Friday, October 17, 2014


Bison can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. Historically, the animal played an essential role in the lives of the Lakota (Sioux), who relied on the "tatanka" for food, clothing and shelter. 

50 million buffalo roamed the west prior to European settlement. By 1890 the herd size was down to 2000. Now total buffalo population in the US is up to around 500,000. The herd size in Custer State Park is 1300.

buffalo rule the roads

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SD Rocks!

backside of dam

pine beetles

Sylvan Lake was created in 1881 when Theodore Reder built a dam across Sunday Gulch. 

Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park, much quieter now that a lot of the other tourists are gone. A full sensory experience - water, sky, trees, sun, breeze, and lots of ROCKS! Whether you walk around the lake trail, climb on rocks, have a picnic lunch, or just sit and enjoy the view, a great place to visit.  

Saturday was a beautiful day, in the 70s, sunny. We spent the afternoon in Custer State Park, did a little hiking, drove through the needles highway, saw some buffalo, a nice day. But we kept watching the time as we were headed to the Alpine Inn in Hill City for supper. 

Our list of places to see and go is dwindling down. We were told early on to eat at the Alpine Inn, but to wait until the tourists had gone home or it would be way too long a wait. According to the locals, timing is key. The doors open at 5 for supper, but you must be on the big covered porch before that to get in line. 

The menu is simple, with the only choice being the size of the steak: 6 oz or 9 oz bacon-wrapped filet mignon, served with a baked potato, toast and a quarter wedge of lettuce with our delectable homemade ranch dressing.

That's right, no choice of even salad dressing, no loaded baked potato, no other sides, keep it simple.

Then there is the dessert menu. The campground owner was actually drooling just talking about it. 

We made it in time, secured our place in line, and ate the delicious steaks. Alpine Inn - check!

Monday, October 13, 2014

not Columbus Day

Crazy Horse Memorial

celebratory powwow

Today is Native Americans Day here in South Dakota, NOT Columbus Day. 

Since 1990, South Dakota is the only state in the nation to celebrate Native American Day, when all other states are observing Columbus Day. South Dakota honors its cultural heritage, and is home to nine tribes of Sioux peoples.

The local celebration will be at the Crazy Horse Memorial. Following a scheduled blast on the mountain, all visitors are invited to stay for a free lunch of traditional Native American buffalo stew. 

At the first holiday gathering, Gov. Mickelson told more than 1,200 people, “We can’t turn back the clock. We can only turn to the future together. What we can do as leaders, both Native American and white, is teach others that we can change attitudes.”  ~ 

No love for Columbus here, discovered America indeed! I don't think so...

~pictures from Black Hills Travel Blog

Friday, October 10, 2014


Canyon Lake is disappearing... the wintertime project of spillway repair has begun, the lake will be drained of all water, the project will last through March 2015.

When we first arrived here, a local man told us the lake is home to ducks and geese, and then during fall migration there would be hundreds more geese here for about 6 weeks before moving on. He also said the lake freezes solid in the winter months. But this year will be different with the lake being drained. The geese won't like it!

Sometimes I hear the geese honking overhead, maybe they are saying, "Honk if you love Canyon Lake!"

Maintenance is key to keeping up a beautiful park like this, and the Rapid City Public Works Department does a great job on this and all the local parks. The joys of park maintenance.

I was out yesterday taking these pictures before the lake disappears, while walking I met a lady who said they have to drain the lake periodically to clean out the goose poop :)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

weekend adventure

Road trip anyone!?  

This past weekend we went home for 3 days - not exactly a road trip, but it involved a few flights and a rental car. Just another chapter in our adventures. 

It was a Planes, Trains, and Automobiles kinda trip, just trying to get home for the weekend. 

We were running through airports (like O.J. back in those old commercials) trying to make connecting flights. 

We were standing in line at the rental car desk at midnight along with 50 other folks (like a Seinfeld routine).

Agent: I'm sorry, we have no mid-size available at the moment.
Jerry: I don't understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?
Agent: Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.
Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That's why you have the
Agent: I know why we have reservations.
Jerry: I don't think you do. If you did, I'd have a car. See, you know how to
take the reservation, you just don't know how to hold the reservation and
that's really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody
can just take them.

But we made it home, reconnected with everyone, lots of good food and good company and good hugs. Wish we could stay. Looking forward to more of the same at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Well more of the good family stuff, not so much the adventure part.

Friday, October 3, 2014

memorial park

flood memorial fountain and rose gardens

past and future sculpture

Rapid Creek

Memorial Park in downtown Rapid City, one of the many parks created inside the green area designated along Rapid Creek after the Flood of '72, and dedicated as a memorial to the 238 people who lost their lives in the flood.

Berlin Wall segments

Two segments of the Berlin Wall stand in Memorial Park. 

