Monday, May 16, 2011

Bear Butte

This past Sunday turned out to be a decent, though windy, day. The sun was shining and there wasn't many clouds in the sky. After a day and a half of snow, Josh, Mom & Myself were ready for some outdoor exploration.

In the two years that Josh & I have lived in Deadwood, we still hadn't made it to the top of Bear Butte. On our many joy rides we've driven by, even driven up to the parking lot, but never made the hike. The drive from Deadwood to Sturgis has a complete change in landscape. Winding through the corners of Boulder Canyon the road is hilly with steep canyon walls colored green with pines. The rocks are gray, and orange and stained from the minerals leaching to the surface. The soil is dark reddish brown. A small stream runs along the road at the base of the rocky outcroppings. I'm sure you can tell it's one of my favorite rides out of town.

When you turn the first corner in Sturgis the landscape begins it's transformation. Suddenly the canyon gives way to prairie. Once through downtown Sturgis the hills are behind you and suddenly you are in wide open spaces. The pines gave way to prairie grasses, the deer to antelope and the shadows of the canyon to the sunshine of the plains.

5.15.11 Bear Butte SP
Bear Butte rises out of the plain like a bear rising from slumber. Millions of years ago igneous rock formed the butte and after those years of erosion it came to resemble a sleeping bear. The Lakota Sioux call it Mato Paha, Bear Mountain and along with other Native American Tribes respect it as a sacred place to pray and worship.

In 1973 Bear Butte was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the trail leading to he top has been recognized as a National Recreation Trail. The trail is also the starting point (or ending) for the 111 mile Centennial Trail. The journey to the top took about an hour, an hour-fifteen and nearly every step had beautiful views. Prayer bundles were tied to trees along the way. Some were fresh, their colors still vivid, others were frayed and sun-bleached. Each blew in the wind. Unfortunately, the administration asks that non-Native America's stay on the designated trail- there were some awesome caves and rock outcroppings that we would have liked to have explored.

5.15.11 Top of Bear Butte
At the top we took the usual tourist photos of ourselves and rested at on the platform. We stayed awhile to take it all in and Josh noticed how the game were leaving trails across the rocky talus. It was awesome to packed rock where the game had packed trails. We also tried to spot the buffalo herd that inhabits the park but didn't have any luck. After milling around for a bit we began the hike down, stopping at each turn in the trail to take a picture or two. The trip down was only about 35 minutes and soon we were back at the car, cruising through Boulder Canyon on our way home.

My Mom was heading out the next morning, so we decided to make a quick stop in at Schade Winery. There were still wines to be tasted. I tried a couple that I had passed over the weekend before and ended up buying a bottle of Blackberry. It's just so delicious.

Back at the house we started the charcoal and prepared some burgers for the BBQ we had been planning. Some of our friends that my Mom knew came over and we visited and ate and ate some more. Then drank some Blackberry wine. It was nice having everyone at our place and it was starting to feel like summer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day Weekend Adventure II

9.10 Sylvan Lake
On Mother's Day, my Mom, Josh & myself headed south to Custer State Park, one of our favorite places. It was a beautiful but windy day and we were headed south.

Our first stop was Sylvan Lake. By this time we all needed a stretch and we pulled Brady out for a little walk. Though we had been there countless times, never before had we seen the loop around the pond. How'd we miss that? Of course we were obligated to explore and ended up finding a small cave and waterfall. The trail took about twenty minutes and lead us behind the rocks that act as a natural dam for the lake. It turns out that there was once a grand hotel near the dam that burned shortly after it's construction. All that remains is the small bridge above the dam that offers the illusion of standing on water. It was a perfect short walk.

5.8.11 Wind Cave NP
All loaded up we headed south on Needles Highway. It weaves along the granite outcroppings and leads you through three tunnels that each share amazing views. It's the best way to enter Custer SP. We took some of the usual roots through the park, enjoying Wildlife Loop Road and stopping here and there to photograph the wildlife but the real adventure began when we drove into Wind Cave National Park. On the road in we saw the prairie dogs basking in the sun and bison playing along a pond. The baby bison were spunky and playful while their mothers weren't impressed with our intrusion. Bighorn sheep rested along side the road and burros blocked out paths, demanding payment. After scratching a few noses we found a dirt road on a ridgeline that gave expansive views of Custer SP and Wind Cave NP. There were a couple turnouts along the way where we pulled over and enjoyed the beautiful day.

