Saturday, June 20, 2020

Road Trip to South Dakota

I have been sharing photos from my recent trip to South Dakota on Instagram and Facebook and have gotten a lot of questions about where, when, what to do out there. I have to say, what we chose to do on our vacation was a combination of a lot of others suggestions and our own research. Our goal for this trip was to get out of the house after a long 'stay at home' order. I also wanted to pepper it with any art that I was about to encounter... so I shared on social media. I also share on social media to get my 'scrapbooking' done as I go through life.  I print out a book once a year with all the post on my personal IG account.  I will be printing this out too... I'm sharing with you but also documenting for our family travels. 

We started our travels on Sunday, June 14th at 8am-ish. We went from Elk River, Minnesota to Murdo, South Dakota. This was a 7 1/2 hour drive so we broke it up a bit with some stops along the way.

The first stop was in Mankato, Minnesota. This town is a common visit for us for one reason or another. This is a town that loves their art. I know every year they have new sculptures on their downtown sculpture tour so I wanted to see what they had this year. I also heard about this Silo Project that they were doing. When I looked into it a bit, I realized that this was by a world known artist named Guido van Helton. I saw his work when I visited Australia last year. To find out he was working right here... in my home state was amazing. This was what his work looked like on June 14th. You can see live footage on the project on their YouTube channel

This was a great start to our trip!Our next stop was Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Again, I had done my research and knew that there was a lot of art to been seen. They too have a sculpture tour down town. Because of the whole Covid thing... There was not a lot of businesses open. Many of the ones that were, were celebrating Pride Week, so there was lots of bright colors downtown.  We had some Macarons from CH Patisserie and a wonderful meal from Josiah's, a pet friendly Coffee House.

We also walked downtown to see the sculptures, street art, and Arc of Dreams.

Finally ended our visit to Sioux Falls visiting their awesome 'Falls Park'. It is beautiful! We did not have any room for ice cream... but that would have been a good addition at this park from their cafe. 

Mitchell, South Dakota was our next stop. I think it's a must!! We stopped at the one and only Corn Palace. This place had so much history, lot's of fun corn themed merchandise, and clean bathrooms. This was a quick stop for us, but there is a lot in Mitchell to explore.

Another amazing work of art was waiting for us at our next stop. Not too far from Mitchell is the statue Dignity: of Earth and Sky.  This is so much more than a rest area... it was the first taste of a different landscape, an amazing overlook to the Missouri River, and this beautiful work of art! Absolutely stunning and breath taking to stand beside. 

We jumped back on to Hwy 90 and traveled at 80 miles per hour to Murdo, South Dakota, our final destination that night. This family of four was beat and ready for bed. The plan was to get up early the next day and get to the badlands as soon as we could. 

Between Murdo and the Badlands we went from Central Time Zone to Mountain Time Zone. That meant we left our motel at 7 something, and got into the Badlands at 6 something. That was great because there was hardly anyone on the roads or in the park as we arrived. We got a little distracted by some prairie dogs as we came in. Those little things are so funny to watch but as we found out, a very common occurrence. 

As we drove through the Badlands National Park, the landscape continued to change. I kept asking the kids to get out and take another picture... and another one... and another one. They know that I don't collect things from our trips... but rather pictures, so they humored me. 

We had a little 'Art Teacher fun', The kids explored the rocks and paths and I took some time to do a little drawing. Just wanted to say good morning to the Badlands. Then we went on a hike called Notch Trail. According to the app All Trails (which is the best app) it was rated as a moderate hike. I would agree. There is some climbing that must be done, and even a ladder (pictured below). Over all, not the toughest trail we went on while in South Dakota, and worth the hike. 

If you stick with this trail, you get to see this at the end, and it's way better in person!

We then bopped up to Wall Drug to see that... there are hundreds of signs for Wall Drug starting about 300 miles away. You can't help but go there to check it out, buy some fudge, and get yourself some free ice water. 

Driving back down through the Badlands again, we were treated to new rock formations and animal wild life. We saw 50 mountain goats on the side of a hill with babies, and a buffalo 15 feet away from our car. It was amazing. 

Right out side of Rapid City, South Dakota was the South Dakota Air and Space Museum at the Ellsworth AFB. We were not able to go inside due to Covid 19... so we explored the airplanes on the outside and watched several military aircrafts taking off and landing. My son really enjoyed this. 

Then up to Rapid City to grab a bite to eat at Que Pasa Cantina (so good), take some pictures of some presidents (Rapid City is the 'City of Presidents'), and visit Art Alley for some street art.

Then to our little 'home away from home' we made our way down to Keystone. We stayed at the Powder House Lodge, right outside of Keystones downtown. It was such a cute little cabin. This is about as rustic as I like to get... with a shower, fridge, microwave, a sink, and two beds. It was perfect for us. We were just a hop away from the pool and the restaurant there was amazing... In fact, if you are in Keystone, stop for a meal and have things like Buffalo Ribs, and Elk Burger, or Venison Tips. It seemed to be a locals favorite! 

