Best Laid Plans………..

Even with diligent planning and preparing, a trip can look amazing and adventurous on paper but the reality turns out to be a huge disappointment. Such as we learned this past July, when we decided to test our adventurous nature and stay in an 1880’s homestead. No running water, no electricity, out in the middle of nowhere in Interior, SD just south of Badlands National Park. The homestead sits on a family farm, about fifty yards from the White River. The weather forecast for that weekend was topping at around 100 degrees for a high and 80’s for a low.

No electricity? No problem! We have a badass camping lantern. No running water? No problem. We have the river close by and we bought some Dude Wipes, yes that’s right, Dude Wipes for a wet nap shower. We also bought some backpacker meals, firewood, a small pot and about 6 gallons of water. We were ready. We were pumped. This was definitely going to be a unique experience.

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The beautiful view driving down to the Homestead.

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1880’s Homestead

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1880’s Homestead

But little did we know, that fate had its own plan for us. The drive down to the homestead was absolutely breathtaking. A winding river valley, lush and green and rolling hills. It was very picturesque. Finally, the moment has arrived! We were there! We got out of the car and started walking towards the homestead, when suddenly we were attacked! It initially started off slow, but the more we disturbed the grass the more vicious it became. We were being attacked from every direction, we couldn’t escape! We were surrounded with no way out! I ran back to the car and grabbed the only weapon I had. I couldn’t see them so I blindly aimed………..then pulled the trigger. I doused myself with as much Off repellant as I could stand. Then I courageously ran back to my husband to save him from those blood sucking little demons.

It helped, a little. We stepped inside the homestead hoping for a reprieve from the massacre. There were screens on the homestead windows, but there was no breeze so it was like sitting in a sauna. The screens also were full of holes so, you guessed it, there were mosquitoes in there too.

Now normally, the Badlands and surrounding areas don’t receive much rain. They have a more desert like environment. But this year was a very wet season which creates the perfect environment for mosquitoes to breed.

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Lush, Green Badlands

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Seriously, they’re never this green!

At that point we weren’t sure what we were going to do. There was no way to cook our food in the homestead, so we’d have to go outside and build a fire at some point. We thought perhaps, a fire would deter the mosquitoes. But we were wrong. We barely got the fire lit. Well, maybe since it was so hot, we’d hang out in the river to cool off. Remember how I said, it had been a really wet season? Yep, the river was flooded and moving pretty fast. So, no swimming on this trip. And unfortunately, when I’m bitten by a mosquito, the site welts up to the size of a silver dollar and I already had three large welts forming on the back of my arm.

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Flooded White River

We were defeated. We were literally soaked in bug spray. The little bastards must have been some mutant hybrid demon, that our puny mortal bug spray had no effect on. So, we decided to move on.

We looked nearby for different lodging, but what we found was either full or just a little to sketch for our taste. So inevitably I started looking online for lodging in Rapid City. And I found the perfect place. The place that would make up for the whole horrible start to our vacation. Glamping!

So, at this point our trip took a complete 180. We went from roughing it with no running water or electricity to a canvas tent with a king size bed and private bathroom. We had stayed at Under Canvas in Keystone last year and loved it, so we couldn’t wait to experience it again. And guess what? There were no mosquitoes there! Hooray! We still ate our backpacker meals, we just didn’t have to boil our own water. They were actually pretty tasty and very easy to clean up. IMG_2025IMG_1892IMG_1894IMG_1909

The next morning we were up early and headed for Custer State Park to find the buffalo. The last time we’d driven through the park we didn’t get to see them at all. So this time we were determined. The drive is beautiful early in the morning. We only saw 2 other vehicles out for a drive. When we were about halfway through the park we stopped at a visitor center and they gave us an approximate location for the buffalo and the mules that call the park home. And we found them! Although they were not that close to the road, they were still close enough that you could hear them grunting. 

Now this can’t be said enough. Buffalo are not the lovable, docile creatures they appear to be. Buffalo and very grumpy and will knock your ass down if you encroach their personal space. Now, as I’m writing this, I’m starting to see a stark similarity between the buffalo and me when it comes to personal space. Hhmmm.  So, I guess you could say that buffalo are my spirit animal. Keep your distance!

