Tuesday July 21, 2020

Deadwood was born in 1876, when a rush of gold miners and fortune seekers descended on the Northern Black Hills in hopes of making a better life for themselves. The town was practically lawless in these early years, and the men and women who first came to Deadwood were people of fortitude and strength-folks who didn’t mind a little struggle on the road to fame and fortune.

Though many gold rush towns died almost as soon as they started, Deadwood was different. The nearby mines went through booms and busts, but the gold kept coming. Generations of miners toiled underground, and when their shifts were over, they came to Deadwood saloons, brothels and gambling halls to unwind and relax. It didn’t matter that this was all mostly illegal; Deadwood had always been a town on the edge of the law, and the people who came for a good time didn’t mind bending a rule or two.

Things changed in 1989. After more than a century of gambling on the down-low, Deadwood became the third place in the United States to allow legal gaming. The card tables and slot machines came out from the back rooms, and the town boomed. Fueled by the new tax revenue, the town began an ambitious historic preservation effort that contines today.

1898 Victorian brothel, bar and gambling hall. Deadwood’s last house of prostituition closed following a raid in 1980.

Although Wild Bill Hickok is Deadwood’s most famous resident, he was in town less than a month before he was shot down by Jack McCall, on August 2, 1876. The former gunfighter and lawman was famous long before Deadwood. He arrived by wagon train from Cheyenne in the company of Carlie Utter and Calamity Jane.

Despite talk of prospecting for gold, Wild Bill didn’t stray from the Badlands, a section of Main Streed known for its bars, brothels and gambling houses. He was playing poker in Nuttal & Mann’s (Saloon No. 10) when Jack McCall walked in and shot Wild Bill in the back of the head. Bill was holding two pair, Aces and Eights, which became known as Dead Man’s Hand.

Calamity Jane was born Martha Canary in 1856 near Princeton, Missouri to Robert Willson Carnary and Carlotte M Burge. Martha was the oldest of six children born to Robert and Charlotte. Little is known about Martha’s childhood other than the family’s relocation from Mercer County, Missouri to Virginia City, Montana Territory in 1865. Within two years of this move, Martha and her siblings were left orphans with the passing of her mother in 1866 and father in 1867.

Parentless in a wild frontier, Martha Carary relocated to the Wyoming Territory where she worked as a dance-hall girl, waitress, laundress, and prostitute at the railroad camps and military posts along the Union Pacific Railroad.

When not on the open road, Calamity Jane could be found at the local saloons, drinking, chewing tobacco, and being the boisterous life of the party. Calamity Jane also had a good-hearted and caring side not often seen by the general public. When the small pox epidemic hit the Black Hills and Deadwood, she helped people with the illness without concern for her own well-being.

Calamity Jane’s life of adventure ended at age 47. Weary and ailing, Martha boarded a train headed for Terry, South Dakota. Upon arrival, she rented a room at the Calloway Hotel and died on August 1, 1903. Aged beyond her years, she died of a combination of imflammation of the bowels and pneumonia.

Hiking Cathedral Spires

Sunday July 19, 2020

This is another must do hike for all you day hikers. The views are amazing. The wildflowers were in full bloom adding to the beauty.

This can be accessed from the Sylvan lake day use area inside Custer State park. There is a $20 fee to get into the park and it is good for 7 days.

I was also taking a side trail to hike to Little Devils Tower. This one got cut short when I was almost there. There was a steep rock scramble in a narrow crevice that Berkley would not be able to make so we had to turn around. The blue arrows in the photo below point to the trail through the rocks.

A bench with a view of Elks Peak. The highest elevation in the Black Hills.

Sylvan Lake is a day use area with lots of hiking trails. The lake was very busy with people swimming, kayaking and using SUP. As well as picnicking.

I didn’t stay long to enjoy the lake. There were just so many people there and it was hard to maintain a 6 foot distance.

Spearfish Canyon

Monday July 20, 2020

I drove through the scenic Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills to enjoy the beauty and to hike to a couple of waterfalls. This is another must do if you are in the area.


• The greatest temperature change in history was in 1943 in Spearfish, SD. It went from -4 degrees farenheit to 45 degrees farenheit in 2 MINUTES! 😮

• The largest, most extensive and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex specimen was found near Faith, SD. (Approx. 100 north of Sturges, SD).

Spearfish Falls

Beautiful picnic table.

Roughlock Falls, pictured above, can be hiked to by trail or driven to. The trail was currently closed since a tornado had just gone through the area a few days prior to my visit. So the trail was unaccessable. I had to drive to the falls and I could only view the upper falls. There were still trees covering the path to the lower falls.

Bridal Veil Falls, pictured below, cascades 60 feet and is located along the roadside. No hiking needed to see this beauty.

Custer State Park

Saturday July 18, 2020

Named after Lieutenant George Armstrong Custer, the humongous Custer State Park at 71,000 acres is the largest state park in all of South Dakota. Nestled between the Black Hills, this astonishing nature reserve is known for its wildlife like white-tailed deer, mules, antelopes, mountain lions, burros, elks and more.

I drove the wildlife loop road but did not see any of the 1300 or so bison reported to live here. I did see some on a farm in the area. As well as some…what I think are Texas Long Horns???

I did see a few wild burros. It was a total zoo. So many people had stopped and got out of their cars to feed and pet the animals. There were little kids walking all around them and petting them. I saw a couple of kids run up to them and start petting them while also walking directly behind them. I was just waiting for one of those kids to get kicked. There are numerous signs that say the animals can be dangerous and to say away from them and not to feed them! I don’t understand why people don’t respect them.

