Trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota-2006

Mike, Denise, Janet  and I on the 1880 train
Janet and I, with Mike and Denise, on the Black Hills Central Railroad 1880 train

Janet and I made this trip to the Black Hills with our friends, Mike and Denise, our regular camping companions. We wanted to go to Mount Rushmore to see the fireworks for the 4th of July. We started out the end of June and spent a day in Post Falls, ID at Mikes sister and brother in-laws home on the Spokane River. They are so much fun to hang out with and what a beautiful place live. Their home is on the river above the dam, and is a great place for boating. You can go up the river into Lake Coeur D'alene or just run around on the river. It was a lot of fun watching the boats going by and talking. The evenings are so pleasent around there that time of year, and it was a great sitting out on the deck with a fire in their chiminea chatting about everything.

The Spokane River
Looking up the Spokane River from Howard and Kathy's home.

Our next stop was Livingston, MT to do a little white water rafting on the Yellowstone River. The Yellowstone is a pretty easy river, with mostly class 2 and a few class 3 rapids. Denise wasn't looking forward to going, as she had had a bad experience when she was younger in a small boat, and didn't like them. The rest of us wanted to do the Gallatin with it's bigger water, but chose the Yellowstone hoping that Denise might enjoy it. You put in right at the edge of the park (Yellowstone) and have a nice little paddle down the river. 5 minutes out she was sold on rafting and we were figuring out how to fit the Gallatin in on our way home.

Rafting the Yellowstone

Paddling down the Yellowstone River

Then it was back on the road again, heading for Gillette, WY. A few years before while on our way back from a wedding in Wisconsin, I was impressed by the the open coal mines we passed on the way home. I had wanted to see one up close and we decided to stop and see one on this trip. I called the local chamber of commerce to find one that did tours. I was put in touch with a really nice lady at the Black Thunder mine south of Gillette and set up a tour for when we would be going through. It was amazing to see all that goes into the production of the coal. We learned a lot, and walked away with a deeper appreciation of what goes into supplying the energy that we often take for granted.

Trucks waiting to be loaded
Trucks waiting to be loaded down at the coal seam. The black layer is the coal seam.

Mine haul truck

Now thats a truck! Janet and I next to one of the mines 250 ton haul trucks. They have some even bigger!

We moved on to Devils Tower after Gillette to see this wounder located in Wyoming near the South Dakota border, in the Northwest corner of the Black Hills. It is a great stop to see some fasinating geology in a beautiful setting. The river, the valley that it eroded away to leave the tower, and the tower; make a jewel in a place that many might find uninteresting. The beauty is subtle and deep.

Sylvan Lake
Sylvan Lake is so beautiful. It is as they say, as "Pretty as a postcard".

The Black Hills are incredible! There is so much to see and do. Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park (I think this is my favorite state park of those that I've been to), Deadwood, Keystone, the Black Hills Central Railroad, and so much more. Oh, and caves; there are so many caves throughout the hills you could make a trip of just seeing them. Just to the East are the Badlands. I think that the Presidents (what did you think they are looking at?) are looking out at the badlands, and thinking to themselves, that they are glad they don't have to cross them to get back to Washington. I wounder if God didn't looked ahead in time and make the hills for riding motorcycles. I just cant think of a more prefect place to go for a ride. The sweeping and winding roads are such a pleasure to drive, but the sights and vistas are so demanding that you have to force yourself to pay attention to your driving or riding. I can see why so many are drawn to the hills.

Chris and Janet at Mount Rushmore
Janet and I at Mount Rushmore

And then we came to the purpose of our trip. To watch the 4th of July fireworks at Mount Rushmore. The fireworks are actually done on the 3rd so they don't compete with the the festivities of the local communities around the area (I think that is pretty cool). We were chose a good year to attend as the weather was awsome. Lots of good weather with enough rain just before to keep the fire hazard in check (could you imagine the news if they burned down the hills doing fireworks at the monument?). The crowds are huge and you need to get there real early or watch from where you are stuck on the roads to the monument. We got some good advice and road a small local tour bus (Discovery Tours (an unsolicited endoresment)) to the monument for the show and back to the campground. A very good choice as we were dropped off at the entrance and picked up after it was over and didn't have to spend all day there or walk miles to our truck.

The show before the fireworks was good and we enjoyed the entertainment. It was very patrioic and fitting for the day, and reinforced the pride that I feel in being fortunate enough to have been born an American. There was a fly over by a B-1 bomber just before dark and the main event. And then, the fireworks started. The fireworks are shot off the presidents heads and it is just so cool to watch. There is just something special that I can not describe about being there. It is something that I hope all of you have, or someday will be fortunate to experience. It is more than the sum of it's parts, and there is an intangible that must be experienced (I hope to someday see the celibration on the Mall in Washington, and hope it will be as good). The fireworks at Mount Rushmore were the crecendo of this symphony, but not it's final act.

Mount Rushmore fireworks
The fireworks being shot off the presidents heads at Mount Rushmore

If you remember, Denise took to rafting like a duck to water. So we packed up early the next morning (the 4th) and hit the road for Bozeman MT. It was a long drive and just before dark when we pulled in and parked for the night-Attention Wal-Mart campers! We went in and picked up a few things, made and ate dinner. Then we went outside to sit in our chairs in the parking lot with our drinks, as the evening was getting just right. Then lo and behold, Boseman started shooting off their fireworks in the park right next to Wal-Mart. We had a perfect seat to a very nice show. We enjoyed a relaxing evening and went to bed early to rest up for the following day. The next morning we were on our way up the canyon to raft the Gallitin River. Janet and I had been here before and knew we were going to have a good time. The river was class 3 and 4 rapids and it as a blast. Mike and Denise had a great time on the Gallitin and it was the perfect finish to a great camping trip.

Rafting on the Gallitin River

Row, row, row your boat, gently down a raging class 4 river. Rafting on the Gallitin River

When we got off the river, we started for home as everyone had to get back for work. What a trip and great memories. Camping with friends and seeing our great country is one of the things that we look forward to each year, and trips like this are the reason why.