Thursday, September 8, 2016

Take a Little Trip with Me

Sometimes when you *need* to get away, you have to make the best of a long weekend...and that is exactly what my husband and I did over the Labor Day holiday. An unfortunate change in my travel plans for this fall had my husband wanting me to go on a week long fishing, don't get me wrong, I love spending time with my husband, but the idea of an entire week of fishing from sun up until sundown sure didn't seem like the vacation for we made a compromise - he takes me away (without any fishing) for a few days and he could go on his fall fishing trip with the boys - win, win. I chose to go to South Dakota because seeing Mount Rushmore was on my bucket list...and it was within driving distance (a nine our drive from our home in Iowa). We left bright and early on Saturday morning and had Saturday evening, Sunday and Monday in the Black Hills...and then headed for home before the light of dawn on Tuesday. I wish it could have been a few days longer, but we made the best with the time we had! Here is a little diary of our travels, full of photos (click on images for larger views)...

On our way to Mount Rushmore, we couldn't resist stopping at a few of the advertised tourist stops...I should let you know that while some might find tourist areas fun and "must visit", we are the exact opposite and usually do everything in our power to avoid them - cheap trinkets, carnival scenes, and crowds are not our thing...they are just not for us. However, we thought we might see something interesting along the, first, we visited the self-proclaimed "World Famous" Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD - which we thought was WAY over-rated and wasn't worth the time...except we needed to get out of the vehicle and stretch our legs. My understanding is years ago, this was quite a sight...but in 2016, not so much - the history was interesting, but stopping was not needed - in fact, we didn't even think a drive-by was needed...but live and learn...and now we can say we were there. By the time we needed to eat and stretch again, we were in Wall, SD - home of  the "#1 Roadside Attraction in America" (really??) - Wall Drug Store...which was (let's say) an experience. We did take advantage of some of the funny photo ops in "backyard" (if you are friends with me on Snapchat, you got to see some of these)...but didn't shop or eat there (not our scene) - we did however (on the advice of TripAdvisor) visit the Badlands Saloon and Grille across the street, which was much more our speed to have a late lunch. Then it was back on the road to our home away from home, the K Bar S Lodge. We arrived late afternoon and once checked in, were excited to see Mount Rushmore from our private balcony. This lodge is located in Keystone, SD and although close enough to the tourist areas, it was off the beaten path - we loved it - a beautiful mountainside property with great views, great service, a fabulous breakfast each morning (in a glass gazebo with deer all around) and a rock fireplace fire pit each night for s'mores. Now it was feeling like a vacation! After getting settled, we headed to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial (just a few miles away) - and it was worth the trip - my jaw dropped - a beautiful way to spend the evening. We walked the Presidential Trail and took it all in...and I was so happy this is where I chose to go for our mini vacation. After Mount Rushmore, we were ready for dinner...and again using advice from TripAdvisor, decided on Powder House Lodge Restaurant...a perfect pick (a huge thumbs up!) - we enjoyed the patio and a delicious dinner....and then we went back to the Lodge and collapsed after a LONG day.

Deer at the Lodge

We were up bright and early for breakfast and were on our way shortly after 7:00. First stop of the day Bear Country U.S.A. (and we were the first to enter the park) - and it did not disappoint. This is a drive through park where you can see all sorts of wildlife from the comfort of your own vehicle. All the animals were out and about...the reindeer were extra friendly, as well as the wolves...and we saw TONS of bears, elk, sheep, and buffalo (to name a few). There is also a walking tour where we enjoyed watching the baby bears play. Next, we were on our way to Badlands National Park...we took advantage of many scenic overlooks with spectacular views as we drove the Badlands Loop Road. We even got to see Big Horn Sheep up close and personal in their habitat. It was like visiting a mini Grand Canyon and well worth the additional drive. Following the Badlands, we headed to Downtown Rapid City - where we had lunch at Firehouse Brewery Company, then walked the quaint Main Street Square and visited quite a few of the local shops...we also found an incredible "Art Alley" full of graffiti (which I thought was AMAZING). After walking off lunch, it was time to visit the Crazy Horse Memorial - to me, this was pretty spectacular - I really enjoyed watching the movie of the history, taking in the exhibits, and learning about the memorial going forward.We spent the afternoon being educated about this unbelievable project. After a full day, we headed to the Red Garter Saloon (in the heart of the Keystone tourist area) - we enjoyed a live show and a couple adult beverages...then walked to Janes Boardwalk Pizza for dinner (ranked #1 restaurant in Keystone)...and it did not disappoint - although it is in a touristy area, we enjoyed it and the people watching (you order at a window and sit on the boardwalk and we still give it two thumbs up!)...after another beverage at the Red Garter Saloon, we headed back to the lodge for a little fire pit action. It was another full day!

