Category Archives: travel

Falls Park, Sioux Falls – Let’s Relax

Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota? A little time to relax!

After leaving Minot the second week of February, I never imagined I would have found myself heading back north three weeks later. On March 4, I found myself on a journey back to the Dakotas with Aberdeen, South Dakota as my destination. Prior to reaching it, my first true exploration on the journey to the frozen land was Falls Park in Sioux Falls.

In the past, the Native Americans used the quartzite from this area to make ornaments and utensils to use in everyday life. This same material from here has been used by the white man as early as 1822. Presently, it is used today in concrete construction.

Sioux Falls had the nickname of Queen City, with the falls being the center of the city years ago. In addition, the Queen Bee Mill was there to take full advantage of the falls’ power. The mill was a seven-story building at one time, however, there are only parts of it that remain after a fire in 1956.

The park is a wonderful area for exploration as it covers 123 acres and approximately 7400 gallons of water drop over the falls every second. If that isn’t enough, the beauty and history of the area add to the allure.

Unfortunately, during my visit, the observation tower wasn’t opened. Things up here tend to be very seasonal due to weather conditions so if you plan a visit, plan accordingly. Thankfully there was no snow to contend with and I just struggled with the strong, cold winds during my visit.

As I walked through the park, I noticed a tower off in the distance. It resembled Big Ben. And then there were twin towers off to the right of this clock tower. I had to check them out to see what they were and was not disappointed.
Old Courthouse Museum
Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls
Old Courthouse Museum
Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls

Both Falls Park and finding these two buildings gave me a great break in my travels and allowed wonderful photo opportunities.  I am going to try to go back here on my return trip (assuming I return this way and don’t have another assignment straight away) and go up in the tower, as well as have a bite in the cafe at the park.

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More of Minot, The Scandinavian Heritage Park

I refuse to even acknowledge how quickly time passes. Okay, so I guess that was somewhat of an acknowledgement. Let’s just say that we do not need to mention it further. This post is to continue my journey in Minot. While there, I was fortunate enough to have a decent day or two to explore the Scandinavian Heritage Park located near the middle of Minot.

I had driven by it several times before the weather permitted me to make a stop there the first time. It was in the early morning hours and I was on my way back to the hotel from work. The lights draped in the trees beckoned me to stop if only for a few minutes. I complied and as I gazed around at the snow-covered park, I vowed to make it a point to take a day to explore it further.

That day presented itself a short time later. The temps rose from the subzero mark to the high 20s and low 30s. I parked the Jeep and gathered my gear. With a long swig of the steaming Starbuck’s concoction, I opened the door to brave the frigid air, piled snow, and slippery ice.

My first stop was at the visitor’s centre, where I enjoyed the heat for a bit longer than I should have. I did pick out some unique gifts for the twins and little Steven.

I proceeded down the pathway and was greeted by none other than Hans Christian Andersen. As one of my friends pointed out, he was up to his bum in the snow for our meeting and I wondered what stories he would write about if he knew just how deep in the stuff he was. Regardless, he and the ugly duckling made me smile as I attempted not to slip and slide too much on the pathway.







The windmill replica was beautiful against the blue sky even though it seemed frozen at the moment. The blades stood motionless in the cold air.

Continuing on the pathway, I noted the water was covered in snow and therefore was unable to see the babbling brook that meandered through the park. Temps just were not feasible and the babbling was non-existent on this particular sunny morn’.

In one of the pathway bends I came across Leif Eriksson, or Leif the Lucky as he was also known, with his unwavering gaze peering across the snow-clad park. If you do not know who this Viking is, read about him. His life just may interest you.

The waterfall wall, too, was frozen in time and no water fell down its face during my visit there. I could envision it, though…the water falling to fill the brook. Maybe I’ll visit it another time when it actually is flowing.

Past the waterfall, two gentlemen made my thoughts drift off to taking to the slopes and speeding down on skis. I quickly reminded myself that my skiing consisted of water and not snow…boats and not slopes.







Soon, I was upon the beautiful church, with its intricate carvings. This church was simply stunning and although I wasn’t able to go inside, I knew what it looked like from my previous exploration of a church like it in South Dakota. You can view the video here.

No Scandinavian park is complete without the Dala Horse. The one here was colorful, even if a little cold, with icicles hanging from the belly. I simply loved how they designed the park with the pathway going underneath this creation.

After the horse encounter, I came upon a simply adorable cottage and imagined I could certainly live inside with no difficulty. Again, the intricate carvings and details left me in awe.

And then there was the Sigdal House, simple yet perfect. This too could make a special home without a problem.

The park was a perfect way to spend some time and to learn more about this culture. I definitely would go back to visit again when I’m in the area.


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Minot, North Dakota

The first day of the New Year found me in frigid, snow-covered Minot, North Dakota. I travelled here on another assignment during the last week of December. I wasn’t prepared to be snowed in the facility on Christmas, but I was.

Between working evenings and nights with very little time off and the weather, I haven’t seen much of this city yet. We did recently have a warming trend with temps in the high 20s and I happened to be off a day to take advantage of the sunlight.

The park I found was all but deserted on the day I ventured out. The sun was bright and felt good soaking through the layers of clothes I had on. I got as close to the frozen river as possible to take a few pictures, even venturing out on it a few steps. I had to remind myself that I was alone and the dangers of walking on unknown ground, or water, in this case, was risky.

Deciding to return to the path, I just enjoyed the solitude and beauty around me. I was amazed at the depth of the snow. The benches and picnic tables were almost buried. I guess you could get to them if you didn’t mind wading through snow up to the butt. I chose not to do it and stuck with the cleared pathways.

