2005 Vacation in the

Black Hills of South Dakota

28 Sep - 4 Oct, 2005

Here's our schedule:

  • Wed, 28 Sep: We picked up Micah from school at 3:30 and were finally on the road by 4:30pm. After dinner in Grand Island and several other brief stops, we pulled into the Super 8 in Valentine (where I'm typing this) at 10:30pm. Other than terrible gas mileage thanks to the gale-force winds, all has gone well so far.

  • Thu, 29 Sep: We were on the road from Valentine by 10am CDT. We made an impromtu stop at an 1880's town along I-90 for an hour and got to see lots of old buildings, artifacts, and kitties. Our gas mileage is much improved with the wind at our backs, which is good, because gas up here is considerably more expensive than in Grand Island ($2.93 vs $2.69).

    We finally made it to the Badlands at 2:30pm MDT. Noelle was scared of going because of the name, but really loved it once she saw it. Both kids loved climbing on the rock formations. The rock formations there are gorgeous. We got within 15 feet of a herd of mountain goats at a scenic overlook, and Ben got within 6 feet of a prarie dog at the world's largest prarie dog town. Below are two of the 160(!) photos that we shot today. I have a VERY slow Internet connection out here, so that's the best I can do until I get home.
    Family at Badlands Mountain Goats

    We then ate dinner at Wall Drug just outside the Badlsnds. Wall Drug is an icon that everyone who visits the area should visit once, but I probably won't bother returning.

    We left Wall at sunset and drove the finaly 1.5 hours to Hill City (southwest of Rapid City), where we're staying in a very nice 2-BR cabin at Pine Rest Cabins. The kids love it that their bedroom has bunk beds. Hill City is a little farther from most of the action than we might have preferred, but the Buffalo Roundup crowd filled up all the closer spots. The location also makes this cabin cheaper than its competitors.

  • Fri, 30 Sep: After two days in the car, we decided to spend the day hiking. After a leisurely start from our cabin, we headed down the road to Mt. Rushmore. The weather was gorgeous for hiking around the monument for about 3 hours. Micah, of course, found plenty of rocks to climb on.
    Our cabin Family at Mt. Rushmore

    We came back to the cabin this afternoon so Noelle and Stacy could rest while Micah and I hung out. This evening, we all went to Central High School in Rapid City, where a local Lakota Sioux community was holding a pow wow. It was fun to hear them playing drums, singing songs in their native tongue, and dancing in their costumes. I couldn't get any good photos because I was too far away for a flash, but I got plenty of video.

  • Sat, 1 Oct: We had reservations to ride the 1880 Train (a steam locomotive between Hill City & Keystone) in the morning. It lasted an hour each direction, and was very beautiful & relaxing. We spent the afternoon back at our cabin, where three of us napped and one of us watched the NU-ISU football game.
    1880 Train

    We woke up in time to go spend a couple hours at the Crazy Horse memorial before nightfall. The scale of it is enormous -- it'll be 500+ feet tall when completed. There's a huge visitor center that's focused on the history of Crazy Horse and other area Indians. After dark, they light up the monument with colored lights and a laser light show. They only use private funding, so they've already been at it for 57 years, and it wouldn't surprise me if it takes them another 100 years to complete.
    Crazy Horse Memorial

  • Sun, 2 Oct: Visited Wind Cave in the morning and spent over an hour 200 feet below ground.
    Wind Cave

    We spent the afternoon driving through Custer State Park looking at the beautiful scenery and wildlife. This is reportedly the best weekend to see leaves (mostly birch and aspen) changing color. The park is full of bison (see below), and we also saw plenty of dear, some pronghorns, and some prarie dogs. We made it to Sylvan Lake around 3pm, where we rented a paddle boat, fed some ducks, and climbed some rocks (following Micah).
    Paddle boating

  • Mon, 3 Oct: Got up before dawn to go see the Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park. We got there 1500 bison get herded in from the open range in preparation for an auction next month. We made it to the park around 7:45, then spent the next hour driving the last 4 miles to the parking lot, where we joined more than 10,000 people. We were prepared for a long wait, but just as we sat down, the buffalo appeared over the ridge. It was somewhat anticlimatic, as they kept the buffalo a very safe distance from the spectators, and did most of the herding with pickups. Afterward, we walked down to the corrals to watch them sorted and branded. On the way down, one of the wranglers gave Micah and Noelle a ride on her horse, which was the highlight of the trip for them.
    Buffalo herd (850 KB)
    Noelle riding horse (2.0 MB)
    Micah riding horse (1.8 MB)

    We left the Black Hills after lunch and headed south through Chadron and Alliance, NE. We skipped Toadstool Park due to time constraints, but we did stop to see Carhenge outside Alliance, then drove to Chimney Rock just as the sun set, which provided some great photos (I'll upload them later) even though the visitor center was already closed. We spent the night in Ogallala.
    Family at Carhenge (1.7 MB)
    Chimney Rock at sunset (1.1 MB)

  • Tue, 4 Oct: Finished the 5-hr drive from Ogallala to Lincoln. It was uneventful.

You can see all our photos in full resolution here:
29 September
30 September
1 October
2 October
3 October

The weather for Rapid City was around 80F most afternoons, which is about 15 degrees above normal. We didn't see any rain until the morning we left Ogallala. This was the prime weekend for trees changing color, so everything was just beautiful. There are still plenty of things to do up there that we didn't have time for, so I'm anxious to return some day.

Click for Rapid City, South Dakota Forecast

last updated 20 Oct 2005
Obi-Wan (obiwan@jedi.com)

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