A Taste of Fall

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Saturday morning, we decided to go for a hike in the Black Hills. With snow in the forecast today, we wanted to take advantage of the nice weather. Our destination was Cathedral Spires, a short out-and-back that was less than 2.5 miles total. What it lacked in distance it made up for in scenery! Plus, it was cold AF, so that was long enough.

I know not everybody is enjoying fall-like weather and colorful foliage, but leaves are at their peak around here. They probably won’t be around much longer, so I’m glad we got out when we did. Here’s a taste of fall for those still enduring summer-like weather. I may have winter pics in a few days at this rate!

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And then all hail broke loose…

I’ve said it before, though never using a fruit analogy: the weather here is bananas.

Take Tuesday, for instance. Our day started out quietly enough; we decided to go for a hike along the Sunday Gulch Trail in Custer State Park. Can I just say how different the trails are out here? No ferns or towering Douglas firs, but lots of Ponderosa pines and spruce trees, and quartz, mica, and obsidian deposits so abundant they make me want to take up rock collecting. Also: no bags of dog shit scattered about. And the scenery! It. Is. Incredible.

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This particular hike was like none I’d ever done before. You descend into a forest, cross a stream, and then there’s a steep scramble up rocks that are covered in cascading water. It was tougher than anticipated, but well worth the effort!

During our hike, I made a remark about how unfortunate it would be to get caught in a thunderstorm. No sooner had the words left my mouth than towering dark clouds rolled in, followed by rumbling thunder. Luckily, it wasn’t anything too bad; we got a little wet but were otherwise none the worse for wear.

Worse for wear came later.

After hanging out at Sylvan Lake for a little bit, we drove out to Hill City to stop at Prairie Berry Winery for lunch. We decided to eat on their covered patio, and were midway through our meal when all hail broke loose. Literally. One moment it was quiet; the next, thunder roared, lightning flashed, and a drenching rain – accompanied by hail the size of ping pong balls – came crashing to earth. It was so loud under the tent it sounded like a freight train. Suddenly, there was a river of hail sweeping through the place, and it piled up about 2′ high under the gutter. That’s feet, not inches.

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The temperature dropped about 30 degrees and we were suddenly shivering, so we made our way inside to find staff members mopping up water that was seeping into the place. And then on the way out, they were shoveling it off the sidewalk as if it were snow. Unreal!

I posted a video of the hail on Facebook; feel free to check it out for yourself!

Once the hail started coming down like that, I knew my car wasn’t going to come through unscathed. Sure enough, it’s all dinged up now. Which sucks, but at least the damage is only cosmetic. As one local on Instagram commented, “Your South Dakota christening! Now your car blends right in with the rest of us!” And while I’m busy counting blessings, thank god the storm that rolled through when we were hiking wasn’t anywhere near as bad.

So Rapid City has 5.00″ of rain so far this month. The normal is 1.00″. Crazy, huh? And we still have 11 days to go.

Sure makes for a pretty sky, though…

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In other, non-weather-related happenings, we took a trip out to Deadwood last Sunday. I think I mentioned that we’ve been catching up on the HBO series Deadwood, a perk of Amazon Prime, so it was pretty cool to hang out where all the real-life action took place and learn more about Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Seth Bullock. The highlight was the Mount Moriah Cemetery, where all three are buried. Calamity Jane’s dying wish was to be buried alongside ol’ Bill, and she got what she wanted.

We have also discovered the wonders of Thursday nights in downtown Rapid City, where there are dueling entertainment options through August: concerts in Main Street Square, and more concerts on the Summer Nights stage on blocked-off St. Joseph Street. And here I thought our music-going days were finished! Last night we grabbed dinner at Que Pasa and then hung out in the square, drinking beer and rocking out to an 80s cover band. By the end of their third set we were actually dancing in front of the stage. Afterwards, we headed over to Press Start and totally continued the 80s theme by sinking quarters into video arcade games. They have a Tempest machine – my all-time favorite. We’re having so much fun here!

One more quick thing to report: Tara was offered a job this morning and accepted!! She made it look real easy, huh? She’ll be a commercial loan processor for a local community bank and is pretty excited for the opportunity. Since she’ll be working F/T and won’t have any PTO for a while, she’s going to zip down to Nevada for a few days to visit family and see her new nephew. Leaving tomorrow, returning Thursday. Which means I’m on my own, I guess.

If only there were fun things to do around here…

Mystery Solved

Remember the mystery animal cracker that appeared out of nowhere on my parents’ front porch, leaving me and Tara befuddled and a little bit creeped out? We have an explanation, and sadly it involves neither ghosts nor aliens. My brother had texted me and said, “Hey, I think dad eats animal crackers all the time! Check with him.” So I did, and he does. Much to my chagrin. It didn’t take much sleuthing to figure out that he’d been eating them in his recliner, dropped one that fell between the cushions, and when we dragged the chair to the curb that afternoon because a stranger was on his way to pick it up, the cracker must have dislodged itself and fallen onto the welcome mat, which perfectly explains why it had not been there before. As proud as I am of our Sherlock Holmes deductive reasoning, I’m bummed that we debunked any possible paranormal activity. I always want the world to be weirder than it is.

Oh, well. The incident inspired me to write about synchronicity, a pretty interesting (and illogical) topic in its own right, so all was not for naught.