5.8.11 Wind Cave NP, Bison & Baby
We ending up taking Highway 16 north from the town of Custer to Hill City. Maintaining tradition we made our way to Prairie Berry. No trip from Maine would be complete without a stop there. As it turns out Mother's Day was the premier of their newest wine, Sand Creek. Perfect. We obliged them with a tasting and it was delicious. Rarely do I find a red wine which I really enjoy but Sand Creek definitely hit the spot. As usual we purchased a few bottles; some heading east to Maine and others north to Deadwood. Happy and exhausted we made our way home.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Weekend Adventure

This week my mom is visiting from Maine. She happened to plan her visit to fall on her birthday, the 7th and Mother's Day, the 8th and so we decided that this weekend would be her chance to drag us around town to all the things she wanted to do. It turns out that there were more than a few things that we had been talking about and so we all went adventuring.

5.7.11 View of Lead SD from White Rock Ridge
On Saturday, we hung out locally and explored a few corners of Deadwood that were still a mystery. Early that morning Josh, my Mom and myself headed across the valley and crawled up to the ridge above Mt. Moriah. Wu & Brady accompanied us and kept us on our toes. It's amazing how two pups can make everything 3x's more hectic. It's a gift. We walked the ridge up to White Rocks and enjoyed the vista from there. It was a bit windy so we found a spot to hunker down and enjoy being on top of the world for a few minutes. When we made it back to the jeep we cruised the ridgeline and discovered a few places that had previously been covered in snow. It's an amazing area up there with some unbelievable views of Lead/Deadwood. We were able to see two Homestake entrances, the open cut, Mystic Miner Mountain and Terry Peak- it looked like an advertisement for Lead.

5.7.11 White Rock Ridge, Deadwood SD
Once we made it down White Rocks, we headed over to Forest Avenue to spy Seth Bullock's house. Just a few weeks ago we heard that his house was still around and went in search. We found it and thought maybe my Mom would enjoy it too. It's just a quick jaunt up from Main Street and is marked by a plaque in the wall.

After that to the Kirk trailhead of the Mickelson Trail. It's a railroad grade trail that runs through the hills for a hundred of miles or so but this section is just a few miles long, runs along a
small creek and is just slightly uphill. It's a perfect
5.7.11 Bullock House, Deadwood SD
spot to get away from traffic and let the dogs run a bit. Along this section Wu has a favorite swimming spot and though we hadn't seen it since last year, he remembered exactly where it was. He whipped off the trail and was wading in the water when we caught up with him. Little Brady ran right up to the water's edge, stood on a rock, looked at us, then turned and jumped into the creek. He was a little more than surprised when the water was icy cold and the current began to pull him. He dipped under for a second and when he surfaced be did the doggy-paddle like no puppy had done before and made it to shore. Within 5 seconds he had successfully completed his first swim. After all that excitement we got back on the trail and within a 1/2 mile we had found a better spot for the dogs to swim but apparently only Wu was interested. Brady stayed back, sitting on the edge and watched. Apparently he'd had his fill.

After all that swimming and walking we brought the dogs back to the house so we could enjoy the more adult things in Deadwood. First stop, Schade Vineyard & Winery. It's just inside of Boulder Canyon and about a mile from our house. It turns out that at this winery you can try however many wines you would like. Oh, no. I would feel pretty comfortable saying that their dessert wines dominated the menu. My mom ended up buying a bottles of the Buffaloberry, Chokecherry, Rhubarb. Josh & I bought a bottle of their 10th Anniversary Signature Red. All off us went a little crazy on the tastings because we had always been limited on the number. Mom tried every dessert wine- she was in it.
5.7.11 Belle Joli Winery, Deadwood SD

We were getting into the spirit of things and headed downtown Deadwood to hit up the Belle Joli Winery. It turns out that when you pay $5 for a tasting, you really get your money's worth. We tasted everything on the menu. Delicious. There were a couple that weren't too memorable but the rest were tasty. I should have stopped at the tasting but Mom and I decided to indulge in a glass and we all sat out watching people pass by.

Bertha at the Midnight Star was the next stop. She's a super large slot machine but she didn't pay out at all after $5 so we headed up the street to the Miner's Den Steakhouse. We ordered burgers and fries and drank water. After that wine tasting it was perfect and cleansed our pallets. We were full, exhausted and ready to head home only to begin it all again the next day...