A Magical Winter Escape to Newton Fork Ranch | Black Hills Travel Blog

A Magical Winter Escape to Newton Fork Ranch

  • A Magical Winter Escape to Newton Fork Ranch
    A Magical Winter Escape to Newton Fork Ranch
Friday, March 3, 2023
By : 
Newton Fork Ranch

I’ve returned!  Returned to the peace, the quiet and the magic of Newton Fork Ranch.  Last winter I and my trusty dog Daisy spent a wonderful 2-night stay – away from the hustle, bustle, and routine of “regular” life.  This year, Daisy and I were joined by the love of my life!

As before, I booked the cabin online – this time we stayed in the Trails End Cabin.  While very similar to Forest Haven, this cabin has 2 porches: one where you enter in the front that overlooks the meadow and one out the back door which has a lovely view of the Mickelson Trail. Humm, might be where the cabin got its name.

As we were staying over New Year’s Eve, the Christmas lights were still up and twinkled a happy welcome. Together we exhaled our worries and breathed in the magic.  As we brought our bags in through a couple inches of snow, we chatted about possibly snowshoeing during our stay.  The forecast was for more snow overnight; it looked promising!  The cabin was cozy, and the gas fireplace was ablaze with warmth.  Comfort and tranquility are here – inside and out!  We put away groceries and carried our bags up the half-log stairs to the loft bedroom.

It gets dark quickly here this time of year and Joe, being an avid photographer, wanted to capture some of that magic before the sun left us.  So, we went outside.  After a bit we returned to the comforting warmth, and I started supper.  With no distractions such as a TV, or a computer, it was easy to “unplug.”  We listened to music, talked, and toasted the new year with my sparkling wine and his IPA.  No better way to ring in a new year.  It wasn’t long before we climbed the stairs to the loft for a long winter’s nap.

Morning sunshine peeked through the windows and encouraged us to rise.  Well-rested on a heavenly bed, we were a little reluctant to get up.  However, the day beckoned and with the fresh snowfall overnight, we were going to go snowshoeing.

The kitchen is well stocked with everything one would need to cook. I brought eggs, ham, bread and of course, coffee.  Soon the delicious scents mingled, tummies growled, and Daisy licked her lips.  After enjoying a second cup of coffee in the complimentary Newton Fork Ranch mug, we bundled up, and went out the door.

As Daisy bounded through the snow, we followed at a slower pace.  It was a bright and crisp day.  Sunshine peeked through the Ponderosa pines and granite rocks as we laced up.  I already knew about the gate that opens from the ranch onto the Mickelson Trail, so we headed that way.

I told the story to Joe, that for nearly 100 years, this trail was a busy train route that transported people, freight, mail, and livestock through the middle of the Black Hills. In 1998 the 109-mile Rails-to-Trails conversion project was completed. It runs through the ranch, 50+ miles in each direction, and exploring it during the winter was exhilarating.

Glittering ice crystals floated through the crisp air making the experience dreamlike. We all had a delightful time exploring the winding trail.  After about an hour we turned and headed back. I used to have this “thing” about going over the same trail twice, out, and back, as I preferred my exploring to be a loop course. However, as we retraced our steps we spotted a few deer on a hillside, noticed rock outcroppings, wildly formed trees and stands of aspen that had been missed on our first pass.

Returning to the cabin a little after noon, we had a bite to eat. Soon we headed out for more exploring. I’d told Joe about the history of Newton Fork Ranch, and wanted to take him on some off-trail exploring – the snowshoes were going to be helpful here. I told him the property has been in the family for three generations, originally formed of old mining claims dating back to the late 1800s when North and South Dakota were simply known as Dakota Territory.  We had fun imagining what it may have been like “back in the day.”

Our next destination was the Original Badger Hole Cabin, located on the northern edge of the ranch. This “off-the-grid” cabin wasn’t built on the ranch. It was moved from Custer State Park to its current location to preserve the history of Charles “Badger” Clark (1883 – 1957), South Dakota’s first Poet Laureate. It offers adventurous guests a true experience of what it was like to live without any modern conveniences. The “restroom” is a custom-built replica of an outhouse that features a modern composting toilet.  Well water is available outdoors via an antique hand pump. I told Joe it would be interesting to stay there…in warmer weather. That said, Jennie, the ever-cheerful property manager, shared with me that a guest had just checked out from a three-night stay and loved it! Perhaps keeping toasty by the restored pot-bellied stove and reading by oil lamps added to the ambiance and romanticism.

Now happily tuckered out, we headed back to Trails End.  Off with the snowshoes and into the SUV, we drove the short half-mile to Hill City for supper that night.  Our first choice was the Alpine Inn but learned that they closed for the holiday.  A happy second choice was Mangiamo’s Pizzeria – delicious! 

Driving into the Ranch once more, we passed by Grandma’s Ranch House at the entrance. I remembered reading that the Blizzard of 1949 had the family snowed in for one solid week.  If those walls could talk, they sure would have stories to tell. So much history here and so many memories, from the original landowners to present day visitors.

Back at the cabin we settled in for another cozy evening.  There are a variety of board games for guests to play.  I challenged Joe to a game of dominos.  We had such fun.  The laughter and banter being so much more enjoyable without interruption of a TV or email…just enjoyable music emanating from the provided CD player.

Later in the evening as we crawled into the comfy queen bed, we heard, then saw a huge owl gliding between the pines outside the bedroom window.  Owls have always been mystical creatures to me; I felt this was a true blessing.

Packing up and heading out in the morning, we promised each other that we will return, maybe in the fall when those beautiful aspens are touched with orange and gold.  We know that returning to the Ranch anytime of the year will be, once again… magical.

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