a journey to South Dakota

June 8, 2021: Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

June 9, 2021: Dignity of Earth & Sky near Chamberlain, South Dakota

June 9, 2021: Skeleton Man Walking Skeleton Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota

June 10, 2021: Black Elk Peak in Custer State Park, South Dakota

June 10, 2021: Crazy Horse Memorial near Custer, South Dakota

June 11, 2021: Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park, South Dakota

June 11, 2021: A pronghorn in Custer State Park, South Dakota

June 11, 2021: A wild burro begs for snacks in Custer State Park, South Dakota

June 11, 2021: A bison in Custer State Park, South Dakota

June 11, 2021: A bison in Custer State Park, South Dakota

June 12, 2021: Art Alley in Rapid City, South Dakota

June 12, 2021: The Badlands, South Dakota

June 12, 2021: The Badlands, South Dakota

June 12, 2021: The Badlands, South Dakota

June 13, 2021: Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota

June 13, 2021: Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota

June 16, 2021: The Badlands, South Dakota

June 16, 2021: The Badlands, South Dakota

June 16, 2021: The Badlands, South Dakota

June 16, 2021: A prairie dog town in The Badlands, South Dakota

June 16, 2021: A wolf at Bear Country USA in Rapid City, South Dakota

June 16, 2021: A black bear cub at Bear Country USA in Rapid City, South Dakota

June 17, 2021: A prairie dog near Devils Tower, Wyoming

June 17, 2021: Devils Tower, Wyoming

June 17, 2021: Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota

Recently, Patty and I spent ten days exploring South Dakota.

We left from Kansas City, Missouri en route to Rapid City, South Dakota. We drove six hours and stopped in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to visit Falls Park and its stunning waterfall. Afterward, we checked into the Candlewood Suites in Falls Park.

The next morning, we started our six hour drive to Rapid City. We stopped to admire the Dignity of Earth & Sky, an art installation near Chamberlain, South Dakota. Dale Claude Lamphere fabricated the native woman from stainless steel in 2016. She stands 50-feet tall and weighs 12 tons. The sculpture honors the indigenous Lakota and Dakota peoples. Once we reached Rapid City, we checked into the Home2 Suites and ate dinner at Sickies Garage Burgers & Brews.

We woke up on Thursday and went to nearby Custer, South Dakota because we had booked a Black Elk Peak helicopter tour with Black Hills Aerial Adventures. The twenty minute flight allowed us to see many of the region’s highlights: Black Elk Peak and its fire tower, Crazy Horse Memorial, the Cathedral Spires, the Needles, Sylvan Lake, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. We ate lunch at Sage Creek Grille before returning to our hotel. Later, we joined two friends for drinks at the Lost Cabin Beer Company, a popular brewery and taproom in Rapid City.

The next day, we visited Sylvan Lake and hiked the Sylvan Lake Trail. The lake was featured in the film National Treasure: Book of Secrets starring Nicolas Cage. Then, we drove the Needles Highway and admired the granite rock pillars before stopping for lunch at The Custer Wolf in Custer. Afterward, we continued to the top of Mt. Coolidge, the highest point in Custer State Park at 6,023 feet, and a 360-degree panoramic view of the Black Hills. We finished the day by driving the Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway, an 18-mile scenic road where bison roam free in the park.

After breakfast on Saturday, we headed to downtown Rapid City and The City of Presidents Walk, a series of life-size bronze statues of all former U.S. presidents along the sidewalks. We also admired the murals in Art Alley that were painted by amateur and professional graffiti artists. We ate lunch at Tally’s Silver Spoon before driving to the Badlands to see the dramatic landscapes of layered rock formations.

The next morning, we visited Mount Rushmore National Memorial and hiked the Presidential Trail underneath the massive sculpture. We had a fantastic lunch at the historic Powder House Lodge Restaurant in Keystone. We also drove the beautiful Iron Mountain Road, a 17-mile scenic stretch through the Black Hills that features 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, three pigtail bridges, and three one-lane tunnels.

The following day, we went souvenir shopping at Prairie Edge, an upscale store and art gallery specializing in Native American books, music, jewelry, and ceremonial items. We also had lunch at Colonial House Restaurant & Bar in Rapid City.

We rested in our hotel room on Tuesday so I could wake up at 4:00am on Wednesday. I returned to the Badlands to watch the sunrise at 6:00am. Once the sun was up, I drove back to the hotel to pick up Patty. We visited Bear Country USA in Rapid City, a drive-through wildlife park that features elk, reindeer, bighorn sheep, wolves, black bears, bison, and other North American wildlife.

Our last day in South Dakota was busy. We drove through the iconic towns of Sturgis and Deadwood before eating lunch at the Cheyenne Crossing restaurant in Lead, South Dakota, Afterward, we headed up the beautiful Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway with its towering granite peaks and impressive waterfalls. Then, we went west to visit Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. The butte was made famous in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Steven Spielberg. More importantly, Devils Tower is a sacred religious site for many American Indians.

South Dakota was spectacular and we enjoyed its great faces and great places.

-scott weaver

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