Hoten Holler!


Work Camping

This Ain’t Our First Rodeo….Well Actually….

Saturday August 20th, Highs in the mid 70’s and down to the low 50’s at sundown

We took advantage of our Black Hills VIP cards since we have been working so hard (13 hours/week) at the campground, and went to the Mount Rushmore Rodeo at Palmer Gulch. The event was held at the campground KOA nearest to Mount Rushmore, and it was the perfect setting.  The arena was smack in the middle of outcroppings of black hills rocks, with an abundance of ponderosa pines and fresh air.  As we drove up to the venue we were greeted by an attendant.  We told her we were here for the rodeo and she said, “Are you watching or participating?”

We had to laugh at this question.  Several weeks before, Dave and I had a discussion about bucket list items.  The conversation was after a long day of gathering firewood and was likely influenced by too many glasses of cabernet, but both of us agreed our bucket lists should include riding a bull. As we pondered the rodeo attendants question, we looked at each other and seemed to mutually and silently agree that this would not be the day for this bucket list item.  “We’re just here to watch”, Dave said and I breathed a little sigh of relief!

We arrived before the rodeo started and the pre-event included Mutton Bustin’.  For those of you that are not rodeo followers, Mutton Bustin’ is an event where little kids jump on the back of a sheep and hang on as long as they can.  This is so fun to watch.  The kids are hanging on for dear life and the sheep look pretty irritated.  They run and buck and the usual result is a kid hanging on the side and eventually planting themselves in the dirt.  Nearly every time, regardless of an easy or violent dismount, the little buckaroos would jump up with big smiles, wipe the dirt and hoof prints off of their clothes, and wave or victoriously pump their fists in the air celebrating their brave feat of riding the sheep.  The crowd loved it too.


Not my pic, but a good demo of Mutton Bustin


Then the real rodeo began.  It started with the crowd reading a “Cowboy Prayer” and of course the National Anthem playing while a rodeo chic rode her beautiful horse around the arena carrying an enormous American Flag.  We love the patriotic heartland.

The events came one after the next, bronco riding, steer roping, barrel racing and of course, bull riding.  If you have ever seen these events on RFD TV or at the movies, they just don’t compare to seeing them through the fence in person.  You can feel the reverberation of a bull kicking the steel gate before it opens; it is loud and gives you a sense of apprehension you won’t get from hearing it on TV.  The perspective of seeing how high the broncos actually jump and kick with the ragdoll riders on their back would not convey through the screen.  You have to be there in person to really get it.

Another highlight was the “Boot Race” for the kiddies at intermission.  The announcer said, “Any kids out there who want to participate in the boot race, come out to the arena….you don’t have to find a gate, just climb over the fence!”  There were hundreds of kids climbing into the arena.  They looked like ants swarming on a discarded piece of food, or the zombies in the movie Apocalypse Z as they climbed over the walls…they just kept coming.  All the kids were instructed to remove their shoes and put them in a pile, we are talking a mountain of shoes.  Then they went to the opposite end of the arena and the rodeo clowns threw their shoes in all directions.  The announcer said, “Go!” and they ran around trying to find their shoes.  The winners found their shoes the fastest and were rewarded with…..wait for it….toy guns that shoot rubber bands.  We are pretty sure there are many places in the country where parents would NOT approve of guns as prizes, but here in cowboy country nobody griped.

The sun went down and the mountain air turned cool very quickly.  The real rodeo players returned to the arena and the main event, bull riding, took the stage.  The condensation of the bulls’ exhalations made it look like they were angry and breathing fire.  The cowboys were undaunted and many of them held on for the full 8 seconds. Some did not and one rider was almost launched over the arena side into the crowd.  It was crazy, exciting and fun to watch.

As we drove home, we both decided to edit our bucket lists, changing “Ride a Bull” to “Ride an electric bull in a Honkey Tonk Bar.”

Touring the Northern Hills

Saturday, July 30th, 88° and sunny, then rain, then hail

Dave and I needed a day away from the campground and from building fences so we decided to be tourists and go see some of the sights.  We drove up over Pactola Reservoir, on through Lead (pronounced LEED, not LED) and proceeded up through Spearfish Canyon.


Entering LEAD

Spearfish Canyon was beautiful and we picnicked at Roughlock Falls.




We spent the afternoon driving through the canyon admiring the sights. 


