in the area of Native Americans receiving instructions from God (well, that’s what I call Him) in different areas of These Hills. I don’t doubt it a bit. There’s a feeling one gets here that makes it easy to believe the layer separating Heaven from Earth is quite a bit thinner than other places.
Custer State Park: Buffalo roam free and wild at Custer State Park; they welcomed us immediately. There’s something about seeing buffalo roaming free that makes you feel so bold, free, and American. You may also see antelope, mountain goats, elk, and prairie dogs. We usually spend a couple of hours driving in the park, and we like to stop at one of the lodges and have lunch. The lodges are picturesque and have great settings. The food is average, so don’t expect much. I would like to point out that if you are stopped by a herd of animals, pause and enjoy it, then politely honk your horn and nudge your vehicle slowly forward. They will part for you. Or you could sit there for 30 minutes with a line of traffic behind you.
Spearfish Canyon: So scenic and beautiful. We did two hikes in the area, and afterwards, we stopped at the conveniently located Latchstring Inn Restaurant for views and lunch after the hike; the photo above was the view from our outside balcony table. Our food here was reliably good! Spearfish Canyon Lodge is across the street from the Latchstring Inn Restaurant.
- Roughlock Falls: A very simple walk, I wouldn’t classify it as a hike, to the lovely Roughlock Falls. Abundant educational sign posts make for lots of learning to be had. The path has been expanded and improved on so that it is exceptionally traversable by all. We parked in Spearfish Canyon Lodge’s parking lot and walked up the path behind it. This walk would be something that children of any age could do and grandparents of any age and ability could do. A stroller would even navigate well. The leisurely walk probably took us 45 minutes. Not for those seeking adventure.
- Devils Bathtub: Our party of seven (3 adults and 4 children, ages 4-9) enjoyed this hike immensely. Here is the review that I used to choose the trail for us; it has great directions: Enjoy The Black Hills, Devils Bathtub. Once you arrive on site, the actual path is not well-marked; in fact, there are several small paths to choose from. Be careful, or you may be hanging off the side of a cliff, hearing, “Mommy, I’m scared.” Stick to the paths that hug the creek on the “road side” of the creek. You will be crossing the creek occasionally and have three choices: get wet, try to cross on the bigger rocks, or test your balance on a log crossing the creek. My four-year-old was able to navigate the whole hike with a hand to hold at creek crossings. She did ask me to carry her a bit (and I did), but I was able to bribe her abilities with granola bars and apple slices. It helped a lot that she was wearing hiking sandals that didn’t matter if they got wet. The kids absolutely LOVED playing in the creek and “tubs.” We arrived somewhat early and were the first hikers up the path, but by the time we left, it was becoming quite populated. The kids spent an hour stomping in the creek and writing on the rocks with different colored limestone. There was not litter on our hike, as mentioned by one blog site.
Mt. Rushmore: I’ve seen it three times now, and I still enjoy it. I also love seeing all the different people who come to visit from different countries. My husband says after three visits, he’s done with Mt. Rushmore, but how can you be done when you haven’t read all the information in the museum? I’m rushed out every darn time. We always do the walk around the bottom; there are lots of steps. The hike is fine for all the kids, but we’ve done it with my father-in-law, and I don’t think with his arthritis that he is a big fan. We usually watch the movie that’s available, but my four-year old doesn’t like to sit through it. This was the first year I have been able to watch the whole 20 minute movie. The ice cream cones at the snack stand are $5 per person. I’d encourage you to skip this and go get some ice cream in Hill City, just a short drive down the mountain.
Panning for gold: This year we panned for gold outside of Deadwood at Broken Boot Gold Mine. Aside from the kids’ excitement about leaving with some gold flecks, I was disappointed. The panning takes place in a tank right next to the noisy road. (The guests we were hosting didn’t know the difference, but we have gone twice to Wade’s Gold Mill near Hill City. Every time we have spent a glorious two hours surrounded by sunshine, a babbling creek, and such kind hosts. I just looked it up and was sad to see that it is currently closed due to family health concerns. If they do re-open, I can’t even tell you how much we recommend it! Not a drop of commercialism on the grounds.) I couldn’t talk anybody else into taking the actual mine tour, so I cannot comment on that. Fuddy duddies. The photo above is from last year’s visit to Wade’s Gold Mill, not Broken Boot.
Deadwood: We stayed near to and enjoyed our visits to Deadwood. We ate at several places, and they were all about the same. The menus are not too creative. Our best meal was across the street from Kevin Costner’s Tatanka, at the Lodge of Deadwood; there were actually vegetables on the menu, aside from iceberg lettuce salad!
- Tatanka: The best part was the Lakota Native American speaker, Mr. Redbird. Very informative. The sculptures were lifelike, and I liked seeing them. We spent about 1 hour here. The film at the beginning put my teeth on edge; a bit too much of Kevin Costner and egocentricity. I want to say I liked the place because I really appreciated the sculptures and Native American speaker, but aside from that, the small place is not endowed with much.
- Mt. Roosevelt Hike: A short hike. My kids were worn out a little already and fussed just a tad up the hill. They like the hikes with the creeks better!
- Street shootouts: Our whole family enjoyed running into these. My daughter even volunteered to be in one!
- The Adam’s House: A haunted house! The tour was well-done, and our kids liked it. However, they really wanted to see ghosts, and we didn’t. If my kids were squirrely, I don’t think I would enjoy taking them to the Adam’s House.
- Mt. Moriah: “Wild Bill Hickok” is buried here beside Calamity Jane. We walked up from The Adam’s House, and the kids wanted to kill some parents. The hill up is very steep.
Miscellaneous: We usually rent a house from VRBO in the middle of nowhere and then journey out from there. We have stayed in Custer, Hill City, and Deadwood. My favorite area has been Hill City because it’s a bit more centrally located to all of the sites. We have always gone with friends and/or family. They have all enjoyed it here. Activities we have liked include:
- Biking. We usually just like to bike around our cabin. There is also the Mickelson Trail to ride or hike on.
- The Badlands. Worth a trip to see some surreal scenery! We usually only have time to drive through.
- Mammoth Museum in Hot Springs
- Dinosaur Museum in Hill City
The food in all places has only been mediocre. Sourcing organic/gluten-free/grass-fed has been hit or miss. Custer has a great little food store with all of this, but the other towns were lacking.
Be where you are! Take care and enjoy your day!
Posts in the draft bin: FODMAPS/GAPS vegetable list and a GAPS success testimonial regarding seizures