Our first stop was Deadwood. There’s nothing dead about this charmingly raucous Black Hills city … other than a handful of dead gunslingers lying in the streets at previously scheduled times each day. Deadwood’s Old West reenactments are a touch on the hokey side, but they’re worth seeing—even if just to brush up on some history surrounding local icons such as Wild Bill Hickock (you can meet him and watch him take a bullet, too).
A half-day in Deadwood allowed us to cover the bases that were of interest to us, but if you’re into gambling you could burn more time at slots and tables galore. There’s more than one place to wet your whistle in Deadwood, and surprisingly the booze is reasonably priced. Even if you don’t fancy whiskey, it behooves you to shuffle across the sawdust floor at Saloon #10 and grab a bump to get a lil’ Western.
The second half of our first day found us traveling southeast out of Deadwood on Hwy. 385. Custer was our initial target, but we landed short and stayed longer than expected in Hill City. Good wine and beer will do that to us. A free tasting at Prairie Berry Winery pleasantly surprised our palates. (That doesn’t say much coming from me, but Andrea is a discerning wine-o.) The Pheasant Reserve and the winery’s flagship Red-Ass Rhubarb deserve a special nod.
Custer was our initial target, but we landed short and stayed longer than expected in Hill City. Good wine and beer will do that to us.
Prairie Berry's owner, Sandi Vojta, brews small-batch beer at her Miner Brewing Company next door. Everyone has their calling, and Sandi clearly found hers in crafting adult beverages—her suds are just as sultry as her wine. We tried two full flights, with Chokecherry Brown and Summer Red earning the highest accolades. By now our stomachs were craving sustenance to soak up the afternoon’s shenanigans. Miner was fresh out of homemade pretzels and beer cheese, so we jumped back on 385 and made a quick stop at a popular greasy spoon called Sugar Shack. Not bad. Order the Sugar Burger.
MYSTIC HILLS HIDEAWAY
There are countless ways to explore the Black Hills, but justice can’t be done if you try to do it from the blacktop, through the windshield of an air-conditioned ride. You gotta get out there and get dirty. When I learned there was a Yamaha Outdoors partner nestled off a gravel road just 20 minutes from downtown Deadwood, I made a call right away. After speaking with Mike, owner of Mystic Hill Hideaway, the groundwork was laid for a memorable day in the hills. I reserved a new Yamaha Wolverine X4 side-by-side, plus Mike promised to hit up his mechanic for insight on trailside trout fishing opportunities. We picked up our Wolverine the second morning of the trip and Mike made good on his word to get me on reliable trout water. We were locked and loaded.
You gotta get out there and get dirty. When I learned there was a Yamaha Outdoors partner nestled off a gravel road just 20 minutes from downtown Deadwood, I made a call right away.
There are more than 600 miles of trails for OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles) in the Black Hills National Forest. Navigation isn’t my strong suit, so before bumping the Wolverine into high gear I fired up the new Yamaha Adventure Pro GPS system. As luck would have it, one of the pre-programmed loops would bring us precisely to where I’d catch my first Black Hills trout. Andrea cross referenced the route with an old-school paper map throughout the journey, but aside from user error the Adventure Pro never lead us astray.
Admission: I’ve never understood the allure of off-roading for leisure. I’ve always used my Yamahas as tools—for working, hunting, and getting from Point A to Point B when a pickup truck doesn’t cut it. But merely driving around in circles on trails, just for the sake of spinning wheels? That concept has never tripped my trigger, so I didn’t know what to expect when we pulled out of Mystic Hills. As we cut into the first rugged stretch of Black Hills on our Wolverine, the off-roading enlightenment washed over me as I looked at Andrea and we exchanged ear-to-ear grins. This was fun. Of course, it is what you make of it, and soon we’d be braking at Rapid Creek to see if the rumors were true about its excellent trout fishing.
Our time was precious, but I needed to hook a Black Hills trout—even if just one.
Andrea and I parked the Wolverine at a convenient pull-off, deep in a jagged canyon just a stone’s throw from Rapid Creek. She cracked a cold one as I suited up in waders and tied on a fresh spinner. Fifteen minutes later I reeled in a skinny, but gorgeous Black Hills brown trout. Another aggressive little brown slammed my spinner around the next corner. This stretch was done, so we boarded the Wolverine and scouted for another.