The two wall sections are each 12-feet tall and stand as a sobering reminder of the differences between freedom and control. In front of the Berlin Wall sections are two iron “tank traps” – wicked looking iron X’s that stand about three-feet tall and used to serve as extra safeguards for the wall on the Communist controlled East Germany side. ~Black Hills travel blog

Thursday, October 2, 2014

pumpkin festival

25,000 people in downtown!

local news celebrity

pumpkin weigh-in contest

Main Street Square fountains

This past weekend in Rapid City and the surrounding Black Hills, they had all the fall events, the pumpkin festival, pumpkin catapult, the buffalo roundup, even the Octoberfest train ride... all in the last weekend in September, because as the weatherman said it is all downhill from here. The local news said the leaves peaked last week. 

Fall is definitely in the air. West and north of here there is snow in Montana and Yellowstone. The park across the street had 3 deer grazing. But we are still waiting on the big horn sheep that we have been told will come down out of the hills into this valley when it gets colder, right into the campground?! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

rain delay

Job progress report

It started out as a hay field.

The crews work 6 days a week trying to get all the underground stuff in... electrical, plumbing, storm water structures, giant fuel tanks, then cover it all up with concrete slab in a pre-dawn concrete pour.

But the deadline is looming, the rest of the lot covers in asphalt and the local asphalt plant closes in November depending on the weather and will not open again until spring, maybe May?

So a rain delay puts a real dent in the schedule. 3 days + 4 inches = lake.

The weather has been really great on this job, not the usual 'muddy Buddy' job. One of the more memorable job lakes was in Key West, where the jobsite was at 8' above sea level. But the folks at Keys Federal Credit Union were good sports, calling the lake at the bottom of their steps "Lake Tidwell" and making good use of it:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

punkin chunkin

trophy and cash prizes!


some fly high!

some not so much

duct tape rules!

the winning pumpkin launcher made out of trees by the Lumberjacks

high school band drumroll

cleanup contest

Students from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology participated in the annual pumpkin catapult contest in Rapid City on SaturdayPoints were earned for distance and accuracy. The top three teams received cash prizes. One of the key events in the 6th annual Pumpkin Festival!

The teams varied in their expertise and attire, there were the pirates and lumberjacks, the guys with ties with their high flying trebuchets, and then there was the physics team. It was the physics team first try at this competition, the design was lacking, the teammates were lackluster, the catapult (named Ol' Reliable) broke once in practice, more duct tape, even gorilla tape, then broke again during competition, better luck next time guys! (lots of sympathy from Buddy for having tried to do this before with grandson Kyle!

When we first arrived here in Rapid City we heard on TV something called the South Dakota School of Mines, and wondered what it was - is it where you learn to be a miner? are there mines around here?

Then we passed by a sign for the school: South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The technology part of the school is what we witnessed at the punkin chunkin contest. The student TEAMS had to design a pumpkin catapult for the contest. These teams usually work on their separate fields of interest, like creating and building off-road vehicles, airplanes, robots, bridges. 

Founded in 1885 in Rapid City, S.D. to provide instruction in mining engineering at a location where mining was the primary industry, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology evolved into a science and engineering research facility offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,640 students from 45 states and 37 countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate is 98 percent, with an average early career salary for graduates of $65,600, according to the 2014-2015 PayScale report. ~ from SDSMT website

And just last week in the news: The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has been awarded a $4.8 million research contract from the United States Air Force to develop ultra-efficient energy technologies to improve military performance in hostile environments. ~RapidCityJournal

After learning about the school, it looks like the annual punkin chunkin contest is just a fun diversion from all the other interesting things going on at the SD School of Mines!

Friday, September 26, 2014

gone fishin'

D. C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery, Spearfish, SD


The Spring Stocking Pond bronze sculpture 
depicts the lives of early fisheries workers.

The Fish Car - transporting fish for stocking.

History lesson of the week: The D. C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery in Spearfish, named for Dewitt Clinton Booth, the first superintendent of the new facility in 1899. 

In 1871, The federal government started the National Fish Hatcheries because of the decline in fish population, lost from drought, flood, or over-harvest. There were 70 hatcheries across the nation in 1896 when the hatchery at Spearfish, South Dakota was established, mainly to provide trout to the area, as the local fish population consisted mostly of suckers and crappies. Trout are not native to the region, but it is an ideal environment for trout. Spearfish was chosen because of the pure cold spring water available for a gravity system and its location near town and rails. The first superintendent of the Spearfish facility was Dewitt Clinton (D.C) Booth, from 1899 to 1933.

The Generations bronze sculpture with the 
Superintendent's house in the background.

In 1905, after living in 2 rooms over the hatchery building for several years, the Booth family moved into the new Superintendent’s house. The house had electricity, indoor plumbing, bathroom, hot water, and central heating (in 1905!). We had a very nice tour of the Booth House by the volunteer docent. She gave a detailed history of the hatchery and the Booth family, the parties, the piano lessons, the coal burning kitchen stove (they got their coal hauled all the way from Gillette, WY because it burned longer, they are still mining coal over there, y'all should go over there and take a tour), the Neo-Colonial Revival style of the house (which means it has lots of windows - you can Google it).

vintage typewriter!

The D. C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery site is 10 acres, the entire hatchery site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The grounds are clean and landscaped, the self-guided tour is fun and educational, parking and admission are free.