The next day we had rented ATV's but we couldn't pick them up until 9 am so we had enough time for an early morning hike. Three of us woke up and went to 'The Hippie Hole'. I found this place on the app All Trails again and it identified this as a moderate trail... I'm not great at rock climbing so it was a little more difficult for me. We also had to drive down some really rough roads so I would have done this without our truck and rather later with the ATV if I were to do it again. But it was AMAZING!! Bring a towel and jump in the water if you like.  We did not because of our time limit... but it's something I regret a bit. 

For the rest of the day we went ATVing. WOW!!! That was so much fun! Our family doesn't do a lot of gifts... rather, we like to give experiences. Each kid got to choose one big splurge on our trip. Sawyer, my 14 year-old son wanted to do an ATV ride.  We bought a whole day... but I would suggest a half of a day. We loved it, but it was a lot of bumping around.  We should have taken more breaks or gone with a half of a day. The rental place was called Black Hills ATV and they did everything right. They explained things well and helped us plan our day. The ATV we got was brand new as well so it was fun to drive. 

That night, after cleaning up... a lot of dirt... we went to Mount Rushmore. There was construction going on in the park and a lightning storm at dusk so we missed the night show, but still got to see the sculpture studio and the monument it's self. 

The next day we went on a long drive through Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. In the city of Savoy, we did an easy trail called Savoy Waterfall Trail. I would suggest eating at Latchstring Restaurant and sitting on their patio. It's an amazing view and really great food. We then walked down to the waterfall... a bit of an incline, but not a bad walk at all. You get to see this amazing falls at the bottom, totally worth it. We also stopped to see a HUGE waterfall called Bridal Veil Falls along the byway. It is directly off the road so no need to walk anywhere. 


Our next stop might have been our favorite. It's a place called Devils Bathtub. This was a hike that brought you back and forth several times over a creek. I did loose my balance so I had wet shoes... but that was OK.  In fact, I would suggest you wearing shoes that you can hike and get wet in. It made it a lot easier for the rest of the hike. When you get to something that looks like the picture below, keep going. The one that everyone slides down is the third 'waterfall' in. There were so many trout in this river as well. My son even caught one with his hands. 

We dried off and traveled to Deadwood to check out that town. We did watch a couple of reenactments that took place in the downtown area about every hour. For our family however, it really wasn't what we were looking for. If you are looking for food, bars, casinos, and stores to shop in, this is a great place... and looks like a lot of fun. Instead, we were off to ride some horses. 

My daughter, 12 year-old Matisse requested horseback riding for her chosen adventure. We headed to Lead, South Dakota to visit Andy's Trail Rides. We went with Andy because my husband Tim is a big guy and most places didn't have horses that would be able to accommodate giants... but Andy did. We had an excellent experience with two trail leads. We took a 2 hour ride through old mining land. We had spectacular views. It started to rain just a little... not really much at all, but it was enough to give us a double full rainbow over the trails we were taking. It was incredible! 

Thursday morning we headed to Lake Sylvan where we planned to hike to the top of Black Elk Peak. This was an easy hike when it came to a trail... very nice trail. However, this hike was 7.5 miles long and the elevation gain was over 1500 feet. It was a real challenge on the lungs at times. We had a really cool day, enough so I was cold for the first half of the hike.  The peak was amazing!! Really tremendous. We went up on the trail #9 and down on the trail #4 and I would suggest that route to you as well. There was a totally different experience on the different sides of the mountain. I was a little cranky on the way up (not as fit as I would like to be)... but once I got the reward of the look out the way back down was amazing. I wish the day was warmer and we would have played in Lake Sylvan a bit.  It was an amazing place to spend a whole day. Something I haven't mentioned was the picnics that we kept packing everyday. We would eat out once a day and picnic the rest. Bring a cooler and this is a great way to save some money.


We took Needles Highway... That was some winding roads for these flat land, Minnesotans. There was a couple of tunnels that we had to pass through and one had goats in it that where not letting the traffic pass easily. There was quite a line waiting for the slow moving traffic to gently push the goats through. It ended up being a fun story to tell. 

We ended this day with a drive around Custer State Park taking the Wildlife Loop Road. We did get to see about one hundred mule deer and white-tail deer, more buffalo, and donkey's.  When back in Keystone, we made a quick stop at Candyland, another request of my son. and in Hill City there was also the best ice cream place called the Dairy Twist... so yummy! 

Friday, we were off to go home. First I asked my family to stop by the Chapel in the Hill for a quick look see (pictured above). On our way there, we saw Bear Country USA.  We randomly pulled in to check that out. I about choked on the price but thought... well why not. I'm SO glad we stopped. There were a ton of animals to see close up in the drive through zoo. But the Bear Cub area was by far our favorite. We watched for the longest time as the bear cubs played together and climbed trees. They are so stink'n cute! We couldn't stop laughing. 

We pushed through to make it all the way home on Friday. I did however talk my family into checking to see the progression on the silo project in Mankato one more time. Guido Van Helton was working. I got to watch him on his lift applying the paint in such a professional way. My family went and filled up the car as I stayed and watched this master painter from below. It made my heart so happy to see Guido at work. It was a perfect book end to our family vacation. 

No comments:

Post a Comment