River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018

River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018
River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Capitol, A Flaming Fountain, A Stockade, and Hot Springs - Saturday, June 3, 2017

If you thought yesterday was busy, wait until you hear about today. Last night we stayed at Baymont Inn and Suites in Pierre, South Dakota. It was nice enough. The rooms were huge and had refrigerators and microwaves. It had rained overnight, but this morning is cool and fresh. We decided to start our walk at 7 a.m. and only do a 5k so we could hit the road.

The weekend walk start point was at a hotel across the street. We drove over in the van, traipsed across the parking lot, and asked the front desk clerk for the "Walk Box." He looked at us as if we were speaking a foreign language. We had to repeat it and then describe what the walk box looked like...usually a plastic file box with large "Walk Box" labels on the front and back. He obviously had never heard of it. {{{Insert frowning face here.}}}

Well, we were here and we were determined to do the walk. At least the clerk had a city map and showed us how to get to the Capitol. A walk there, down to Capital Lake and back would be just about 5k. Off we went, map in hand.

Let me insert here: When I think of a capital city, and from the capitals we've seen so far, there is usually a pretty large population base. Not so in South Dakota. Pierre's population is a little over 13,000.

On the way to the capital, there were a couple of cute things, in addition to sculptures of each governor from the state.
I like the play on words using "Prairie Potters"
instead of Harry Potter
Quilt store (NOT a governor from the state)

Our first view of the Capitol
Up close and personal
No matter what size the capital city is, the Capitol itself seems pretty impressive. We were too early for it to be open, so we satisfied ourselves by poking around the grounds down to Capitol Lake.

A history marker tells us about the capital. 
"South Dakota's capitol is a fine example of Renaissance Revival architecture. Exterior features include a copper dome and graceful Corinthian columns. A grand marble staircase, faux marble columns, colorful stained glass ceilings, and mosaic tile floors grace the interior."
Very imposing, indeed
Fighting Stallions Memorial
The "Fighting Stallions Memorial" below commemorates eight South Dakotans who perished in an airplane crash April 19, 1993. The state plane crashed due to propeller assembly failure in poor weather. Five state employees including the Governor and three Sioux Falls corporate leaders were on an economic development mission to the largest agricultural processing employer in South Dakota. 

"Fighting Stallions" is enlarged in bronze from the 1935 mahogany carving by South Dakota sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. The sculpture was selected because it symbolically represents South Dakota's struggle to overcome adversity, desire for achievement, and courage to believe in the future. (Information comes from a plaque at the base of the sculpture.)

Below: South Dakota World War II Warriors: They fought for flag, for country, for us.

Darren and Susan at war memorial overlooking Capitol Lake
The lovely Capitol Lake below was built in 1913. The 92-degree water comes from a natural artesian well. The lake is the site for South Dakota's service memorials to veterans, law enforcement officers, and firefighters. The warm water never freezes, making it home to thousands of geese and other waterfowl during the winter.

I could not see the flame in the flaming fountain.
Pierre's old downtown

Today was a bonanza in the wildlife-sighting department. It started out with this little rabbit trying to decide if it should jump the form and cross the street or hightail it back to where it had been. A car was coming down the street and we were rooting for it to go back. This little guy was smart and turned tail back the way he had come.
This is the only way I would ever "shoot" a bunny!
At the end of the walk, we went past our hotel and I went back to the room to finish packing while Darren and Susan went to pick up their van from the hotel. When they went back into the starting point hotel, another employee had come on duty who knew where the Walk Box lived. Susan and Darren were able to get their Volksmarch books stamped. (Note: Susan is the AVA Southwest Regional Director [Texas, New Mexico] and she was able to make a stamp to stamp my books. Yay!)

We immediately loaded the van and headed to Custer, South Dakota. We had lots to do there. As soon as we arrived in Custer, we went to the grocery store that was the start point for the walk, signed in, went to the Chamber of Commerce to get our $4 (each) pass to use the Mickelson Bike Trail. 

