Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Trip to the Badlands and Black Hills

I'd only heard about the Badlands but never have been. It's been a busy summer and I didn't have any days off either with work or the band so my wife and I set aside some time for a little road trip of our own. We hopped in our little car and headed West from St. Paul, MN. On interstate 90 you cannot miss the signs for Wall Drug, one of the most famous gift shops in the country. I think we counted some 40 cartoon-like signs on the 8 and a half hour trip. "Cowboy Up - Wall Drug," "5 cent Coffee at Wall Drug," "Free ice water - Wall Drug,"  and the many mile count downs to the place. The ride is pretty flat until you get further west, then you start to see some big rolling hills and acres and acres of yellow Sunflowers which was a real beautiful site to see.

Near the end of our trek across South Dakota we saw our first glimpse of "Badlands" style formations about the size of a few cars. "Oh look there's the Badlands" we joked and laughed. "There it is. Lets turn back." But then then we turned our heads to the other side of the road and saw these HUGE vast formations and we both fell silent and then "WOW!!" Really cool to see stuff like this for the first time. It is like they say about it looking like the surface of the moon or some strange sci-fi landscape. Now I was getting excited to see more. We approached the national park and had a couple hours before check-in so we drove through and walked a couple trails and fed some Prarie Dogs. Apparently they love peanuts. It got really hot here and we found it difficult to follow some of their trails as some of them were poorly marked but we found our way.

Our first night we stayed in a little cabin of our our in Wall, SD. We walked down to Wall Drug of course and spent some time there checking out all the jewelry, leather goods, shirts and knick knacks. After that, we grilled some brats and watched the sun set.



The following day was spent hiking more Badlands trails and then driving up to Hisega. We stayed at the oldest lodge in the Black Hills called the Hisega Lodge. This bed and breakfast was located right on a river in the woods. Just a gorgeous location. The owners were very kind and told us of the history of the lodge as well as some of the paranormal experiences which my wife and I were very eager to hear about. We spent the evening on the second floor front porch outside our room eating take-out and playing dominoes with the loud sound of the river just down below, waiting to see if an apparition of women in white would walk by.



Breakfast at the Hisega was amazing. Some sort of delicious peach cake and a breakfast pizza. We sat all together at one table with the other guests and got to know how everyone else's trips were going. From here we traveled north through more of the Black Hills and met up with a woman who would take us on a horseback ride for a couple hours. It was just three of us so that was pretty great.  I've been on a horse a few times and really liked the experience so I thought it would be cool out here too. Our guide Barbara was awesome. I learned about Western geological words like "Gultch," "Bench" and "Butte." She took us through the woods and up the side of this huge hill that opened up to this great overlook of the land below and also saw Deadwood in the distance. I was pretty overwhelmed looking out at this point with a really intense feeling. Some sort of spiritual "fit" to the experience and the surroundings. My horse was named Scarlet and Brigid rode a wheezing horse named Doc.

Barbara gave us some tips on were to go from there to get to Deadwood so we followed her directions on 14A through the Black Hills.


Alot of "wow"s from Brigid and I passing through here. Rivers, creeks, mountains and forests on these hilly winding roads. We stopped for an "Indian Taco" for lunch. It's basically a Native American fry bread with taco fixin's on top.

We arrived at the famous wild west city of Deadwood.


It was really cool here. Settled in a neat valley. You might know Deadwood from the TV show too. We just started watching it the night we got back from this trip. Wild Bill Hickok was killed here. Calamity Jane lived there and Seth Bullock was the sheriff. This late 1800's era town used to be home to cowboys and miners with lots of brothels, gambling and daily murders. I wore my western wear and someone asked me if I was part of the reenactment that happened 3 times a day in the streets. I think my longish hair and mustache helped on that point. Still alot of slot machine casino stuff here. We wanted to get up to the old cemetery but just didn't have enough time.
We stayed at the Bullock Hotel that Seth Bullock owned. The Bullock is also famous for being a major haunted location. Of course we had to stay there! In fact the whole city has been known as the "City of The Dead" as so many people have witnessed paranormal activity in most of it's buildings and houses.  Kitty corner from the Bullock is The Farimont Hotel which is also notably haunted (check out Dead Files and Ghost Lab TV shows). We were so lucky to get our own ghost tour at The Bullock and later after hours with Fairmont owner Bob Rousseau! Brigid and I came prepared with a video camera, EMF detectors and voice recorders.

In the Bullock we got to spend some time alone in the basement at the end of our tour. Brigid and I sat at the bar. At one point I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and Brigid got the same feeling and as this happened we got a couple good readings on our EMF detector. It was for sure an odd feeling that lasted quite a few minutes. We explored other areas but this was the most significant moment for us.

In the Farimont we walked through the building after closing time with the owner Bob. At one point, we stood on the 2nd floor in this big long open room where renovations were being made. We all heard something that sounded like a woman real quick from the next room! Both the 2nd and 3rd floors had a spooky feel to them in spots as well. I kept looking over my shoulder having the feeling that someone else was just behind me. We also hung out in a room were a woman had jumped out the window. Bob also showed us the documents of the day signed by Sol Star (partner to Seth Bullock) describing the suicide.


While in Deadwood we got our pictures taken at one of those "old west" photo places!


I felt like I wanted a steak and a whiskey in this old town so we got some food and drinks later in the evening, walked the streets and played some slot machines.

In the morning it was breakfast at Bully's at the hotel and then we got in the car and headed back. 10 hours to home. Really great time. We packed alot in! I think we might head back some day as there is so much more to see including Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse monument as well as some other key haunted locations.


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