Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Black Hills

I didn’t much care for the Black Hills of South Dakota at first. That was in the
mid-fifties when I first traveled and camped there with my parents. The Bad
Lands were bad, hot and dusty. Wall Drug, famous throughout the land, as a
tourist Mecca was just that. Crowded and chintzy. There were junky stores
everywhere. And later gambling at Deadwood was not my thing.
For years my
brothers and later sons and I zipped on by the Hills on our way to the fabled
fly fishing streams of southwestern Montana. No time for traffic jams and
tourist traps for us.
And then one
Easter vacation in the new century, with a new camper in hand, we, the empty
nesters, decided a short trip to the Black Hills would be a just in order. It
was a late Easter that year and the weather in Minnesota was mild and sunny.
Highs in the mid fifties. We weren’t tenting anymore and the new camper had a
furnace. We imagined the crowds wouldn’t be to bad. Heck, I might even try some
trout fishing.
We made camping reservations at a place named Custer Mountain Campground. Naturally, it
was a mile or two from Custer, South Dakota on the southern edge of the Black
Hills. When we arrived the temperature was a balmy 75 degrees. Even more
surprising the campground with 60 sites, 4 camper cabins and 5 new luxury
cabins had only one other camper.
The owner
informed us we were " a little early in the season." After discussing
things to do, we took his recommendation to drive the Custer State Park
"loop road." We did the next day. In July and
August the road might have hundreds cars checking out the beautiful vistas and
wildlife. On this first occasion though it was magical. For hours we had it all
to ourselves. There was wildlife everywhere. I fell in love right then and
there. The owner
informed us we were " a little early in the season Since then we have made
it a habit to visit the fabled Black Hills at least once a year. The joys of
retirement living now make it possible for us to pick either spring or fall.
The magic never goes away. A couple of years back our son and grandson came up
from Colorado to join us for a week of camping. This summer again on the way to
Montana we stopped in the Hills for a few days with our friends Gary and Rosie
and drove through Custer State Park. It was as beautiful as ever…..


  1. That looks like some beautiful country you are in there. We are going to Montana next month. We've never been there before. Looking forward to it.
    Hope you are having a happy week!
    xo Catherine

  2. It sounds magical indeed. And the joys of retirement mean that we can go to our favorite places when the mood strikes us. Thanks for introducing me to the Black Hills!

  3. I like the Prairie Dog towns the best..and some of those Buffalo were larger than our car. We panned for Gold too..the girls loved that. A trip there might be in order..I would wait for the off season too:)

  4. There are some nice trout in Custer. I have done some plant studies there and really like this park.

  5. Isn't it great that you re-discovered South Dakota! There's a ton to see and do, including the Minute Man Missile Site (eek! but extremely interesting to us Cold War survivors), the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, SD, and Jewel and Wind Caves. And, as you pointed out, the great wildlife-watching and scenery in the (unfortunately named) Custer State Park - among the best! Plus, just across the border, Devil's Tower - all of it LOTS of fun. Thanks for the reminder of how nice the area is, it goes on my "re-visit when you're retired" list, for sure!

  6. Sometimes too early or too late is just about perfect. What a treasure!

  7. i've only been there once but i liked it a lot. :)

  8. I love the Black Hills. Hoping to make it there real soon ...need to start bugging hubby about going in Sept.

  9. I'd much prefer off season! That, and a camper, would make places much more appealing... being able to avoid the crowds and knowing you had your own comfy place to stay.

  10. Methinks there are many places that can be fully appreciated once the crowds have dispersed. :c)

  11. We'll be in the area of the Black Hills in September. I think we're going to have to check out Custer State Park. Thanks.

  12. I was there in July once--hated it. But, It does look worthy of a second look--perhaps early spring.

  13. My husband has but 2 States left on his "bucket list" of US States to visit - North and South Dakota. Your post encourages us to check out atr least South Dakota on a Spring or Fall trip. And a plus is that we can visit the grandkids in Minnesota and Iowa on the way. Hope your Labor Day is a good one. What will you be doing? We're off to camp at El Vado Lake in northern New Mexico and I will be doing some trout fishing...what do you think about that! Got my pole and tackle and license -- ready to cast out a line.

  14. The Black Hills are lovely. They are directly south of me; I drive through en route to other places in the western US. The summer crowds are horrible; Spearfish has 10X the population from when I was a kid. The Passion Play is quite nice to attend. Deadwood and Lead are now full of casinos. (Annie Oakley & Wild Bill Hickcock are buried there - shows you how old I am!). But, as you said, if you go there in the Spring before the summer vacationers, it is a magical place. Beautiful drives and vistas. Similarly in the Fall after the kids are back in school.
    WARNING: Don't be anywhere around there in early August. Sturgis is the centre of the biggest motorcycle rally in the world. Unless you are a biker, it is pretty awful.

  15. How wonderful! Those faces on the mountain are so impressive. A huge undertaking. So glad you go there...we need to do that again. We were over there several years ago. Maybe it's time again...

  16. T.B.

    I have a great fondness for the Black Hills. Several years ago, the year before my wife and I married, we travelled west to spend some time in S.D. and RMNP. As we drove across South Dakota we realized that we had picked the wrong weekend ... right smack in the middle of the Sturgis rally. And we had no campground reservations.

    I did have a walk-in site earmarked just south of Lead. As we drove down the long, lonely word my (future) wife was not happy with me. Thinking I had left us stranded in S.D. without a place to sleep. Amazingly at the end of this long road we came across the campground and site #13. Open and gorgeous. Surrounded by steep mountains on one side and Little Spearfish Creek on the other. Completely isolated.

    I was forgiven!

  17. How nice to have a campground almost to yourself and so close to wildlife!

  18. Thanks for the introduction to that area of the country. It is completely foreign to me and I loved it. I wish I weren't so old !
    I'd like to travel this whole country of ours.