The glittery snow mesmerised me. I loved how it sparkled like diamond chips when the light hit it. Every time I see it now, I think the angels must surely cry diamond chips.

I did see a bird, a nuthatch I think, flittering from tree limb to tree limb between posing for the camera. He was pretty swift in his movements. His ground companion was a squirrel. They both took turns eating from a pile of seeds someone had left for them. Otherwise, I saw no other creatures.

All in all, it was a decent outing even if I couldn’t stay out as long as intended. It felt good to be able to get some fresh air and experience the winter like I never have.

Stay tuned for the next stop at the local Scandinavian Park…

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Mirror Lakes – Spearfish, South Dakota

I stumbled upon Mirror Lakes near Spearfish, South Dakota quite by accident when exploring the area for those perfect scenic backdrops. Having just finished working the night shift, I rushed to the hotel to pick-up Thade. When I arrived at the hotel, he was waiting impatiently and we jumped into the car and started riding.

img_0042I had turned off the main highway onto the gravel/rock roads that seem normal around here if you’re going up the mountains. I turned a few times from one road to another and then noticed a side road. The side road was the same gravelly type road, though much narrower than the one I previously was on.

Coming upon a concrete barricade, I pulled off the road and parked. Getting out, I noticed the sign prohibiting vehicles but open to foot traffic. I leashed Thade and we went through the barricade to find ourselves on a wooden bridge, a stream running underneath at a rapid pace.

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From there, I cannot begin to describe all we saw. There were hawks, turkeys, deer, a number of other types of birds, and miles of one-lane gravel road that is slowly being taken over by nature and small pathways.

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The dewdrops glistened on the plants and grass in the morning sun, prettier than even the most expensive diamonds.

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We followed the pathway for a bit before rounding the corner to look upon one of the lakes.

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Making our way to the water’s edge, we admired the crystal clearness of the water that allowed us to see the plants and fish; as well as the reflection.

img_0023-cr2 img_0022After a bit of relaxing, we once again went along the path only to hit a dead-end where the hill jutted toward the blue sky. I looked across to the other side and thought instead of going back, surely we could make it to the other side if we went ON the hill.

So, off we went, trudging along till we were walking the rim of the red hill wall. Finally, we chose a gully, washed out by rain and snow to go down and safely land on the other walkway. Thade looked at me as if I was a mad woman for making him hike up a hill and then down again. img_0210But he soon got over it when we came upon the other lake and enjoyed the view and the breeze of the morning air for a while.

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After two hours of walking and hiking, Thade and I decided it was time to return to the hotel for a meal and a nap. Since finding the lakes, I have been twice more. While there, I have not seen another human. It is very serene and a great place to meditate while watching the rising sun.


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Bear Butte – A Sacred Place

IMG_0068Heading out on a Sunday morning to a place I had only heard about from a friend, I didn’t know what to expect or what I may encounter when I finally got to Bear Butte. I saw the mountain off in the distance and knew it was Bear Butte even before I arrived. It stood majestically above the ground, buffalo were grazing around the base and near the entrance. I had to stop the car a moment to catch my breath at the beauty of it all.

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Parking the car, I entered the visitor’s center and walked around a bit, reading pamphlets and admiring the various articles on display. I still was not prepared for what I would see when I decided I would take the chance and do the 2-mile hike that ascends 1000 feet to the summit of Bear Butte.


After my short lesson in the visitor’s center, I returned to my car to grab my camera, walking stick, and change into my hiking boots. Taking a deep breath, or as deep as I could since I was sick, I gazed up the trail lined with prayer ties and allowed myself to peer into the bright sunlight at the mountain summit some 4,426 foot above.


The pathway was a bit treacherous in some areas and there were times when I thought I needed to turn back, especially after the last little “hut” that allowed shade and a place to sit and rest. There was one point about half-way up when I was questioning my decision to hike a mountain when I came upon a tree with a low hanging branch lined with various colored prayer ties.


I dropped to the path, sweat beading on my face, breaths coming out short, and allowed the prayer ties to shade me from the sweltering sun. Closing my eyes, I kept repeating to myself that I could make this climb…2 miles wasn’t that far…and I really felt like I needed to reach the top for some reason. Before all these thoughts could tumble through my mind, a slight breeze began to blow….cool, soothing, and indeed a relief.IMG_0052IMG_0049IMG_0051After sitting a few minutes and allowing the breeze to bathe me, I decided to continue my journey. Along the way, I thought about all the prayer ties I saw. It truly was a beautiful site and out of respect for the people who left them and what they symbolize, I refrained from photographing them.

I heard various bugs, a few snakes warning rattle, and birds on my upward trek. The breeze sang through the ties that hung among the mountainside. The path became more treacherous closer to the summit, but I finally reached the top.


Words cannot describe what I felt once I was there. I fell to my knees and cried for what seemed an eternity. I don’t even know why I cried, maybe it was from exhaustion, maybe it was from being sick, maybe it was that I had actually made it, maybe it was the thought of all those who had been before me and those that will come after me, maybe it was the mountain’s power flowing through me…or the Great Spirit’s, maybe it was all of those things. Whatever the reason, I laid back, staring at the cloudless blue above me, and let it flow.

IMG_00591 IMG_0058 IMG_0059 IMG_0047I stayed up on top a while, exploring and just feeling what was around me. I admired the view and tried to make a few photographs of the area without getting the prayer ties in them.

The trip down wasn’t nearly as difficult as the trip up and I had a difficult time leaving. I really wanted to stay atop that mountain for a day or two, or longer.

I am so thankful this mountain is protected and I can certainly understand why Bear Butte is considered a sacred place, a gift from the Creator. I cannot say what all happened during my hike on this mountain. That’s between me and the Creator, but I can say I definitely will go back again before I leave this area.


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