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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Black Hills of South Dakota

This is a bit outside the four-state scope this blog was intended to cover, but I wanted to share something from my travels. I recently had the opportunity to visit Custer State Park, the town of Custer, Rapid City, and the spaces along I-90 as I crossed South Dakota. Wow.What a gorgeous area and a wonderful place to spend some time. From the grasslands to the Black Hills there is a lot to admire. There is so much to see and do, particularly in and around Custer State Park, that it's hard to choose where to go and what to do first. Additionally, it's a nice environment in which to gain some quiet time for reflection and writing, to simply sit back and relax, admire the stars, the pine trees, and the fresh air.

Be aware,depending on your cell phone carrier, cell coverage may be sporadic or nonexistent in places. That means that if you have your work-in-progress (WIP) stored in the cloud, bring a working copy of it back to the earth and put it on a flash drive before you go, just in case you go into an area that doesn't have WiFi. Yes. Those places still exist.

Over a week, while there working, I had a chance to get out and drive around the area. There are a variety of options for writers looking for some quiet time in a spectacularly-beautiful setting. The choices for accommodations range from traditional campsites, to hotels, and cabins. The most affordable option is, as usual, taking along your own RV or camping gear and roughing it a little. Your definition of "roughing" it may be different than mine, but if you're looking for a truly rustic experience you can find it there.

The park is a busy one, with a two-lane state highway to carry you safely through it, even after a snow. Heed the speed limits carefully, and enjoy the slower pace. Don't worry if it snows, however, the state folks have snow removal down to an art, I believe. I was able to experience that first hand. There was an unexpected snow storm that began the day I arrived. It eventually laid down over a foot of heavy, wet snow, which resulted in a two-day power outage with intermittent periods of the electricity. I was impressed to see one of the local school buses running, after the first eight inches of snow had fallen. Ours here locally shut down if even two or three inches is expected.

Recharging power is one thing to consider, even traveling there in May, or later. Unexpected weather happens. Take along enough gear to keep you warm, if you travel there in advance of the "warm season," which is approximately June through September. You will also want to be sure you take along a flashlight or lantern to light your way. External lighting is kept to a minimum within the park to preserve the natural setting. It is also recommended you take along a solar recharger in the event the power goes off and you need to recharge your phone, e-reader, or laptop. Fuel up your car before entering the park. There is a gas station on Highway 16A,  before you enter the park, and others in Custer on the other side, but none within the park, that I found. You can always start and run your car to recharge devices. If using your car to recharge your laptop you will likely need a small inverter that runs off your 12V plug.

I met a lot of very nice people while I was there. As I was working, I didn't have the time I hoped to thoroughly explore all the park had to offer, but I can say that I would highly recommend it as a writer's destination. If you want to take your chances with winter conditions popping up, try visiting April-May, the preseason. While the park is a busy one, and during the daytime the highway has a steady flow of traffic, things quiet down at night and it is still a very restful location. I was there preseason and therefore the park was not hosting quite as many visitors as it does in the summer. I'd recommend that as the ideal time for a writer's getaway, unless it's social interaction you seek, too.

If you're looking to add some natural experiences to your story, remember that if you go out for a hike or bike to gather your thoughts and take some photographs, the buffalo, deer, turkeys, and other animals are free-roaming there. View from a distance and let the zoom lens on your camera or camcorder get you up close. Don't forget to take some time out from your writing to visit Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument, as well as the more rustic spots the park has to offer. Take your time, don't rush, and enjoy the venue.

Hazard Warning: It's so beautiful there you may be tempted to extend your retreat indefinitely.

Here's a map of the campground and more information about Custer State Park.