Black and Tan

Needles Highway, Black Hills

We are making our way east by way of the Badlands after a nice visit with my brother and his wife in the Black Hills. We drove the Needles Highway, visited Sylvan Lake and Custer State Park, and checked out the marvel that is Wind Cave.

Sylvan Lake
Wind Cave

Arriving in Pringle, my brother asked if I had full insurance on my car–a curious question to welcome a guest. Apparently there was a storm on the way, and golf-ball sized hail was in the forecast. With the carport full, it was time to get creative with windshield protection, local style.

While in the Black Hills, we asked about a Dakotas dish called fleischkuekle–and nobody had even heard of it. Hmm…. The locals do, however, seem to eat plenty of beef and also a fair amount of buffalo, which is easier to prepare and easier to pronounce–so it’s on tonight’s menu.

Next stop, Badlands, by way of the small settlement of Scenic. While misnamed, Scenic gave us the chance to pick up some buffalo steaks at the only store in town, the Tatanka Trading Post (Tatanka is a Lakota word that means “bull buffalo”). The friendly and helpful owner was happy to see us, and the guest book may explain why. We rolled in at noon and we were the first visitors of the day.

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photo by Heyn, 1899

From there, some gravel back roads brought us to the heart of the Badlands, named hundreds of years ago by the Lakota Sioux due to the difficulty they encountered in traveling this land (Badlands is “mako sica” in their language). The terrain is rugged, the heat is intense, and there isn’t much water in the park. Moving around on horseback would have been no easy feat.

While the heat and terrain haven’t changed, travel today is of course a different story, with an excellent road that loops the park. The Badlands are spectacular, a study in shades of tans and greys and colors that seem to just fall off of the prairie above it.

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Bighorn sheep

Back at camp, we served the buffalo steak with brats. The buffalo steak was tender and flavorful, somewhat sweeter than beef, and a nice addition. I would choose buffalo above fleischkuekle, but that may be because I don’t know how to say fleishkuekle.


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