Mountain View Lodge, Hill City, SD

Mountain View Lodge, 12654 US-16, Hill City, SD 57745

The best part about Mountain View Lodge is the view.  If you take a moment and look closely you will see what I mean.  OK, I will tell you, it is the Dairy Twist across the street.  Best food in the area.  OK, everything else that you can see is pretty sweet as well.

The lodge offers WiFi which helps when you are trying to plan your trip.  Our room came with two beds and a chair.  We slept well.  I liked the fact that the bed away from the window had shelves on either side for your glasses and phone and such.

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The bathroom was nice.  the sink was outside which makes two people getting ready in the morning so much easier.  The A/C unit was a bit loud, but if that is the worst thing you can find in a place I call it a pretty good place.

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Outside there were chairs so that you could sit and take in the view.  There were also grills available.

The free breakfast in the morning left a lot to be desired.  The had juice and cereal and oatmeal, but I am still not sure how you were supposed to actual make the oatmeal.  We ended up going into Hill City and having a really good breakfast at Hill City Cafe.

We stayed here so that we could drive to Custer State Park and walk to lost cabin, but we got lost and ended up closer to Harney Peak than we intended.

Mountain View Lodge really is a pretty great location.  You can hit a lot of tourist places from this starting point.  The place itself is well maintained.

If you are looking for a place to stay in the black hills area I would highly suggest Mountain View Lodge and Cabins.  Particularly if it is close to anything you plan on specifically doing while in the black hills.  It is close to Mount Rushmore.  You could go check out Jewel Cave.  There are just so many great things to do in the area.  They are all a little drive, but not too far.

Book a room.  You will not be disappointed unless you expect a good breakfast.

Wild River State Park, Center City, MN

Wild River State Park, 39797 Park Trail, Center City, MN 55012

We decided to go camping, spur of the moment, and this is the park that had an opening.  It was the 3rd of July, the day was clear, and we were off on an adventure.

We packed our camping gear and headed northeast.  The park is right along the St. Croix River.  Do not use the GSP system to find the entrance.  It will lead you astray.

As we checked in we were told that there had been black bears seen in the park and that we would need to hang our food from a tree.  They gave us a safety sheet and sold us a rope.  Now if you are out camping and they tell you there are bears, black bears are the ones you want.  They generally avoid people, they scare easily, and they are not going to hunt you.  They will steal your food if they can.  We were armed with our information, our rope, and a can of bear spray.

We were told that we could pick up dead wood and us it for our camp fire.  We had a hand saw with us to cut up the wood which was super convenient.  I was glad that there was plenty of dead wood in the area because we had the last campsite on the trail.  This was a hiking campsite which all of the ones along the military trail were.

We parked as close as we could.  The road leads right up to the river with a perfect place to launch a boat into the St. Croix.  The trail was an old military road so it is nice and wide.  We marched our two full backpacks and the tent all the way to the end of the trail.  The trail itself seemed perfect for horses.  In fact everything about this park seemed ideal for horses.

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There are stables right next to the entrance of the park for the avid rider who wants their horse close to a great riding trail.  There are horse camp sites.  Most have electricity.  Overall this place has a ton of campsites and most of them you can drive to and car camp.  There are even six cabins.  Some have electricity and some do not.

Even with all of the stuff that we brought the hike down to our campsite wasn’t terrible.  There was a picnic table at the perfect spot so that we could rest a moment before finishing the hike.  I didn’t get a lot of pictures along the way, but the campsite was amazing.

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We were right on the St. Croix River.  You could watch boats travelling up and down the river.  The boaters were so joyous with the 4th being the next day.  There was a little tree that provided us some welcome shade.

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The campsite had a fire pit with a grate for cooking.  There was a picnic table and a couple of spots to choose from for the tent.  We picked the spot under the tree.  The tent went up and then we were off to find firewood.

