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Black Hills

I’ve been to the Black Hills about a zillion times. No lie. A zillion. My first trip there was when I was about six. My mom was dating Bob, and the three of us, along with Bob’s two daughters, trekked out to that western edge of South Dakota from Minnesota. I have a few memories of the trip, such as accidentally dropping (and breaking) a unicorn figurine at Wall Drug (and yes, my mom then had to buy it for me and we glued it back together). I also recall us getting into Badlands National Park at night, setting up camp in the dark, and then waking to find our tent a little too close to rattlesnake holes. And I don’t really remember, but have photos of me snuggling burros in Custer State Park (while rocking’ a one-piece jumpsuit no less!… see right).

Fast forward about fifteen years, and my parents moved out there. They’d bought a house outside Custer in 2000 or 2001, and spent a couple years fixing it up. They’d planned to retire to it, but they ended up just getting sick of their jobs and moving out there early. It was paid for, and fairly cheap to maintain, so no biggie. They moved out there in 2003, when I was in college. I was furious with them for doing so, but after 3 or 4 visits out there within their first year there, I was smitten with the place. And I still am.

So it’s been almost 10 years since they made the move, and as I said before, I’ve been out there, like, a zillion times. I used to get out there twice a year (sometimes even more), but nowadays it’s usually just once. For the past few years, Jim and I have trekked out each summer, but after this last trip (in July), we’ve decided to push it back to fall in future years. The tourists are just too intense!

Anyway, this trip was fairly awesome for a few reasons. First and foremost, my mother and I actually didn’t argue… I think AT ALL. This is incredible. It helped that we spent very little time in a car together, which is usually when our bickering begins. Don’t get me wrong, my mother and I get along really well, but she undoubtedly pisses me off, and I her when we are in close quarters for any period of time extending past three days. Usually, it begins with politics. We know better than to talk of such things, but she just can’t help herself most of the time.

Also, this trip was pretty rad because Jim and I had to stay at the neighbor’s cabin. Usually we stay in a shack behind my parent’s house, but now that my mom has become a TNR feral cat queen, the shack has been taken over by kittens she is finding homes for. It is also a reloading room for Bob’s guns. So, we couldn’t stay there. They talked to the owners of the neighboring property (who only come out once or twice a year), and we were able to stay at their place… a lofted cabin with no electricity AND no water.

I’ve always seen that place across the pasture from my parent’s, but I expected a dumpy little place, but it was really nice! It did come with a few problems though, such as a lack of opening windows, and a door that can be accidentally left locked far too easily… like at 5 a.m. one morning when Jim and I both had to pee, so we climbed down the latter, out the front door, and peed on the front “lawn.” And then, we found ourselves locked out. The best part of this story is our clothing… or lack thereof. I was just in my undies with no shoes, and Jim was topless but with Spiderman pajama pants. He did have shoes on though, and that sealed his fate. Our only option was go get my mom and a key that she must have. Jim wanted me to go to do it and I scoffed at him. I’m gonna go walk across a pasture in my underwear, in the dark, with no shoes on, through an electric fence? He was delusional. He offered to give me his shoes, and I scoffed again. Yeah, I’m really gonna go do it in shoes eight sizes too big for me. So he walked over there, and about fifteen minutes later, my mom and him come out and walk back. My mom sees me standing there barefoot in my undies and just shakes her head. She gets the key (which is hidden on the property) and let’s us in.

The not-so-great part of the trip is that wildfires were raging, some a little too close for comfort. We had some plans that had to be scrapped because if we had to evacuate, we needed to be there to help out. Fortunately, the fires kept at bay, but it was eerie having that thick cloud of smoke hovering our our heads, both literally and figuratively.

As for adventures, we hiked Harney Peak, went to Badlands National Park (we went last year too), Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Mount Rushmore (we went two years ago too, but the tourist ogres are just so amazing that we had to go again), and Wind Cave National Park. The funny thing about Wind Cave is that it is only like 10 miles down the road from my parents. I had no idea it was there, despite my having driven past it probably 20 times before. Wind Cave was really neat. We’ve really become cave dorks this year, having gone to Carlsbad Caverns in January, Lehmann Caves back in June, and now Wind Cave. The odd but awesome thing about all these cave trips is that while you’d expect them to all be about the same, they are nothing but. They are as unique as mountain ranges and different kinds of rock. Maybe they look the same to some people, but they are in fact wildly different. Maybe a lot like the human face. Basically all the same, but so totally different at the same time.

As per usual on our trips, we budget vacation time through Sunday, but love the idea of getting home a day early so we can relax and take care of some business before the work week begins. Not surprisingly, we decided to that again, but this time we would detour through Colorado (you can only drive across Wyoming so many times before you want to shoot yourself in the face). So we headed south to Cheyenne and then crossed into Colorado. We stocked up our booze supply in Fort Collins and then drove through Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfortunately, the weather was less than ideal and the entire park was covered in clouds/fog. So the beautiful drive we were expecting was, well, totally and completely obscured by clouds. At the same time, it was very neat, and clouds did break open a little more once we got back to a lower elevation.

We continued to wind our way west, through mountains and forests, and finally into the desert across Dinosaur National Monument at sunset. We made it back home around 2 a.m. A long day, but worth having the entire Sunday at home.

Lots more pictures on my Flickr!

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