Fast Times in Rapid City

Early this past summer we swept through our domicile state of South Dakota, where Pronghorn dotting the landscape were like a welcoming committee:


Though we’ve spent plenty of time scouting around the state, we still have plenty to explore for the first time. So although we’ve been to Bear Butte outside of Sturgis often enough that hiking to the top is like walking a familiar neighborhood, we hadn’t investigated the camping area and lake across the road.


We were rewarded with visits from the lake’s residents, starting with this Yellow-Headed Blackbird, calling from deep within its grassy hiding place:


American Coots paddled around the lake…


…along with a few Blue-Winged Teals:


Overhead, chirps and chees and the flutter of quick wings kept me trying to snap a pick without luck. They’re fast! Fortunately, these nest boxes meant we might catch a closer peek:


We didn’t have to be too patient before one of the boxes showed some activity when a bird flew to it:


But watch, watch, wait, wait, and pop, there it is, a cute little bird head poking its face out of the opening:


Eventually I got a good enough look to identify the bird as a Tree Swallow, not uncommon, but fun to watch anyway!


Another stop was Hot Springs, where we browsed an arts and crafts festival…


…before navigating to the Hot Springs Mammoth site:


Very old stuff has fascinated me forever, and archeological digs send me into a near-trance (maybe that’s why an ancient Indian burial ground plays such a big role in my first novel). So paying for a tour, putting on a funny, bulky hearing device and traipsing around with a bunch of strangers was all acceptable just to learn about this particular site:


Much of the site has been preserved so we can see it, but scientists take portions of it out to examine them more carefully in the basement lab every now and then. Meanwhile, there was plenty to see.



The scale of the project and of the remains is hard to capture in these photos. Just think “BIG!” and you’ll have it 🙂

Hill City was a new destination for us as well, and happened to be in town for the annual sculpture show:


Hill City has a tourist-y atmosphere, but not at quite the level we’ve found in nearby towns (Deadwood comes to mind), so there’s plenty of shopping for souvenirs and tee-shirts, all made out of the USA, and enough people-watching intrigue to keep a day’s visit interesting.


No shortage of motorcycles, either:


With a basecamp in Sturgis, we spent more time around the Black Hills this year than we had since our first visit through the area in 2009. More times means more discoveries, like the awesome homemade peach cobbler at Jambonz in Sturgis:


We’ve seen a lot of different interpretations of “cobbler” but this one is one of the best traditional cobblers we’ve found. As an added surprise, the ice cream scoops seemed to shrink: every time we ordered a slice a la mode with an extra scoop, we got less and less ice cream. Hmmm…. What to do? Get the cobbler to go, stop at the grocery, and make our own a la mode! Just another advantage of traveling with our own kitchen 🙂

Rapid City is a great town for shopping. And if you’re lucky, you’ll bump into one of our country’s past presidents. Here’s Ellen with former President Bill Clinton:


The flatbread pizza at Independent Ale House lived up to the local reputation, and the salad choices were nothing to sneeze at either:


About Ellen

Fiction writer and photographer, I travel the country with my sweetheart of a husband as a "full-time RVer."
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8 Responses to Fast Times in Rapid City

  1. There is so much to see and do in the Black Hills we have made it a destination twice in our travels. Somehow in both of our visits we missed everything you posted about here!

  2. Janet says:

    I’ve never seen a Yellow-headed Blackbird. I would like to visit South Dakota one day.

    • Ellen says:

      Hi, Janet! They’re really pretty — I’ve seen them around out in this area of the country, including once on a fence post as we were cruising on a major highway, going too fast for the camera! South Dakota is an amazing, underrated state. People DO visit Mount Rushmore (overrated, IMHO) and other “attractions” while forgetting (for some oddball reason) they’re in South Dakota. Those long stretches of prairies are much more interesting when you realize you might catch a glimpse of pronghorn if you’re lucky. SD is well worth the visit!

  3. Wow, that’s a trip down memory lane! I visited the Hot Springs Mammoth site thirty-plus years ago. If I’m not mistaken, it was just getting underway. At least it was nowhere near as developed as your photos show.
    I love the Black Hills, but have only been there once. Have you visited Wind Cave N.P.? Besides the great cave, they have a free-roaming bison herd, and (I think) one of the largest remaining natural prairies left in the U.S.
    Enjoyed the bird photos. I’ve been a birder for forty-five years. Have all those on my life list.
    Thanks for sharing and bringing back fond memories!

    Happy Trails!

    • Ellen says:

      Haven’t been to Wind Cave… we just aren’t the cavers, I guess, preferring to be topside where the sun shines 🙂 Have been to Carlsbad and a few others, but I guess the nuances are lost on me. Thanks for the comment on the bird photos! I have such admiration for folks who get perfect shots of our winged buddies — they can be quick, you know!! Take care, Mike!

  4. aelkins1 says:

    We’re domiciled in Rapid City, but haven’t spent any time there yet. I’m bookmarking some of your posts as references when we get back to the area! 🙂

  5. Ellen says:

    Thanks for checking out our blog for travel ideas! If you don’t love RC, let me know — there’s more to see and do there than even a full summer would allow, so when you get there, give yourself the gift of time to really enjoy it. As bikers, you’ll especially appreciate the awesome roads through the Black Hills.

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