Road Trip 2009, Day 5: Custer, South Dakota
When I suggested that we go on a rockhounding tour and pointed out a sign advertising it, I was a little taken aback by Hub's and Jake's reaction.
"Are you sure? Really? You WANT to go?"
Uh, why not? They can dig around in the dirt, I can take pictures, we find rocks, everyone is happy. Really. I'm serious. I think they were a little shocked.
There we were, up at 5 am and off to Custer to the Scott's Rock Shop, not totally sure what to expect, but hoping that it would be fun.
And fun it WAS.
I'll admit right now that we are not the sort of family that likes the flashy lights and cheesiness of the touristy areas of a town. Instead, we are the sort that would love to hang out in the middle of nowhere with the locals; discovering a great waterfall picnic area, hiking the back country trails, and seeing the wild life. That is why we like the Black Hills so much-you can do the touristy thing, but there's lots of nature type stuff too.
We followed Allan Scott (the owner of Scott's Rock Shop) out through windy country roads, and the view was amazing. We just sat there, soaking in the rolling grassy fields filled with wildflowers and deer grazing, old abandoned shacks, and homes nestled in the trees.
"And another one!"
"Just look at that view..."
Practically pressed to the windows of the car, Jake and admired the view. I had no idea that South Dakota was so pretty, and soon we were all talking about how much we'd love to live there. Especially Jake.
"Okay the deal is Jake that if you move here, you HAVE to bring us here too. Really." Hey, why not?
Once we got to the mine, Allan handed us each a bucket and a pick, and showed us the huge piles of rocks that we could dig through. Every once in awhile he'd stop, bend over, pick one up, and stick it in his pocket.
"Can't stop looking," he'd grin.
By the end of the day, that was the joke for the rest of the vacation; Hubs and Jake were looking for rocks everywhere; in parking lots, in different states, as we drove down highways. That kind of passion for rocks is infectious.
The amount of rocks we could dig through were staggering. HUGE pieces of rose quartz, far bigger than our buckets, just sat there, waiting to be plucked from the Earth. In the pile was everything from tourmaline to quartz, feldspar, adventurine, smoky quartz, and rose quartz. Pretty soon, we were all walking around, hunched over, the thud of a rock being thrown in a bucket heard now and then. The whole time, we chatted with Allan about rocks; how they are formed, what kinds we were looking at, the history of the area, the mines, our families, the shop, Custer, you name it; and by the end, we were fast friends.
It's one thing to be a tourist, but when you meet really great locals-well, that just makes the trip.
Tourist Tip # 5: Visit the Scott's Rock shop and sign up for a tour.
"Uh hey, what'cha doing tomorrow? How about another tour?" Hubs was hooked. We were all hooked!
Plans were quickly hatched for another tour, the next morning, in a different location.
"Again? You want to go again?" Hubs and Jake were shocked.
"Of course, this was fun. Why not?"
I think I've started a new passion with these two. Hubs has always wished he had become a paleontologist, and Jake has always loved rocks. These guys are now rock-CRAZY.
A quick stop for lunch and then we were off in search of treasures of another kind; gold!
You see, Hubs has this great holiday tradition; he buys me jewelry. We scoped out some stores, and finally settled on checking out Rushmore gold. Really, in the Black Hills there is jewelry everywhere, but I had a hard time really trusting the tourist trappy shops so we went straight to the source. Hubs picked out a beautiful pendant and earrings to match; mostly because I'm a little hopeless at picking out jewelry and I think he has great taste.
By then, we were tired and somehow turning in after an early supper sounded like a great idea. After all, we had more rockhounding to do the next day!
Coming up: another treasure hunt, Hubs has an accident, and we get a taste of the fourth of July!