We reserved all of Labor Day for Custer State Park...and truth be told, I could have spent an entire week there - I could have a serious love affair with this park...I thought it was SPECTACULAR. We started our early morning at Sylvan Lake and then driving the Needles Highway - and unfortunately, it was foggy...really, REALLY foggy...but with the fog came something incredible...right after the Needles Eye Tunnel, we saw mountain goats - two of of the most magical things I have ever seen (and my favorite sighting of the entire trip)...I LOVE them. The locals told us it is VERY rare to see them and that we were very lucky (and I agree!). After the Needles Highway, we headed to the Blue Bell Stables for horseback riding...yep, two plus hours on the trails in Custer Park - it was BEAUTIFUL! My husband and I rode two Norwegian Fjord Horses (Aztec and Cortez) and they were gorgeous - I was a bit nervous, as my horseback riding is limited - so, of course, during the ride, there was a problem with my saddle and I nearly fell off (my saddle rotated around and I was hanging off the side of my horse!) - but my husband, who is an experienced rider, jumped off his horse to my rescue...and I survived...and I provided loads of entertainment for all the riders, so that was a plus (Bling Bats, I know you have a visual and I can hear you laughing!). It was an incredible experience (minus the near fall) and I really enjoyed it and the breathtaking scenery and riding through the rocky streams. Horseback riding was followed by lunch at the Blue Bell Lodge - an Old West saloon-style lodge with yummy food - I was impressed! We then drove the Wild Life Loop Road - hoping for lots of animal sightings (we were especially looking forward to the buffalo). We saw quite a bit of wildlife - Prairie Dogs (of course), White-tailed Deer, Burros (they were super duper friendly), and Pronghorns...but only ONE buffalo. I would have been extremely disappointed, but we were headed to the Game Lodge Area to take the Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour (we had a reservation for weeks - it was the one thing I picked to do on our trip)...and they promised me that they would take me to the buffalo...and they didn't lie - I saw more buffalo than I could have ever imagined...and I saw them up close and personal from an open-air was unbelievable. They were able to drive us off road and right into the herds...WOW...I couldn't believe it...and I would go again, if I could - it was worth every penny! The park currently has 1,400 buffalo and I think we saw most of them. It was ASTOUNDING. Following the Jeep Tour, we had reservations for the  Chuck Wagon Cookout in the canyon - good food and live music - and we all wore cowboy hats and bandannas - it was memorable. I enjoyed every single minute of this day! We then took Iron Mountain Road and Pigtail Bridges to get back to the lodge - this drive through the Black Hills National Forest was incredible...even at night...and we had to slow way down for hundreds of buffalo on the road (in the dark) and quite a few deer. It was the perfect end to our trip...

Wednesday, we were back home and it is (once again) business as usual...I was back in the gym and back to work...but I slept well and refreshed last night...and my load feels just a bit lighter after fresh air and beautiful scenery. There was a lot of creative inspiration on this trip...luckily, I took a TON of photos! Thanks for revisiting our mini vacation with me...

I'll be back again real soon to share some stitching and quilting projects with you....for now, enjoy the rest of your week...


  1. What a wonderful trip. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed your trip to the Black Hills. It's a pretty spectacular place. My grandfather was one of the workers on the mountain in the '30's working mostly on Jefferson's left chin... he also helped build the pigtail bridges. It never gets old to me. (and yes, the Corn Palace is way overrated!) Come back to SD soon!

  3. What a fabulous adventure you had, Belinda! I totally loved seeing it through the lens of your camera from the wildlife life to Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park. xoxoox

  4. Thank you for sharing your trip and the photos. You've reinforced my desire to visit this area. And now I know just where to go!

  5. Beautiful pictures of your trip!

  6. Awesome trip! I'm so glad you shared! I've always wanted to visit Mt. Rushmore, which I used to call "Stoneface Mountain" before I knew any better. Your photos were great of the wildlife, as well!

  7. Oh my gosh what a great vacation, you both are adorable, I would have done the same thing you did except, I am the fisherman and Mike is the traveler, I could fish all day and not catch a thing just to be on the water.


  8. Great pics and review.
    Glad you had a fun time away, even if just for a few days.

  9. wow what a fabulous trip you packed into a holiday weekend. Those mountain goats did look like mystical creatures in that photo. I'm sure you got some much needed R&R and saw some great sites. hope it did wonders for the soul - cheers Mel

  10. Glad you had a great time. Thanks for sharing your trip.