There’s no place like home. While we deal with new challenges, regulations, restrictions, etc., travel within the U.S.A. is going to be hot again. It's almost guaranteed. The airlines are already adjusting for this reality, and My XO Adventures is positioned extremely well. If you’re thinking about travel plans for the spring, summer, and fall of 2022 consider the places you have yet to explore.
The National Parks will be a lot like Disneyland, but fortunately, travel in the U.S.A is diverse and plentiful. In the travel business, the United States is often considered the most beautiful country in the world. For a travel planner, we consider the following (and more) when planning a destination for guests.
Believe it or not, we are more than Red and Blue. While the U.S. may not be considered the safest place on the planet, travelers generally don’t worry about where to visit. Take for instance Louisiana, and the French cultural roots we have there. Allons A Lafayette is an excellent choice when visiting the state. They can show you the true places of Cajun and Zydeco music. You can also get great food all over the place, including gas stations. French culture is heard in the language, seen in the architecture, and wafts through the air. It is simply amazing.
Arizona, Utah, New Mexico are all in the Southwest with their roots firmly grounded in Hispanic and indigenous cultures. The landscape is breathtaking, and the food is amazing. If you haven’t had a Hatch Chile, you haven’t experienced good Southwest Cuisine. A good outfitter in the area is Epic One Adventures, which can take you through Arizona, Utah, and some of the most beautiful landscapes you'll ever see.
Of course, My XO Adventures operates in an area that is overlooked by many, and thoroughly enjoyed by those who come. The Black Hills of South Dakota. Very little traffic, open roads, stunning mountains, and the Badlands. Southwestern South Dakota is the place to be. You might be thinking, South Dakota? Yeah well, it’s been kept a secret for some time now, and for good reason. It’s great being able to explore this part of the country in peace and tranquility.
Most people think of Mount Rushmore and nothing else. While this is quite an engineering accomplishment, the Black Hills themselves are the real star of the show. Ancient granite monoliths rise from the earth and sparkle in the sun. Filled with minerals like quartz, mica, feldspar, agates, and yes, gold. These towering spires are the Heart of All That Is for the Lakota, Cheyenne, Crow, and more. The mighty American Bison roams Custer State Park, the second-largest in the nation.
Elk, deer, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and more call these places home. Babbling brooks and streams flow out of the mountains and towards the mighty Missouri River. Ponderosa Pines mixed with bright wildflower-filled meadows abound. Spearfish Canyon awes as you drive through the 1000-foot towering limestone cliffs. Further out you can visit Badlands National Park, one of the weirdest places on earth. Frank Lloyd Wright said it was nature's architecture, and it happens to be one of the largest depositories of fossils in the world.
Not to forget, The Black Hills sport some of the most amazing roads in the country. Iron Mountain Road and the Needles Highway are the most prominent. All of this is within an hour of Rapid City. Traveling internationally can be exciting and quite a bit of fun, but traveling throughout the U.S. makes one realize how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful country.
The next several months at least are going to be problematic with international destinations. Not until Omicron spreads through and well into the spring will we see infection rates come back to normal. This means international travel might as well be dead for the moment. If you’re hell-bent on it, consider looking at that specific nation's vaccination rate. You can find it at https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations. Ahem, look at second place.
If you don’t want to be so concerned with your personal vacation time, then get out and play. As the famous folk song is titled, This Land is Your Land. It overflows with natural wonders, places of healing like the Black Hills, and surely you haven’t seen it all. Fair warning though, start making your plans. Hotels will fill up, Airbnb’s will become scarce, and Private Tours will begin to become hard to find. Domestic travel also supports our economy and is made right here in the good ole U.S.A.
We are natural explorers and live in a part of the world where we're surrounded by magnificence. Try not to let fear keep you from getting out and experiencing new places, it might be just what you need.
South Dakota Great Places Designee My XO Adventures
I was truly honored and pleasantly surprised to become an official South Dakota Great Place Designee for Rapid City. South Dakota is an incredible place, and I've spent quite some time reading all kinds of books, listening to people, visiting special places, and doing the best I can to make sure each visitor to the Black Hills gets not a tour, but a great experience.
South Dakota Department of Tourism recently released their "South Dakota GREAT PLACE" designees.