On my way to the park I drove the scenic Iron Mountain Road. There are warning signs that there are three, one lane narrow and low clearance tunnels that you have to drive through. I checked the heights and widths of them before proceeding to make sure the van would fit.

I fit through all of them without any problems. It was a pretty fun driving experience to go through them.

On some sections of Iron Mountain Road the lanes separated and it was so beautiful.

There were many signs like this along the rd and it was very slow going. I would definitely recommend traveling this road. I would also giving Needles Rd a try. There are another 3 one lane tunnels to go through. These tunnels are smaller and it would be like threading a needle for me to get the van through them so I did not travel this one. But I would have if I was in my car.

This is a must go to state park.

Devils Tower

Tuesday July 21, 2020

Devils Tower is a geologic mystery. Although the main ideas are understood, there is still debate surrounding exactly how the Tower formed. People commonly ask, “Is it a volcano?” The simple answer is NO.

The Tower is 867 feet tall from its base.

It is the world’s first national monument, dedicated September 24, 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt.

There are 4000-5000 climbs of the Tower every year.

Prairie dogs are burrowing squirrels that live in large colonies called towns in the valley below the tower.

Weird places I’ve stayed

Monday July 20, 2020

I had no luck getting a reservation inside of Custer State Park. Everything was full. Even the closest RV parks were full. But I was able to find this little gem. Although I’m not sure I should be calling it a gem. The bathrooms were closed because of covid. So this will be the first time I will be washing my hair in my tiny shower in the van.

I was a little shocked when I drove up. The RV office is also part of an old time museum. I asked myself if I was at the right spot, but I could see RV’s parked next door so in I went. I was greeted by a women wearing an old peasant top buttoned up to her neck with and old west skirt that went down to her ankles. Truly old west!

The camp ground was basically a parking lot with hookups. It is not my kind of place, but it will work. I prefer a woods setting or a great view.


Tuesday July 14, 2020 thru Friday July 17, 2020I spent 3 night boondocking on the edge of the Badlands National Park. Boondocking is camping on land where it is ok to camp usually for free. It generally does not have any amenities such as bathrooms, water or electricity. So it will usually limit the time you can spend there. I am totally self contanined and can go about 3 days on my batteries before having to start the generator, but my holding tanks and water supply will be the limiting factor for me unless I am camping near a water source that I can filter.Berkley enjoying the sunshine. He loves to sunbathe often rotating around like a rotisserie. When he gets to warm he will move to the shade then its back into the sun when he has cooled off.The sunrises were the best!This morning it was pretty chilly and windy on our walk. After a while I ended up putting Berkley in his carrier and putting my buff over his ears to keep them warm. He did not seem to mind at all.On one side of the van I had the badlands and on the other I had a grassy field.I’m not sure how all these formations were created, but I sure enjoy the view.Way off in the distance you could see and hear cows.My breakfast with a view. Sausage, onion and potatoes.Another beautiful sunrise. The valley floor was covered in fog.This is a sunset. I prefer sunrises. Morning is my favorite time of day.Dreaded mouse poop! On a dinner plate! OH NO! During the night I woke up to some noise. When I went to investigate I could hear little feet scurrying away. I was pretty sure it was a mouse. The next morning I found a shit load of poop in one of my drawers. It was a lot of clean up and dish washing. I did find some almonds that they got into. So of course those went into the garbage. After getting everything cleaned up I started to make sure everything was in containers or odor proof bags. We’ll just say it was another adventure.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Friday July 17, 2020

It is hard to believe I have made it here. It was over 2000 miles of driving all by myself. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I mostly took my time with several stops along the way and enjoyed the journey.

This is the first time I have ever been here and it blows my mind. Just look at that color.

I would describe it more as sand than rock, that appears to have washed away some with the rains. I have no clue how all of this was formed, but I sure enjoy the view.

The color just amazes me.

Most of these photos were take from the road side. The drive was increadible.

This one is for you, CHOCOHOLIC! I know you like to see some self portraits.

I started to hike this area with Berkley, but he gave up pretty quickly in the 103 degree heat. I can’t say I blame him! I carried him a short ways before turning around and carrying him all the way back.

First time I have ever seen one of these signs on a trail.

The trail was really really dry!

Mountain goats???

Fun facts about driving in South Dakota

  • The speed limit is 80 mph on some highways although you must maintain a speed of at least 40 mph. So if you want to drive around at a speed of 41 mph while site seeing you are free to do so.
  • You can drive without shoes on for all you Fred Flintsoners.
  • It’s perfectly legal to drive in the left lane of the interstate all the way to your destination. I never understood why people like it there. But it is totally legal.
  • You can wear headphones, for all of those husbands who don’t want to hear their wives nagging you about how close you are to the vehicle in front of you. You are free to put headphones on and turn up the music. That one is for you, Babydoll!
  • You must use your blinker or a hand signal if the blinker doesn’t work.
  • Transporting an open alcoholic beverage in a car is illegal – unless it’s in the trunk and away from the driver and passengers – then it’s legal.
  • You can no longer talk on the cell phone while driving as July 1, 2020 unless it is hands free.
  • You are totally within the law to pull your camper AND your boat behind your vehicle at anytime in South Dakota. As long as you are not exceeding 75 feet in length go ahead, play “highway train” if you’d like.
  • Riding in the back of a pickup truck is permitted. There are 20 states that still allow this.