Make it Monumental

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There are few things more American than Mount Rushmore National Memorial. That’s why a number of newly naturalized American citizens choose the monument as a backdrop as they take the Oath of Allegiance to their new home.

Last week, 184 new citizens took the Oath of Allegiance during a ceremony attended by more than 700 people. There was a great story about the ceremony in the Rapid City Journal. The new citizens were from 49 countries. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken presided over the ceremony.

Tourists who happened to be visiting the Shrine of Democracy got a bonus. As “God Bless America” played on the sound system, new citizens crossed the stage. Perhaps they, too, left with a deeper understanding of what it means to be an American.

The Black Hills are named because they appear as a dark horizon when seen from the surrounding prairies. But they are actually green. And this spring, the Black Hills are incredibly green. Coming out of winter, it seemed we were headed for a dry summer. But in May, it started raining. ... And raining.

Cathedral Spires copy

Cathedral Spires is one of the most beautiful rock formations in Custer State Park, and you can get a pretty close look at them from the Needles Highway just off Iron Mountain Road between the park and Keystone.

The Spires are also a popular destination from rock climbers all over the world. One climbing website noted that the nine spires have roughly 75 summits, and most routes lead to awesome small summit perches. The climbing routes have fanciful names such as God’s Own Drunk, Cat’s Meow, Highly Suspicious and Hang a Right at Fourth Avenue.

Even if you don’t know a pitch from a piton, you too can try your hand at rock climbing in the Black Hills. Sylvan Rocks Climbing School & Guide Service will take you up, show you the basics and let you feel the rock beneath your fingers — safely.

Memorial Day weekend

Tuesday 12, May 2015

Keystone downtown800Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start of the summer travel season, especially for places such as Keystone. Thousands of visitors arrive, kids in tow, to shake off the winter doldrums, get outdoors and see the sights of the Black Hills. 

If you live within 400 miles of the Black Hills, it’s a good chance for a weekend family getaway. Often families who live farther away schedule longer vacations around the holiday to get an extra paid day off.

train smoke 550With a piercing train whistle and the husky whoosh of steam, the 1880 Train pulls into the Keystone train station several times a day between May and September. After a shopping break, and a new load of passengers, the train heads back to Hill City. It's an experience that modern visitors still find fascinating.

The hulking locomotive looks a bit out of place amid the shorts-and-sandals crowd of summer Keystone. But in fact, the 1880 Train is right at home in the Black Hills. The railroad line between Keystone and Hill City was constructed in the 1890s (not the 1880s, but that's another story) and served the region’s miners, merchants and tourist for decades.