From South Dakota Tourism Association:
"Great service is extremely important to the South Dakota Department of Tourism. That’s why we want to put a spotlight on the businesses that exemplify great service around the state.
We value and appreciate the businesses that consistently put people first, continuously go above and beyond, and help strangers at every opportunity. The South Dakota Great Place program recognizes these businesses each year."
While a lot of hard work and genuine passion goes into each and every tour, I want to say that I didn't do this alone. I'd like to recognize a few that have helped me along the way, and were integral to a successful season.
Black Hills Visit Rapid City Black Hills Tour Company (Kevin and Melina), Black Hills Recreational Therapy (Angie), God, my family, and friends who believed that I could accomplish anything I set my mind and heart to. This list is not exactly in order, but I want to give thanks to those who trusted me, welcomed me, and were willing to help when it was needed.
Our goals for 2022 are to contribute to a local 501c3 making significant impacts in our community, providing the highest level of education for those who love guiding in the Black Hills and Badlands, as well as setting a new standard of benefits to those I'm fortunate to employ.
Our intention is to make a positive impact on visitors to South Dakota, the economy as a whole, as well as the employees of My XO Adventures. Rapid City is now my home, and I truly love the Black Hills and Badlands. Next season is going to be even better, with the addition of an incredible guide, Ashley, and a new vehicle to accommodate more guests.
#myxoadventures #blackhillstours #hifromsd #supergrateful
Traveler, Adventurer, owner of My XO Adventures and occasional writer.
The Pasqueflower (Prairie Crocus)
I'm going to have to admit, I am learning about the wild flowers throughout the Black Hills, and yes I'm getting a head start. Before we have signs of life breaking through the snow covered ground of the Black Hills and with any luck, I'll have studied the most common wildflowers of Southwestern South Dakota.
A good start is to begin this journey with the first bloomers, and follow them in order to their appearance throughout the season. I've seen this delicate beauty, but never understood how highly regarded it is. The Pasqueflower, or Prairie Crocus. This is the state flower of South Dakota. It was the first flower settlers would see in spring, with many songs associated with it.
The Pasqueflower can be white and yellow, purple and yellow, lavender, maroon, and white with a few other variations in between. Low to the ground like the crocus I recognize as a child, if not careful you can easily step on these first signs of life. I can only imagine how wonderful it was to see, bringing with it the warming of the sun and a promise of more pleasant weather ahead. The pasqueflower is delicate, with 5-8 petals and can be found on the limestone glades or meadows of the Black Hills. These areas are wet in the spring and dry during the summer due to the underlying rock, and are an important part of the geological uplift of the Black Hills.
According to Mother Earth Living, in an article by Betsy Strauch, the Pasque in pasqueflower refers to to Easter or Passover, and the juices that come out of the stem are naturally green, at one time used to color Easter eggs. This plant, this tiny early blooming flower has been used in arthritis, and the tea given to an expecting mother which in turn slows hear heartbeat and aids the birth. On the other hand the same tea can be given to a mother whose birth is induced.
This little Easter Plant of South Dakota is downright fascinating. Toxins within the plant that were used to heal different ailments. One such treatment is prepared and applied to an irritation on the skin, resulting in blistering and thus aids in the healing process. Nerdy but WOW!
Seriously, I could and probably have gone down a rabbit hole with this topic, and I'll spare you. If you're out in South Dakota near the limestone glades (Prairies) keep an eye out. Even the smallest of them are intricate and play big roles in the life of Indigenous Peoples. I'll be using the seasons to study, but my primary source is Plants of the Black Hills and Bear Lodge Mountains. One of my very favorite places in downtown Rapid City is Prairie Edge, where you can pick it up in person or order online. The book is broad in subject matter, which is why I chose wildflowers and ordered them by seasons.
Each moment of time throughout the Black Hills brings forth another surprise, a different color, a new smell or sound. This season I hope to open another whole new world. The Plants and Wildlife of South Dakota are simply amazing.
Next season beginning in May, we offer our Tour of the Southern Black Hills, with a special option to take the Wildflower Tour. It adds maybe an hour or two, but if you like to learn about plants like I do its worth every penny.
Daniel Milks is an explorer, guide, soda enuthiast and ocassional writer.