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There were dead trees all over so picking out a few to drag back to the campsite was easy.  I cut up the firewood with my handsaw.  Some of the wood burned extremely fast.

The bathroom, the vault toilet, was just a little further down the path and had a privacy wall.  Don’t forget the bear spray and toilet paper because you might need them.

We made mac chili in a bag which was pretty good.  We brought snacks, but we only ate the cashew nuts for fear of drawing in the bears with our jerky.  All of the trash went into a plastic bag and that went into my sleeping bag carrying pouch along with the other food we brought so that we could hang it all from a tree.

We setup some music and enjoyed the view of the river and the fire and as it got dark the stars.  You never get to see the stars in the city.  We could hear fireworks going off all around us, but none of them were visible to us.  Instead we were treated to a show from the fireflies in the area.

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As we finally settled in for the night all we could think about were the bears.  This was my second camping trip as an adult and lets just say I have yet to have a great night in a tent, ever.  Every rustle outside sounded like it could be the bear coming to get us.  Something kept eating grass really close to our tent and it was so loud.  All of the noises were probably squirrels, rabbits, or something else completely harmless, but we didn’t sleep and couldn’t just pack up and go home.

We got up the next day, completely fine.  Our food bag was still in the tree where we left it.  Nothing came into our tent and ate us.  I still have no idea what was eating grass near us.  We packed everything up and hiked back to our car so that we could go home and sleep.

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If we could have slept instead of being paranoid and feeding off of each others paranoia I think the whole trip would have been great.  I loved the campsite.  The trail would have been better suited for a horse.  I have no idea how the rest of the trails are, but from what I saw I would only want to enjoy this one on horseback.

I wouldn’t necessary be opposed to camping here again, but then again I do not like worrying about bears.  I loved that the site was far from the next campsite.  We couldn’t even hear them.  I assume the bears have been seen near the other sites where more people would be cooking and possibly dropping food.  If I could have slept the camping experience would have been great.

If you do not fear black bears I highly recommend camping here.  If you have a horse I highly recommend riding through this park.  If you are looking for a good hike, go somewhere else.

Whitewater State Park, Altura, MN

Whitewater State Park, 19041 MN-74, Altura, MN 55910

Did someone say stairs?  Whitewater State Park has stairs and great views from high places.  It has a river with a swimming area and plenty of places to fish.  The trail goes through some amazing wooded areas, possibly the most beautiful wooded areas I have ever seen.

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There are easy trails and even easier ways to walk some of the more difficult trails depending on where you start.  We started near the camping area and looked at the nature center with the stuffed animals.  The area has timber rattle snakes, but it isn’t much of a concern.  Outside on the opposite side of the parking lot from the ranger station is a place to get drinking water.  No need to get water directly from the well just outside.

Next we drove over to the picnic area.  If you wonder into that area there are plenty of tables and a swimming hole.

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There is a trail called Chimney Rock Trail which we didn’t get to, but we could see from the trail we took.  It is mostly uphill, but if our view was any indication of their view, it looked amazing.

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We took the Dakota Trail which starts with stairs, lots of stairs.  You climb up and up and up.  We say some hawks flying around when we got to the top.

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What you step as you walk along the edge of the cliff.  The path is plenty wide and a tree would probably stop you decent, but you do need to pay attention.  What an amazing view at the top and all along this part of the path.

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The path splits, but we stayed on the Dakota Trail down to the river.  The flowers along the way were very pretty and I just loved walking through those trees.

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Walking through these trees was so peaceful.  They were spread out just enough that they didn’t feel imposing.  Other than the views it was my favorite part of the trail.

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At the river you got to cross over a floating bridge.  It isn’t nearly as scary as it looks.  The water isn’t deep so if you do fall off you can just walk out.

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Overall it is a pretty calm river.  Even at its wider points it isn’t too deep.  At least not from what I could see.  Looks like a great place to caught trout possibly.