Speaking of synchronicity, I’m kind of amazed at the way dates are lining up for me. Not dates with other women – Tara might not approve – but rather, calendar dates. Our move is coinciding remarkably well with my 2011 road trip, and it’s completely unintentional. Consider the following:

  • I set out on the afternoon of June 22 and spent the first night in Spokane. We are setting out on the afternoon of June 22 and spending the first night in Spokane.
  • I drove from Spokane to Billings, MT on June 23 and spent the night there. We are driving from Spokane to Billings, MT on June 23 and spending the night there.
  • I arrived in Rapid City early in the afternoon on June 24 and checked into the Super 8 on Rushmore Road. We arrive in Rapid City early in the afternoon on June 24 and are checking into the Super 8 on Rushmore Road.

There were crazy thunderstorms a few hours after I arrived, so if this pattern continues, I guess we can expect to be greeted by some interesting weather. We shall see.


Still no change with Sydney: she just absolutely refuses to eat or drink. We are basically forcing her to swallow water through a syringe. Trust me, this is not nearly as fun as it sounds.

And yes, I know. It doesn’t sound fun at all.

The vet is still convinced it’s all stress related to the move. We told her we cannot afford to run any more tests, and she says doing so would be useless anyway, because they have all come back normal.

She still curls up on our laps, and purrs when we pet her. Other than giving us the stink eye after trying to force feed her – and the fact that she refuses all food and water in the first place – she seems okay.

So, we just don’t know. The vet is going to check in with us again on Friday.


When we decided to move to South Dakota and I began researching hiking opportunities, I was excited (and relieved) to learn there are no bears in the Black Hills. I have long been afraid of encountering a bear while hiking through the forests of the PNW, so I figured this was one less thing to worry about.

And then, a couple of days ago, some poor sap was golfing in Spearfish, SD, when he was bit by a rattlesnake and died.

Umm, what?!

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Great. A new source of nightmares.

Turns out the prairie rattlesnake is common throughout South Dakota, including the Black Hills. Hmm…that was news to this former resident. Hikers are urged to exercise caution when out and about, especially this time of year.

I guess I’m trading in one phobia for another.

Countdown: 9 Days

Hamilton: The Mountain

I’m sitting in my living room drinking a Bloody Mary and listening to an Acoustic Covers playlist on Spotify. Imagine “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” slowed down 90% and sung in a breathy whisper and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the music sounds like. I am planning on a very chill day because yesterday nearly killed me.

Or at least my knees, which apparently are not used to being worked out to such an extreme. I am grunting and wincing in pain every time I get up. I sound like an old man, much to my own dismay. But it’s totally worth it, because yesterday turned out to be a near-perfect day.

I decided to go climb a mountain. All week I’d debated what to do with myself this weekend; Tara is in Nevada for her grandfather’s funeral (RIP Cecil) and I couldn’t take that much time off from work before our move – PTO is like gold at this point – so I stayed behind. I finally settled on the idea of a good ol’ fashioned hike. Ironically, I ruled out the one I really wanted to do up by Mount Hood because I thought the weather might be bad. Ha.

I got to Beacon Rock nice and early, 9:30 a.m., and set my sights on Hamilton Mountain, a 2,438’ peak that I’d climbed a few times in the past. I could not help but notice that the peak was covered in snow.

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My destination: the top of Hamilton Mountain.

This wasn’t entirely a surprise; it’s been cold here the past few days, and we’ve had some snow in the foothills, so I’d come prepared with my Stabilicers® shoe traction devices and gloves. The trail started out wet and muddy, but as I climbed in elevation snow started to appear on the trail and blanketing the evergreen limbs. By the time I reached the summit, I was trudging through foot-deep snow, and everything was covered in white. It sure was pretty.

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Trail to the summit.

The clouds were darkening to the west, and I could tell a storm was moving in. Sure enough, right as I began the 3.5-mile trek back from the summit, it started to snow. Just a few light flurries at first, but the storm picked up in intensity and suddenly I found myself traversing an exposed ridge in the midst of an honest-to-god snowstorm. Talk about a rush!

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Table Mountain, from the summit of Hamilton Mountain

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All signs point to snow.

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I was caught on this exposed ridgeline in a surprise snowstorm.

Luckily I was prepared. My Stabilicers® (love the name, btw) gripped the trail confidently, and I was able to enjoy the majesty of a winter wonderland in March. You east coasters might be sick of snow by now, but I was one happy camper. I figured I was getting myself acclimated so those brutal South Dakota winters don’t kill me.

The closer to sea level I descended, the less deep the snow was. Eventually it gave way to a wet and muddy trail. Seven miles after setting out I arrived back at the truck, my thighs and knees screaming in agony from the effort. I drove myself ten minutes to Stevenson, where I stopped by Big River Grill for a late lunch and cocktail, figuring I’d earned myself a nice reward.

I drove home afterwards and the first thing I did was took a long, hot shower. It felt amazing. Talked to Tara for a bit, and even got to join in on a toast to her grandfather via the magic of video. I mixed myself up a Moscow Mule and parked my ass on the recliner, where I watched a Netflix documentary on WWII. Made myself dinner – a fried pork chop, paprika potatoes, and spinach, an old favorite I hadn’t cooked in years.

Because my muscles were screaming at me, I decided to borrow an Advil PM from Tara’s stash, but wasn’t thinking clearly and for some reason took two. I didn’t even realize my mistake until I woke up this morning at 7:30 – late for me – and was feeling super groggy. It took a good couple of hours until I actually felt awake.

So today is going to be a rare relaxing day for me. I’ll watch some TV, work on editing my book a bit. I’m craving Mexican food so I think I’ll walk down to Muchas Gracias later to pick up a quesadilla or somethin’. Otherwise, I’m not budging from this very comfortable spot.

Here are some more pics from yesterday’s adventure.

Countdown: 90 Days