Buffalo Bill bison at Chamber
Of course it was lunch time, so before we started the 11k (6.8 mile) walk, we headed across the street to Baker's Bakery for lunch. The meal was very good. Their logo is cute. Didn't have room for dessert, but the blueberry cheesecake, brownies, cookies, and seven-layer bars looked divine.

After lunch we went directly to the Gorton Stockade section of the Mickelson Rails-to-Trails path. The temperature was in the high 80s and the trail was asphalt with very little shade. Every once in a while we'd get a breeze which felt  good!

The trail followed alongside highway 16A on the way to Custer State Park so there was traffic noise the whole way. The scenery, however, was spectacular. We did pass a prairie dog town en route and it was fun to listen to them squeak their warning cries.

Mickelson bike path
Prairie dog sounding the alarm

LOVED the scenery!

On the trail we passed by the motel where we were supposed to spend the night. It looked like a lot of construction workers were staying there as there was construction equipment, along with pick-up trucks taking up most of their parking lot. The place looked sketchy at best, closed at worst.

About 1/4 mile down the road, we passed an adorable place called Calamity Peak Lodge. Here are some photos of it.

Calamity Peak Lodge
Susan and Darren on the path's bridge
in front of Calamity Peak Lodge
We slogged along the boring bike trail hoping for a cool visitor center at Gorton Stockade. It wasn't to be. There was a small stockade by a pretty lake, and a few historical markers. It took us maybe 15 minutes to look at everything. NO visitor center, but there was an outhouse. Woo hoo.

Mickelson Trail to Gorton Stockade
Gorton Stockade (yes, that's all of it)
I was more interested in the bird than the stockade
(this is Stockade Lake)
You can see how tall the walls are
Susan checking out the stockade
Darren and Susan inside the stockade
Susan and I making ourselves at home
My favorite view (looking out of the stockade)
We returned to Custer the way we had arrived, walking back to retrieve Susan and Darren's van at the grocery store. It was after 3 p.m. so it was time for us to check into our motel, Mystic Valley Inn. I'm mentioning the name of this motel so what happened to us won't happen to you. Here's the story:

I booked two rooms at Mystic Valley Inn on August 19, 2016 through hotels.com. An immediate confirmation was sent to me when I booked the rooms and then three days before our arrival date, I received a re-confirmation from hotels.com for Mystic Valley Inn--Valley Motel. 

In addition, I tried multiple times to call Mystic Valley Inn on my own to reconfirm, but no one ever answered. I had a bad feeling about it, but thought maybe they were short staffed and were out cleaning rooms or something. The phone wasn't disconnected, but there was no answering machine either.

Remember, we walked by this place earlier today and it looked like it was inhabited by construction workers with equipment parked in the lot? When we drove up, Susan went to the office and knocked on the door. No one answered. We looked in the office window and the whole room was torn apart to be remodeled, we guessed. We looked in guest room windows and none had beds made or looked like anyone had stayed in them for quite some time. 

Plan B: Do you also remember we walked past Calamity Peak Lodge? After the debacle above, we drove 1/4 mile down the road and stopped in the Calamity Peak Lodge office to find out if they had any rooms available. Turns out they did as two different Volksmarch parties had canceled. They had a two-bedroom suite with a full kitchen. The price for us to split the room was less expensive than the price for two rooms at Mystic Valley Inn. We took it. What a great place. The three of us were ecstatic and everything worked out for the best. No advance deposit had been paid to Mystic Valley Inn so we weren't out any money for that.

Here are more photos of Calamity Peak Lodge...It is very convenient to Custer, South Dakota, and Custer State Park. (Oh, and close to the Gorton Stockade. LOL.)
Calamity Peak Lodge and grounds

Calamity Peak Lodge setting
View from Calamity Peak Lodge
Each room has its own outside BBQ, table and chairs
Calamity Peak Lodge office
We stowed all our belongings in the room and took off immediately; still lots to do today. Wind Cave National Park was on our respective bucket lists so we went to the Visitor Center to see about going on a tour. All tours were sold out for the rest of the day. They told us the next day started summer hours and they would have tours throughout the day. Susan shopped in their Visitor Center and "adopted" a bison--a 16-year-old female which she named Cassiopeia. She gets a stuffed animal out of the deal and updates on "her" bison sent to her email. That was our rather rapid in-and-out of Wind Cave National Park. 

