Our House in South Dakota

September 12, 2016:  From Denver we headed northeast towards Minnesota.  Having made that drive a few times, we know that the best scenery en route is in South Dakota.


South Dakota’s Black Hills are an ancient volcanic mountain range that stand apart from the major western mountains.  The rugged features and pine forests are quite beautiful.  In the past, we have driven and hiked around the Hills, and particularly liked Spearfish Canyon, near Deadwood.  We definitely recommend a visit. However, this time we were not destined to spend a lot of time in the Hills, and stuck to the South.

The Black Hills are also home to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and we got there at the end of this year’s event, which was apparently quite calm compared to last year’s 75th Anniversary Rally.  However, even in Custer, at the opposite side of the Hills from Sturgis, there was no doubt what week it was:

Center traffic lanes converted to motorcycle parking.

From Custer, we drove north into the Hills, to Sylvan Lake.


Sylvan Lake is a beautiful little lake created in 1881 by the construction of a small dam closing off one end of Sunday Gulch:

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Sunday Gulch got its name from miners’ wives.  Apparently after doing physical labor all week, for their day of rest, they chose to go hiking in Sunday Gulch.  Until someone flooded it.

After walking around the lake, we approached The Needle’s Eye Tunnel on the Needles Highway, and were stopped by a traffic jam, including this Indian family standing at the entrance of the tunnel taking pictures.  Were they really just standing there blocking traffic to get some pictures?  Sometimes there’s more to the story that first appears.


It turns out a couple of mountain goats were the culprits.  And, yes, in case you haven’t been there, that’s the front of a small SUV coming the other way.  This tunnel is 8 feet (2.4 meters) wide.  With the traffic jam, the goats, and being only a few inches from scraping the sides of tunnel even without a crowd watching, we decided to turn around head into Custer State Park from a different direction.

On the southeast edge of the Hills, Custer State Park loses the harsh rugged mountain terrain for more gentle rolling hills.  We took a very nice hike into the French Creek Nature Area.  It seemed we had the place to ourselves.

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Returning to the car, we drove the loop around the southern section of the park, where wildlife is abundant.

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We didn’t spend a lot of time in the Black Hills.  Like our previous postings on New Mexico and Colorado, these were more drive through stops than exploration. We have been to the Black Hills several times before, and consider it one of the most underrated places in the US.

Leaving Custer, we headed East.


We soon encountered very different terrain:


We drove into the western section of Badlands National Park, and stopped at Sage Creek Campground.  This campground is about 12 miles off the highway, down a pretty rough gravel road.  It’s also free.  Free was a surprisingly big draw.


See our house?  As we hung out though the evening, the campground filled in more and more with cars and tents.  There was hardly an empty spot around the circle.


In the morning, we left the house to throw away some trash.  We put those plans on hold when we noticed that we had a visitor:



Picture was taken with long telephoto.  These people are not as close to the bison as it looks.

Continuing into the Badlands, we encountered increasingly amazing landscapes:

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We came across a herd of bighorn sheep:

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And yet more amazing views:

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Across Interstate 94 from the eastern entrance to Badlands National Park is the visitor center for Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.


The visitor center contains a number of very interesting displays about the Cold War and huge squadrons of missiles scattered around the western US where the two sides balanced threat with deterent.  Nearby, there are also a command center and a missile silo that can be toured.  We didn’t get a chance to see them this time, but we will try to stop when we return to this area in the future.

After returning to Minnesota, we quickly headed off the Boulder Lodge, outside Hayward, Wisconsin, for the Northwoods Music Festival.  You might recall that Boulder Lodge was our very first destination on this adventure, which we wrote about on November 18, 2015.  After leaving Boulder Lodge, we stopped in Danbury, WI to visit family, and then returned to Duluth, MN and the North Shore of Lake Superior.

We had burgers at Anchor Bar in Superior, Wisconsin.  Good, cheap burgers, and a good beer list.


We stayed at Lakehead Boat Basin again:


We watched giant ships enter the harbor again:

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We drove up the shore and found a new private campground, Lamb’s Resort,  that we’ll have to keep on our list for the future.  The location was beautiful, with campsites like this:


We hung out with Twin Cities friends, hiking and enjoying more North Shore beauty.

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We had lunch in Grand Marais, at Hughie’s Taco House.  Frybread tacos.  Delicious.  And a very interesting place, besides.

After we returned to the Twin Cities, we attended the Minnesota State Fair (along with 1.9 million other people this year).

Cattle Barn, built in 1920.

And we found a nice new spot to grab a bite on the Mississippi River in Saint Paul, Red River Kitchen at City House:


Apparently, we aren’t the only ones who have found it.

So now we are back in Minnesota, hanging out with friends and family.  We likely won’t have much to report until we head out West again in a few weeks.  Stay tuned!





10 thoughts on “Our House in South Dakota

  1. Rita Pierre September 12, 2016 / 3:51 pm

    Love this post. We are heading out West in a couple weeks–Tetons, Yellowstone, and then Montana to hook up with friends for the elk bugling! Jeff said we are going the South Dakota route since there is so much more to see and do. Where are you headed? We are trying to find something for the winter for a month or so. Any recommendations for someplace within the 48 states?


    • ourhousein September 13, 2016 / 1:23 pm

      Have you thought about Louisiana for winter? There’s a lot to see and the weather should be decent. The Keys? Padre Island? So many possibilities!


  2. Larry G Jones September 12, 2016 / 4:31 pm

    Thanks guys for the effort you put into your newsletter. The pics are like a post card. So enjoy it.


  3. Mike Hohmann October 2, 2016 / 9:44 pm

    I’ve camped several times in Sage Creek. It’s off by itself away from the crowds. The campgrounds in the eastern part of the Badlands are not free and are very crowded. Sage is often empty because of it’s location and the fact there is no readily available water, unless you’re willing to filter creek water which is always fine with me. Nice trip you’re on!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 2100 Memorial Drive, Apt. 809 Houston, TX March 14, 2017 / 1:42 am

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention coming to Houston for the wedding. I wish I could have gone but life interrupted. I hope you had a good time. L.


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