Wyoming Eclipse Festival

Looking at the sky was never more rewarding than on August 21 at the Casper, Wyoming Eclipse Festival.

The eclipse began at 10:22 AM but didn’t reach totality until 11:42:42 AM. Right as the clock struck 11:42:42, everyone at the fairground quickly took off their glasses. Everywhere around me, I could hear the ooo’s and aahh’s of amazement, and some people even clapped and cheered. Once the sun was covered, the lighting decreased significantly and it seemed like dusk. As the two minutes of awe ended, the light gradually began to return. The eclipse finally ended at 1:09 PM.

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Welcome to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts descend on western South Dakota for 10 days in early August for the world famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Amazingly, the small population of South Dakota is almost doubled during the rally.

Patches sold by vendors at the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

The tiny town of Sturgis hosts the annual rally. During the other 355 days of the year, Sturgis is a sleepy little town of about 6,600 people nested in the Black Hills. But during the rally, the town comes alive as badass bikers decked out in leather, enthusiastic topless ladies, and curious tourists flock to the area. In the weeks leading up to the event, the local craigslist is flooded with requests for new employees to work during the event. The town of Sturgis has to put up traffic lights and stop signs, as the town’s population temporary rises about 100 fold. Many businesses in Sturgis are only open for the rally, and lots of the town’s annual revenue is made during these 10 crazy days.

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Rapid City’s Hippest New Coffee Shop

Downtown Rapid City’s Harriet & Oak is the hippest thing to happen to Rapid City since disco! It is hard to find a place in the Black Hills with a variety of vegetarian options, much less vegan. Rapid City’s newest coffee shop breaks this mold and offers a range of healthy and flavorful vegan and vegetarian dishes.

WaffleHarriet&OakThe exposed brick, wooden tables, and casual, friendly atmosphere makes it a wonderful downtown destination. The centerpiece of the cafe is the blue vintage Volkswagen bus in the dining area. There is a loft situated above the counter with a lounge area and tables.

The menu offers three vegan Buddha bowls, which I previously thought were something only eaten by Instagram models. These bowls include Thai, East Meets West, and Falafel, and the bowls have plenty of quinoa, tofu, and deliciously paired veggies. Breakfast bowls are also available and come with a large variety of fruits, veggies, cheese, and other unique ingredients! Continue reading “Rapid City’s Hippest New Coffee Shop”

Salton Sea Ecological Disaster Nears Climax

This article was published in April 2017 by Modern Times Magazine in Phoenix, Arizona. I am reposting it here as part of my writing portfolio. Rights belong to Modern Times Magazine. See the story here.

Clock Is Ticking On The Abandoned California Lake Town: Diverted Water Will Make Toxic Dust Plumes A Possibility For Southern California And Arizona.

April 21, 2017 — Hidden near the chocolate mountains of Southern California, the Salton Sea was once a glimmering oasis for tourists, fisherman, and boaters in the otherwise barren Sonoran Desert. Looking at the decrepit beach littered with abandoned boats and mummified fish carcasses, I can’t help but wonder “where did it all go wrong?”

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Vegetarian Guide to the Black Hills

South Dakota is definitely a ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of state, but there are a few restaurants that serve creative and healthy vegetarian food! Afterall, you don’t want to end up eating a side salad for dinner (again)!

Photo by Elli O.

When I saw the vintage burger joint vibe at Rapid City’s Sickies Garage Burgers & Brews, I didn’t have high hopes for my dining options. But it turns out that any of the beef burgers at Sickies can be substituted for a veggie patty! Sickies has some crazy combinations like the “Bunless” burger with 2 lettuce leaves instead of a bun, the “Eggstraordinary” burger with eggs and cheese (order without bacon), and the “Fifth Wheel” which comes with three patties stacked on top of each other. There is even a “Glazed Doughnut Burger” that uses glazed doughnuts instead of a bun!

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Get The Most Out of Rushmore

The famous four faces are South Dakota’s most iconic landmark. But all too often, visitors stop by just to check it off the bucket list and are gone in half an hour. There is so much more to do at Mount Rushmore! With history, culture, goats, and (most importantly) great ice cream, you’re going to enjoy getting the most out of your visit!brian-sandoval-171377

Websites will tell you that admission to Mount Rushmore is free, and technically it is. But parking is $11, so be prepared to pay. Don’t worry, it is worth the fee!

  • The Presidential Trail takes you as close to the faces as physically possible. It is a ½ mile paved trail that winds up closer than other trails. There are no tours to the top, but the Presidential Trail is the next best thing!
  • In the Sculptor’s Studio, visitors can see the tools and models used when constructing Mount Rushmore. Some exhibits even show the technique that carvers used. The building itself was constructed in 1939 as one of Gutzon Borglum’s onsite studios.

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Black Hill’s Abandoned Ingersoll Mine

The Ingersoll Mine is well-preserved compared to other Black Hills mines and ghost towns. The buildings and mine are a short and easy hike from the parking area. The mill has several stories and all can be accessed. In several places, the floor has fallen through so proceed with caution. The highest floor can only be reached by climbing a few dozen thin wooden stairs. Several have been spray painted with frowning faces, indicating that it will break soon. The mine itself doesn’t go very deep into the mountain, but you’re still going to need a flashlight.


The Ingersoll Mine (also known as the Bob Ingersoll Mine, Horace Greeley Mine, and Ben Butler Mine) was discovered on August 24, 1880 by John W. Okey, John Schofield, and R.G. Williams.

In his paper, “A Mine With More Varieties than Heinz Has Pickles”, head mining engineer A.I. Johnson concisely described the Ingersoll Mine as “a mecca for geologists and a paradise for rock hounds.”

The most common, economically viable minerals found were feldspar and mica. Shockingly, about 2,200 tons of mica was produced at the site.

Beryl, a rare mineral, was plentiful in the Ingersoll Mine. Beryl can be found in crystals that vary greatly in size. The six-sided crystals are colorless when pure, but impurities can tint it colors like green, blue, yellow, red, or white. Emeralds are simply green beryl. In 1915, a large beryl crystal was found at the mine, measuring 44 inches high and 8 feet long. An even larger crystal was found in 1942 that was 19 feet long.


“Dr. Hess, head of the Rare Minerals Division of the Bureau of Mines, visited the site and wanted to make a national monument of the [large 1942 crystal] but, because of the strategic importance of beryl in the war effort, the crystal was mined and sold,” recalled Johnson.

The fall of 1944 was the stage for the mine’s largest ever beryl discovery. A crystal was found that was 28 feet long with faces being about 8 feet by 8 feet. Over 64 tons of beryl were mined from this crystal.

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