One more walk for us today: 5k (3.1 mi.) historic Hot Springs city walk. What a walk and what a beautiful day for it! This place deserves a repeat visit to spend more time. Everywhere we looked we were surprised by something: a building on a cliff that looked like a castle, pink sandstone buildings, steep stairs in multiple places so you can hike to the top of the cliffs. 

They could do a stair-stepper Volksmarch in this town! Then everyone could go to the warm pool to ease their aching muscles at the end of the stair-stepper challenge. 
Hot Springs, South Dakota
Susan and I were talking away, looking at the walk directions, when Darren said, "Stop! Don't go there!!" 

"Why?" we asked. 

"Because there's a big snake there, didn't you see it?" 

No, neither one of us had. The snake was about 8' long. Thankfully, it was not a poisonous snake. 

The police officer that we reported the snake to and showed the photo to, thought it was a bull snake. He said it would still hurt if it bit us. He was going to go track it down (at least that's what he told us.)

Bull snake in front of the post office.
Bull snake at the bottom of the post office steps.
Colorful buffalo mural in Hot Springs, SD
Old storefronts
This buffalo made it to the roof!

Fun to read.
In case you need to know this for Jeopardy!
Smallest Union Depot in the world
Does anyone know what kind of flowers these are. I LOVE them!! Found out they are clematis. [Thank you, Patricia Hotchkiss for the I.D.]

WOW!! Clematis.
While on our walk, we stopped at a Chinese buffet restaurant for dinner. It was Saturday night and the town was dead. There were four people in the restaurant when we went in. Those people left and we were the only four eating dinner. I didn't really care for the food. Two of my deep-fried shrimp had the shells on them. Ptui! After dinner, two doors down, was an ice cream parlor where I had dessert to get the bad taste of the Chinese food out of my mouth. The ice cream was memorable--some kind of sea salt, caramel, chocolate chunk variety.

Look at these rocks and layering
A long, long time ago, people would come from all over to "take the waters." In other words, they would soak in these high-mineral-content waters to soothe what ailed them. The sign below analyzes what's in the water.

A waterfall with no name
Susan is retired from the Army, and Darren from
the Air Force...a fitting sign for them
Part of a large mural on the VFW building
The beautiful creek that flows through Hot Springs, SD
We headed back to our cute room in Custer but only long enough to freshen up. We wanted to make it to Mt. Rushmore for the night-time history movie of each president up there, the lighting of the faces, and the honoring of military personnel present that night. It was 50 miles one way to Mt. Rushmore from our motel. ETA back to the lodge: 11:10 p.m. 

That was our Saturday. We all slept soundly Saturday night! Up and at 'em early Sunday morning. We want to start the Crazy Horse Volksmarch right at 8:00 a.m. (along with hundreds of our closest friends). Who's the crazy one?

[Note:All opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own. You need to make up your own mind on what you think.]


  1. I believe the flowers are clematis. They are beautiful and come in many colors. I don't have them at my home but I have seen them and they are one of my favorite flowers!

  2. Aaahhh.....my old hometown stomping grounds! My mom grew up in Pierre, SD (hopefully you learned the right way to say Pierre - it's NOT pronounced like a French guy's name). I grew up in the Black Hills and always spend time in Custer State Park when I'm home visiting. My sister and niece did this year's Crazy Horse volksmarch.

    1. Hi Linda, Yes, I learned how to pronounce Pierre as Peer when I worked at AAA in downtown Portland many years ago.

      That is such a beautiful area. You were lucky to have such lovely stomping grounds.


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