Tag Archives: South Dakota

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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The Farm I Didn’t Buy

Farm in South Dakota

When on the back roads to Mirror Lakes, I passed this beautiful farmland. It reminded me of the phrase, “bought the farm”, which has a meaning far different than actually purchasing a farm. However, I did chuckle as I thought  – there’s the farm I didn’t buy; but with its rolling hills, old farm buildings, rolls and rolls of hay, horses, and mountain range for a backdrop, it is certainly one I would love to have.

The setting is beautiful and being out of town, away from the chaos, is a welcoming reprieve. The long gravel road beside this little piece of heaven seems to remind you of a quieter, more peaceful time; surely less traveled than the paved roads throughout town.

Gravel road leading to the farmland.

The buildings! I absolutely loved the buildings. I wonder how old they are. I was tempted to drive up to the house and knock, but the gate was locked and I didn’t want to jump the fence and get locked up for trespassing, or worse…shot. The thought did cross my mind as I contemplated exploring those old buildings.

farm buildings
Old farm buildings
I wonder how old these are?
Love the rustic look.
A perfect setting.

The hay bales reminded me of home and my mom. She always wanted some pictures of her and bales. We need to find some when I get back home and get those pictures done for her. I will have to take away her excuses. If she had been with me on this trip, we would have taken advantage of one of these rolls! Probably the one that was on the edge of the fence, standing all alone.

Look at all the hay! This place is huge.
Hay bales….more and more hay bales.
For my mom.
hay bale farm
The lone greeter.


The horses were keeping a close eye on me, particularly the big one in the middle. I’m sure they were curious as to why a Floridian was way up here in the hills taken shots of their home.

Farm guardians

I’m glad I detoured off that main road and found this farm. It was absolutely perfect and I hope the owners know how blessed they are to have such a haven.

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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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Dancing and Naked Butts

Yesterday as I made my way to see the Crazy Horse Memorial and The Chapel in the Hills, I decided to take a quick detour to see the film set for Dances with Wolves. In reality,  when I saw the signs advertising it, I was hoping I would come across Kevin Costner along the creek….dancing…. naked. In fact, the thought of his naked butt is what caused me to swerve into the entrance like a mad woman.

Located just a short distance from Rapid City, Ft. Hayes boasts a Chuckwagon Supper if you’re so inclined to partake of a meal. The film set is located right next to the Chuckwagon. It is in the building where John Dunbar (Kevin) received his orders for his new post.
Dances With Wolves Film SetDances with Wolves Film Set building where Dunbar received new posting orders.

Inside, as you enter the hallway, there is a list of movies made in South Dakota; along with movie poster replicas. The earliest on the list was released in 1914! Hollywood sure loves this state.

South Dakota Film ListMovies Filmed in South DakotaMoving through the hallway, you enter the room where John received his new posting orders, as well as where Major Fambrough shoots himself in the head after signing the papers. The bullet hole is in the window pane.

Bullet hole.

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If you want to see a quick walk-through video of this building, I posted a brief one on youtube. You can view it here.

As you leave the film museum building, the Trading post is the next and it is filled with souvenir type items. Some of the items are Native American made while the others are general items you can pick up anywhere. I found a few souvenirs to send back home to Brooke and the grands. I think they are going to love the items!

There is a coffin on the front porch that caught my eye. Good thing I don’t have room for it or it would have been purchased!

Located at Ft Hayes. Part of the Dancing With Wolves film set set-up.
Located at Ft Hayes. Part of the Dancing With Wolves film set set-up.

As you continue around the boardwalk there are several other buildings. I really liked the post office and the wall covered in stamps was interesting.

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I didn’t try the Chuckwagon meal since it was pretty early in the day and I just wasn’t ready to eat. I would like to have seen the staff dressed in period clothing and it would have made it more authentic looking had the signs, like Greg’s Knives, been made from wood or something to fit the scenery better. All in all, this was a neat little stop to make along the way to my original destination. It is free to see, so I do recommend it.

All in all, this was a neat little stop to make along the way to my original destination. It is free to see, so I do recommend it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet Kevin Costner, naked or otherwise, maybe next time.


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