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I had a good time.  Even with the stairs the trail wasn’t bad.  We saw some other people pretty far on the trail.  The views are worth the climb.  The larger birds were pretty neat.  The views on the trail varied a lot which was nice.  I would like to return and see the views from Chimney Rock.

If you live near this park go and check it out.  Take a picnic.  Swim if you like.  Walk the trails.  There was an area near the picnic tables perfect for a game of kickball or Frisbee or football.  Overall this is a pretty great place.

The camping areas seemed a bit close together as we drove through that part of the park.  There really isn’t a reason for anyone to be driving around there except that the roads are a little confusing through the park, at least the first time that you are there.

Overall I would recommend visiting this park and snapping some of your own pics.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, MN

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, 3815 American Blvd. East, Bloomington, MN 55425

I saw signs for the Wildlife Refuge from time to time, but I could never figure out how to get there.  Then one day I was visiting the Hilton in Bloomington for an event and I finally saw it.

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This refuge extends from Bloomington all the way down to Burnsville and beyond really.

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Despite the fact that a good portion of this is river and swamp the mosquitoes aren’t bad at all.  In fact the path isn’t really near the swamp areas

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You get to walk through flowers to start your journey down the path along the refuge.  If you are lucky you will spot a bird or two.  I have seen cranes and turkeys and hawks.  Most of the path is shaded and cool.  There are stretches that are open.

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It really is a great place.

Microtel, Rochester, MN

Microtel, 4210 Highway 52 North, Rochester, MN 55901

This was my first stay at a Microtel.  This particular location seemed fairly new.  The rates are good and you get just what you need.

A micro room has exactly enough for up to two people in it.  It reminds me of a tiny house in the way everything is perfectly placed and how well space is utilized.  The first thing you will notice is how small the room is.  The bathroom is immediately inside just off to the side.  It comes with all of the standard items.

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There is only one bed, a seating area in the window and a small desk area in front of the bed.  It is spaced just right so that you can move around, but there isn’t a lot of room to spread out.

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I liked the pillows.  They were not stupid small like some chains give you.  The television was up in the corner just above the closet.  There was even a fridge under the desk.  It really did have everything that you would need.

If I was travelling alone or a business person this place would be perfect and possibly my first choice, always.  With two of us it worked pretty well.

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The breakfast.  You get a free breakfast and they had waffles.  Yum, I was so full.  It was one of the best breakfasts that I have had at a hotel in a really long time.

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Try it.

Carlos O’Kelly’s, Rochester, MN

Carlos O’Kelly’s, 4825 Hwy. 52 North, Rochester, MN 55901

While this Carlos O’Kelly’s is easy to get to and there is plenty of parking, it is nothing more than a chain store.  It was clean.  The food was just OK.

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The tortilla chips were very good.  They were thin and crisp and clearly fresh, or at least they seemed to be fresh.  We tried to order guacamole to go with the chips, but they couldn’t make any without onions in it which means it is pre-made somewhere else.

The options are plentiful.  This is a Tex-Mex restaurant.  It has everything that you would expect from such a restaurant.

Two neat options where their braille menu and their all vegetarian menus.  You just need to ask.

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What I ordered was supposed to be spicy hot.  I was most of the way through when I remembered that fact.  It all tasted OK, but just OK.  Nothing was incredible.  It all tasted very chain restaurant, which is what it was.

If you want to try this place, go for it.  If you are trying to decide between this place and somewhere else, I would try somewhere else.  Unless you want to play it safe.  Carlos O’Kelly’s is a safe choice.

Our Place, Cody, WY

Our Place, 148 Yellowstone Ave, Cody, WY 82414

Our Place is a breakfast and lunch place that opens early at 6 and closes at 2.  We stopped in for breakfast.

The first thing I noticed was the smell of something burning.  It worried me a bit.  The second thing I noticed was the free WiFi which I desperately needed.

