The Black Hills Are Terrible And You Should Not Go There :)

Check out the special note from Reed at the end of this post, along with our photo album video!

When we started planning this trip a few months ago, I reached out to many of my sorority sisters who live all over the mid-west and west, looking for ideas on where to stay, what to see, etc. One of those good friends is Jen.

Jen and my friendship blossomed through my relationship with Andrea. Although Jen is also a Wyoming Alpha Pi Phi, she and I were not in the house at the same time so we’ve only gotten to know each other as “adults.” I love her.  

Jen graciously offered up her cabin in Spearfish Canyon, SD. The cabin is located between Spearfish and Lead (pronounced LEED), SD in the Black Hills. Contrary to this blog post title, Joe and I think this may be our new favorite secret spot! 

We pulled into Spearfish canyon after a wonderful day exploring the Badlands and the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota. Jen was kind to offer an escort to the cabin and we are eternally grateful as it was WAY out there! We settled into her cabin, opening all the windows so we could hear the creek and small rapids outside the window. The night sky was so bright with stars and we enjoyed actually being “cold” for the first time in awhile.

Jen’s grandfather, who she was incredibly close with until he recently passed away, Jim Dunn, built the cabin with his wife, Jen’s grandmother. Jim Dunn was in the South Dakota Senate for almost 30 years and was a staple in the Black Hills community. It was nice to be present in their space. 

The next morning brought stillness, where we hung out down by the creek for a few hours, doing nothing, a nice respite after so many days on the road. The boys threw rocks and sticks into the river, played in the wood pile. At naptime, I went into town to work and left Joe and the boys back at the cabin to explore.

Later that afternoon, we packed up the kids to go get s’mores and found ourselves in downtown Deadwood for their nightly street shoot out. This “act” happens at 6pm each night in summer and is fun for the kids. Graydon and others were “deputized” and then the wild-west act and subsequent shoot-out occurred. Gray loved it, however Hale (2&½) didn’t like the noise and it occurred to me in the middle of it all that he may actually be traumatized forever – thinking that what he was watching was real. Horrible parenting fail on my part :(. 

The following morning, I was up early to work in town, and then we were off to explore! First up, Crazy Horse. This monument has been over 50 years in the making, with crews working day in and day out to build the face, pointing finger and horse he is riding on. The Native American Tribal Leaders had found a gentlemen who worked on Mt. Rushmore to take on Crazy Horse and this became the passion project for him and his family – and still is today.

View the video of hoop dancing here. Animals such as bears, antelope and wolf are depicted in the hoops. 

No Federal or State money has been accepted for the project, solely relying on donations and admission for progress – something I admire in their quest for authenticity and ownership. I’m glad we went of course, but after seeing the museum in North Dakota, I was not impressed. The visitors center seemed to be one giant gift store. Items were not curated in a way that followed or even told a story. There was no engagement, no pull. We haphazardly wound our way through the center to the outdoor pavilion where there was AMAZING hoop dancing happening with Crazy Horse in the background. But all of this seemed to be an afterthought – from the pop up stage to the pop up tent, it just seemed sad. Reminded me of Teddy Roosevelt who said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Maybe I’m way off base here but I felt it was a missed opportunity.

Next up, we hit the Needles Highway to Mt. Rushmore. We loved this drive! The Needles Highway cuts through the most amazing scenery and vistas in all of the Black Hills from Rapid City to Mt. Rushmore to Crazy Horse.

At Mt. Rushmore, we were able to let the little’s run up and down the stairs in the outdoor amphitheater. We had a good discussion with Graydon about the history of the mountain and what it means to various people, source of pride for many Americans of course – but also a source of pain for many Native Americans who consider the Black Hills deeply sacred.

Thanks to the German lady who haphazardly and unhappily took our photo! Pretty much describes our trip. #HotMessExpress

We left Mt. Rushmore to hit the Thursday night street dance in Rapid City! Each week in the summer, Rapid hosts bands on a few different blocks of their downtown. We had a blast – it was a total local feel with barely any visitors. I  was surprised by the diversity in Rapid and enjoyed being in the mix of the Rapid City community. The music and food were awesome, you could tell this was a community that valued the Arts, and they had games for the kids to keep them entertained. It was super fun. 

Check out the street sculptures on the corners in downtown Rapid!

We had planned for the next day to be a lake and hiking day, however the storms started rolling in with big black skies over the Black Hills. We packed up the kids and headed back to Rapid City to their indoor waterpark. We weren’t thrilled with this excursion BUT we knew we had to keep the kiddos entertained and it wasn’t happening in the cabin. Gray and Hale went CRAZY with Joe – they loved it. Jen met me there and we sat with Reed and drank beer while it stormed like crazy outside. I love that girl. Lemonade out of lemons!

We did eventually make it to the lake, along with a few other adventurous spots that were just stunning.
We’re happy the Black Hills of South Dakota are still a little bit of a secret. From the sleepy, local town of Spearfish to the revitalized former mining town of Lead to Rapid City’s feel – the balance between local and visitors (once you got out of the tourist areas) was excellent. We barely scratched the surface too with the amount of lakes, hikes, biking and more that’s available in the area. The cabin was amazing with the creek running through, the sound of the rapids, the amazing night sky, the chilliness in the air, the warm wood fireplace. Joe and I both enjoyed reading books on their well-worn, broken in couch. The people were friendly, non-pretentious and wanted to tell you all about their respective towns – which we loved. We can’t wait to go back.

Love & Bye Bye’s from Reed!

#BlackHills #SouthDakota #VisitSouthDakota #SpearfishCanyon #RapidCity

View all of our photos and video from the Black Hills below.

 

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