We had beautiful weather and when we got back to Custer, Dave grilled up some chicken thighs and some fresh beats from Linda’s garden….YUMMM!

Chicken Thighs and Beats
Delicious Grilled Beats

Then it hailed, but only a little hail.  Another spectacular Black Hills Day!


Wednesday, 8 June 2016 – Sunny, HOT, Upper 80s

One perk of being a work-camper is that we are issued a VIP card for local businesses.  The idea is that we will visit them and when people come to our campground and ask us what’s fun around here, we can actually tell them.  The VIP card allows us free admission to many places, discounts at restaurants (and wineries!!) and discounts at some of the local shops. 

A local riding outfit, Hollingsworth Horses, offered a free ride to VIP card holders.  My friend and cohort work-camper Vicki wanted to go so we went riding.  This was not a nose-to-tail trail ride, but a really unique experience.  We got to the office and the wrangler, Kristin, went out on the four-wheeler to herd in the horses.  As we stood by the corral we could hear the thundering horse hooves coming up the canyon and then they appeared!  It was a beautiful herd of horses and she corralled them to pick out the best ones for us to ride.Horses 1

horses 2 I got BlackJack, and Vicki got to ride Li’l Darlin (which is a gelding with an ambiguous name!).  Both were very calm and steady.  We were allowed to help tack up the horses and then they took us in the round pen to ride.  The owner, Cowboy Lynn, came in with us and after he decided we could both handle our horses with minimal instruction we were off.  ­­­ Lynn let us ride abeam or in trail, whatever we felt like, and he led us around his 120 acre property.  We rode through meadows, through marshy water, up craggy cliffs and down steep slopes.  His property is in a beautiful valley here in the Black Hills and you will never see grass so green as it is in the summer here.  It’s amazing the horses didn’t just stop and eat….but they were good boys and they took good care of Vicki and me!Jen and Vicki


We had a blast.  Cowboy Lynn was such a good host, not bossy and very informative about the area.  He just let us ride and do as we pleased.  If you like horses and you come visit then this is where we will go to ride!Blackjack




Oh the People You’ll Meet…

2 May 2016 – Sunny and 55°F

After a week of snow/sleet and rain we are very happy to see the sun.  We are also happy to have a warm camper to sleep in and keep the pine cones and snow bombs off of our heads! 

Fort Welikit is starting to fill up with campers.  Now that May is here, we imagine it will just get busier and busier.  We cannot help but remark on the interesting people that make up the camping/RV population.  First, there were a few snowbirds passing through just heading back to a northern clime after spending the winter in Arizona.  One couple had two big beautiful dogs in their travel trailer, and the first thing they did after finding their parking spot was to raise the American flag.  They were retirees, he from the dry-wall business, and they happily let me give their dogs some scratches and told me about their adventures.  The lady gave me a book she had finished that a camper in another park had given her.  This is one campground community tradition.  Read a book, put your name and date inside the cover, and pass it on.  Cool!!

Several days later, a single gentleman pulled up in a little Scamp trailer pulled by a Subaru, and the first thing he did was put out the Stars and Stripes on the front of his rig.  The man said he was on day 12 of a 90-day bucket list trip.  He was travelling from Lenore, North Carolina to spend 30 full days travelling around Alaska.  He planned 30 days up, 30 days there, and 30 days back.  His wife didn’t want to spend 90 days in the Scamp and was going to fly to Anchorage and meet him in a few weeks.  He was enjoying his trip and had some great stories about the bad spring weather he experienced driving across the plains.  He spent a few days exploring the lovely Black Hills and he was on his way.


One of our favorite campers so far was a young man from Southern California named Adam.  Adam’s dad drove with him from Orange County and flew home. Adam stayed by himself here in a TENT in the snow for a week while he waited for his slot to join the Hot Shot Tatanka Wild Fire Fighting Unit south of Custer.  He is 21 years old and had never been out of California before this trip. He was super excited start his new career and to go and make his way in the world.  I worried about him freezing in the snow, and we had him come in for dinner one night.  After talking with him we no longer worried about him.  Camping here in a tent in the mountains was his right of passage; his big adventure.  I’m sure it will give him some bragging rights if anyone questions his toughness and commitment to his new occupation.  Wouldn’t you know, the sun came out and it warmed up here the day he was allowed to check into his dorm.  God Speed, Adam!