Despite the initial worrisome smell the food was amazing.  The portions were huge, too big to eat really.  Everything was cooked perfectly and it all tasted really good.  I went on the wild side and tried the Mexican eggs on the menu, can’t remember what they were called, but they were good.  I am not a fan of green sauce, but that wasn’t an issue, it tasted good anyway.  I was told that the biscuits and gravy were good as well.

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The decorations on the walls were really cool and grouped accordingly.  Lots of windmills and badges.

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I would highly recommend eating at Our Place.  You will walk away full and happy.

Little America, Little America, WY

Little America, I-80, Little America, WY 82929

The greatest place on Earth, or in America, or maybe I was really tired at this point in the drive.  We were driving to SLC from Cody, WY and along I-80 we kept seeing these signs for Little America.  The big draw was the really cheap cones for the family traveler and everything you could possibly want for the truck driver.  We pulled off to get out of the road construction and because the signs really made it seem like Little America was a magical place.

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The “town” Little America seems to consist of a hotel, a gas station, and fuel center with a repair shop.  It was clearly built with a comprehension idea in mind.  If you are in a car you go left.  If you are in a truck you go right.

We went inside to eat at the restaurant/convenience store.  They have burgers and fries and corn dogs and of course cones.  They cook the burgers all of the way through.  I didn’t think the food was the best, but it was okay.  I heard the corn dog was good.  Everyone who stopped in to get a cone looked overjoyed.

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The rest of the convenience store is amazing.  There are souvenirs like shirts and hats.  There are things like pickled quail eggs.  It really did seem like a magical place.

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The bathrooms where incredible.  I literally almost walked back out to make sure I was still in a convenience store.  You walk in and there is an upscale sitting area where you can wait for whoever else went in with you.  Each stall is its own little room.  Everything about it was really nice.

There are hotels that you can stay in at Little America.  You get a discount if you eat at the convenience store and get a room.  It is really a travel paradise, not a destination, but a great place to stay or stop along the way.

The entire design was beautiful.

Fairfield Inn & Suites, Salt Lake City South, UT

Fairfield Inn & Suites, 594 W 4500 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84123

If you are looking for a place to stay in Salt Lake City the Fairfield Inn & Suites is neither the best or the worst place to stay.  This particular location is a little sketchy.  Not sure if that translates to bad.  No one should really be walking around the area unless they are intending to go to the hotel which may actually be a good thing.  it is really close to 80 so it is easy to get wherever it is that you are going.

If I was coming to the area to shop I would choose a better location closer to the shopping areas and food.  If I was a business person who didn’t really care and just wanted a good room I would choose this hotel although there are ones closer to the airport.

The rooms are nice, but the walls are thin.  I could hear the woman next to us talking on a phone.  She may have been a particularly loud individual, but it worries you when you are hoping to get a good night sleep.

I liked the bed and the sheets.  I didn’t have any issues sleeping here.  The bathrooms were very nice, really top of the line.  Everything seemed pretty new.

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The lobby has a little store with expensive food if you get a craving.  It is convenient and that makes up for the prices.

In the morning they give you the standard breakfast that you get everywhere these days.  I honestly am not sure if it was good or not.  It wasn’t bad.  The juice was good.  I really liked the eating area.  It was large and everything was really nice.  It felt like it was designed for businessmen in mind.  Overall I would say better than the average for what it was.

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If you are on a business trip I would say yes stay here.  If you are on vacation there are much better choices in the area.

The view from our room was nice, even on the first floor.

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Hill City Cafe, Hill City, SD

Hill City Cafe, 209 Main St, Hill City, SD 57745

This little cafe on the main street of Hill City seems to be a local favorite.  The staff is friendly and very happy.  They seem genuinely happy.

We stopped in here to get a decent breakfast and the food was good.  It is just basic cafe food.  No surprises, but everything is Western themed.  Check out the menu.  If you want a good breakfast this is the place.

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Hill City Cafe is just a nice cafe to eat normal food in.