Beauty in the Black Hills

As we left Sioux Falls towards the Black Hills the storm clouds began to gather across the prairie and it looked like it would be a rainy drive. But before the rain begin to fall we stopped in Mitchell, S.D. the home of the “World’s only Corn Palace”, it serves as multi-use community center and was established in 1892 to display the fruit of the early settlers’ harvest. All of the murals are made of corn cobs and each August there is a festival to show the year’s new displays. A very unusual and impressive art form. Then it began to rain and did so for many, many miles. Our next stop was in Wall, S.D. at the famous Wall Drug, it is basically a whole city block of shops that began as one store that developed over the years as the owners started advertising “free water” in 1931. But as Griffin said ” I did not think it would be so touristy (sic).”  Then the rain stopped the sun came out and we made it to our next destination, The Lodge at Palmer Gulch in the beautiful Black Hills. -Scott

It is hard to describe the vistas through the South Dakota Black Hills and Badlands. Our camera really can’t capture them. Picture the movie “Dances with Wolves” (it was filmed there) – that’s what it looks like!

My maternal grandmother, Gretchen Thompson (aka “Honeybeanie”) had a passion for the Red Cloud Indian School. Although she had minimal “extra” money, she sent money to them monthly. Her wallet was small but her heart and faith were huge! I wanted to stand on the soil of the place she felt so called to support.

It is located in the heart of the Pine Ridge reservation – home to the Oglala Sioux. We made the 2 hour journey from our Lodge (even over unpaved, dirt roads) to visit the school. We toured the grave of Chief Red Cloud, the Heritage Center and donated new sports balls to the elementary school in Honeybeanie’s honor. It is our prayer that the balls will nurture healthy lifestyles and friendships among the children that share them. -Angie

As we entered calmly into The Heritage Center at Red Cloud we were greeted by the arts and music of the Oglala Sioux Native Americans. As we walked around more we discovered the gallery and annual art show. Many pieces spoke out with strong artistic and passionate values. Dad, Griffin and I went into a replica of a school room. The pattern was to force the Native American children to attend white & boarding schools that banned their culture, arts and language. Upon the wall at the back of the room were many pictures portraying the gut-wrenching sight of the massacre at Wounded Knee. The most uneasy pictures were ones of the dead Sioux stacked like sticks.

On the way to the Pine Ridge reservation we passed through the Wind Cave National Forest. At first we saw the rolling vistas and then popping from them the prairie dogs and herds of American bison. On the way back we stopped at the Custer State Park. At Legion Lake Dad, Griffin and I canoed and mom rode a hydro-cycle. -Beck

Wow. Those three letters are the first to come to my mind when I think back on Friday, our second full day in the Black Hills. We were not about to let an opportunity to see Mount Rushmore pass us by. Friday morning we left our lodge to travel 10 minutes down the road to one of the most iconic images of American patriotism, pride, and joy. All of us have seen pictures of the famous monument, but it takes on another element when you walk up the walkway to the terrace and realize that it’s real. You’re looking at it, it’s right in front of you and you just take a step back and take it in. We went into the museum and watched a video about Mt. Rushmore and looked around at some of the exhibits. We then went down to the Sculptor’s Studio, where we saw the 1:12 scale model, for every inch on the model would be a foot on the monument.

After we explored around for a little more, we got back in the car and headed to the Crazy Horse Monument, which has been over fifty years in the making. Upon arriving, we learned that we were in store for a blast on the monument between 12-1pm. We went in and watched a video, and came out onto the viewing deck in time to watch 863 tons of rock being blasted off the monument. After watching the blast, we went into the gift store, and Beck and I found out that there was a huge pile of rocks taken from Crazy Horse blasts. Beck and I each got a cool rock, and were able to take home a piece of Crazy Horse. Like I said, not just Friday but all of our stay in the Black Hills was fun, and to sum it all up: Wow.