Yesterday, two other groups of work campers arrived.  We were excited to meet our new co-workers, Bill and Vicki from Massachusetts, and Bill and Sonia from Minnesota.  Both couples are full time RV-ers, and like us, this will be their first work camping experience.  We look forward to getting to know them better and are very happy they are here…..more stories to come we promise!

Meanwhile, we are hoping for excavation on the Hoten Holler Homestead this week.



Camping In the Snow

It’s April in the Black Hills, and if you judge by the reaction of most of the locals, snow is not out of the ordinary this time of year. IMG_1092

Even 7 days of snow in a row, which you can see is the forecast.  Believe me, we are not complaining.  There is nothing quite so beautiful as the big fluffy white stuff weighing down the boughs of the pine trees.  It is peaceful, lovely, and yes, it is cold.  We are happy to be living in the trailer, as there are some hearty souls here that choose to tent camp despite the snow/sleet/rain mix.

Still, there are some adjustments to camper living in the weather.  First of all, when it gets below freezing, the outside hoses must be disconnected to prevent ice freezing the hose and backing up into the piping in the trailer.  So nearly each day, Dave goes out to refill our fresh water tanks to ensure we don’t run out of the water that is normally supplied directly from the campground spigot.  Second, it is imperative to ensure the propane tanks for the heater have some gas in them.  We don’t want to end up freezing in the middle of the night.  Fortunately, as work campers, we get propane at cost and we have two tanks, each lasts several days depending upon how much we use them….this week they have been used quite a bit.  Third, it gets quite messy in a little space going in and out of the snow.  Boots pick up snow and mud, and there is no sidewalk so directly out the door there is no good place to clean them before coming in.  We have a rug to wipe our feet on, but have resorted to putting down plastic bags to place our muddy boots upon when we take them off so we don’t track up the whole place. 

The last and most interesting piece of camping in the snow is how often we get bombed.  Hold on now, I’m not talking about drinking ourselves silly, I’m talking about the constant barrage of snow bombs and the noise they make on the camper roof.  We are really camping in the forest.  The trees surrounding the trailer are tall and green, and they collect a ton of snow.  When the wind starts blowing, that snow falls out of the trees and onto the roof of the camper. The metal roof of the camper makes it sound worse than it is, but it really sounds like we are being attacked with bombs.  We are getting bombed hourly….ha ha.

Dave really must have angered the Snow Gods because as we were getting in his truck this morning, he got snow bombed right on top of his head and down the back of his coat.  I have to admit I laughed a little….but he did too so we are doing good! 

Warm weather is in the forecast too… Thursday!  Ha!    

Spring in the Black Hills!

We woke up this morning to this.




“Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam…..” 

We started off the day with some light work-camping duties.  On the agenda, set up the covered wagon that people rent to camp in here at Fort Welikit.  We put the frame together, strung up the canvasses, and Westward Ho…we have a covered wagon.   It does not look too bad, although we prefer to sleep in the comfort of the Happy Camper. 

Next, since it was our 2-week anniversary of living in said camper, we decided to give it the old spring cleaning.  We did laundry, washed and reorganized dishes, cleaned the bathroom and shower, washed sheets and remade the bed, reorganized the outdoor storage, and finally swept all the dang rocks, dirt, and pine needles out the front door.  The weather was just beautiful today so we opened all the windows and aired out the camper.  It is fresh as a daisy, now!

We planned on doing a short hike around Stockade Lake in Custer State Park, but discovered we would have to pay $20 entrance fee, so instead we just drove through the park where we saw these beautiful and fearless antelopes on the side of the road.

IMG_3034 (1)


 After a few photo ops with the antelope, we continued driving through the park and down Highway 79 to Hot Springs.  It was a gorgeous day for a drive; we returned via Hwy 385 through Wind Cave National Park.  This proved to be a good decision as we saw many bison, some grazing so close to the road that when we pulled up to take a picture, we could have opened the door and given them an ear scratch.  Instead, we just took these pictures….there are many signs along the road warning not to approach the buffalo, and many harrowing tales of people being mauled by these giants.  After seeing them up so close it makes you wonder what is wrong with people that they would feel comfortable enough trying to pet the animals.  They are huge, the size of a Volkswagon…..I mean the Volkswagon Bus!!!


We returned to Fort Welikit and a clean Happy Camper, and had a few beers with the campground manager in our “yard”.  As usual, we watched 5-6 does chomping away in the campground.  We really like our wilderness life.  So far there haven’t been too many other campers but tourist season is coming. 


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