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Buffalo in Custer State Park

After leaving the buffalo, we headed in the direction where the mules were said to be hanging out. Just like in Yellowstone, there was a traffic jam where the mules were hanging. There were multiple families with kids feeding the mules apples and granola. A word to the wise, the mules get a little aggressive when there’s food around and will push their way in to grab some. So keep and eye on your surroundings and watch your fingers! If your fingers are in the way when they come in for a bite, they will get you! Not on purpose of course.

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Custer State Park Mules

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Custer State Park Mules

Even though I didn’t have food for them and they didn’t want anything to do with me because of it, I still managed to get two of the greatest selfies I have ever taken!

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Best selfie ever!

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Second best selfie ever!

The rest of our trip was spent relaxing and driving the winding mountain roads. We took a drive on needles highway and stopped for a short hike. We eventually ended up in Hill City and stopped by Prairie Berry for lunch and then over to Miner Brewing Company for a couple drinks.

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The eye of the needle.

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Flight at Miner Brewing, Hill City, SD

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Lounge area at Miner Brewing, Hill City, SD

Robert Burns said it best “The best laid schemes of Mice and Men often go awry. And leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy”. We left for the weekend with one adventure planned and ended up having a completely different one. Fortunately, it turned out to be a pretty great experience compared to how it had started.


Well, Glamp Me Speechless

Nestled into the woods just outside of Keystone, SD, lies a haven.  A haven that brings camping in the woods up to an entirely different level. A level high above sleeping on the ground in a pile of pine needles and pooping into a hole in the ground. Now, I know some people think that this isn’t real camping unless you’re hauling your own gear through the woods and pitching your own tent, sleeping in the dirt and building your own fires. Well, let me just stop you right there so that I can inform you that after you’ve surpassed that milestone age of thirty you tend to wake up with stiff necks, achy backs and extreme exhaustion from sleeping on the ground. At least, if you’re me you do, which makes the thought of camping in a tent sound absolutely awful. So don’t discount this new era of ‘glamping’ until you’ve at least given it a try.

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We kept driving up and up, following these tiny little signs and cairns, not sure how long it was going to take us to get there. Finally, we came around a bend in the road and starting seeing these canvas structures of all different sizes peppered throughout the landscape. We really had no idea what to expect when we got out of our car. But everything from the check in to check out was pretty amazing. A very friendly hipster from the east coast gave us a very warm welcome and tour of the property. He hauled us and our bags to the tent in a golf cart and was able to provide a power source for Reed’s bi-pap machine since there’s no electricity in the tents.

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The night we got there was chilly and rainy, but there was no shortage of warmth around us. There’s a small restaurant in the visitor tent. They have a very limited menu, but everything on it is executed very well. After we dropped off our bags, we headed over to the restaurant for supper. I ordered the grilled trout with vegetables and Reed had the flank steak with fries. Both were amazing. Even more amazing, we ate our supper just outside the visitor tent and were able to watch the sun set over Mt. Rushmore while we dined. Breathtaking.

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Sun setting over Mt. Rushmore.

There are a number of tent options available through Under Canvas Mt. Rushmore. Some come with a private bathroom and some don’t. The option we chose was called the Stargazer. It was given this name, because you can literally lie in bed and watch the stars through the Plexiglas area above your head. It was cloudy and rainy during our stay, but the clouds did clear enough that we were able to see the big dipper, which was still pretty awesome.

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The tents themselves are pretty spectacular. After pulling back the canvas flaps, you walk into an element of luxury you don’t usually equate with the great outdoors. The tents have wall to wall wood floors, a kind sized bed, comfy leather chairs, a wood burning stove and a beautiful cow skin rug to finish it off.

This place is the epitome of relaxation and comfort. The beds are amazingly comfortable and with 2 comforters and an extra blanket you’ll never get cold. The 24-hour coffee, tea and hot chocolate bar is an added bonus as well. You can even arrange to have coffee delivered to your tent in the morning! A community fire pit is set just down the hill from the visitor center. It’s fully stocked with everything needed to make your own s’mores. Bottom line is, we had an amazing stay. The only downside was that it was only for one night. We will definitely be back for a longer stay.