The Black Hills of South Dakota

We had a great time visiting Jesse’s former boss in Rapid City – Rick and Susan Giesel and their dog Koda. We pulled the camper up to their front door but they insisted we stay inside their house! I’m not going to lie, the air conditioning felt great on the crazy hot summer days we got into! Gunner and Koda played like brothers – close and then territorial! Gunner appreciates running on nice green grass, it makes him so happy! Jesse has always admired Rick and really looked forward to our visit with them.

We tried to go into the Jewel Cave National Park outside of Rapid City, but they were booked pretty solid, and here’s the kicker, you have to book your ticket in person and they book up by 9am and you can only entire with a ticket. Jesse and I haven’t been too worried about things we miss out on, we say that we need to leave things for the “next trip” but it was disapointing.  We were able to hit up the Wind Cave National Park the next day and we got a cave tour in! The Black Hills are gorgeous and we were able to see a lot of buffalo in Custer State Park. We went on a great hike to Little Devils Tower that left from Sylvan Lake. Gunner loved it and there were great vistas and lots of rock scrambling. The boys and I had hiked this path a couple years ago and we were excited to take Jesse. And of course, we checked out Mount Rushmore, which we have done a handful of times, but it truly is splendid and makes me feel patriotic being there.

Susan had taken us on special “locals” hike to the Stratobowl, an area where one of the first hot manned high altitude balloons capable of stratospheric flight was launched. It was pretty surreal in its gorgeousness and historical significance and the dogs loved it as well. We came back and had a wonderful steak dinner with one of Rick and Susan’s friends as we talked late into the night!

Upon leaving Rapid City, we made a stop at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum on the Ellsworth Air Force Base. It was yet another great plane museum, they had a lot of airplanes on display outdoors so Gunner could see a bunch with us too. The guys were able to go on a Base tour and also tour the inside of a Minuteman II missile silo. Here at the end of our trip, in our own state, was one of the best tours!

On the long stretch of interstate highway that will lead us back to Sioux Falls, I begged Jesse to drive through the Bandlands National Park. Yes we have already visited it and it does make the drive even longer to get home but I would urge everyone to drive through it if they could! Around every turn is another beautiful view that you’d have no idea would be in South Dakota. The western side of South Dakota is breathtaking.

Our full circle road trip was just 2 days shy of 6 months. It truly started and ended at my cousin Janson Exner’s house outside of Sioux Falls. Janson, Cory and the girls were very helpful to us after we sold our house but before we left of the trip, and it was fitting that we ended back at their driveway. So many stories to tell, it was crazy to see much their girls had grown as well!


From here, a quick stop in Watertown, SD for another interview and then off to the Ottertail Lake to set up the camper for the summer. Hopefully something comes along for Jesse yet this summer, but if not, I have the fall itinerary already planned out. East Coast Baby! (MT)



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