“Of the millions of summers the Black Hills have seen, the summer of 1927 was surely the most eventful—and perhaps cemented the region’s status as the popular tourist attraction that it is today.
“Much of the credit goes to President Calvin Coolidge, who arrived in the Hills for a three-week vacation in June 1927 and liked the cool mountain air, trout-filled streams, and forested hills so much he stayed three months. And wherever the president went, the media followed, so newspaper readers around the country read stories that summer filed from western South Dakota, a faraway place still unknown to many.
“The Coolidges stayed at the Game Lodge in Custer State Park, and the President used offices at Rapid City High School. Mrs. Coolidge knitted on the lodge porch and enjoyed nature walks, though she once got lost briefly, causing the President to scold the First Lady’s security agent. A creek running through the park was later named for her. Photographs showed the President enjoying great success trout fishing, though it was later revealed that Black Hills boosters stocked the streams, virtually guaranteeing Coolidge a fresh catch every time out” (southdakotamagazine.com). On this trip, the Coolidges were accompanied by their two dogs and Mrs. Coolidge’s pet raccoon.
We had driven past the lodge on a few occasions and vowed to return for a meal and a closer look at the lodge’s public areas. When I discovered that the lodge offered a breakfast buffet, I knew that the meal would be breakfast. While I have frequently remarked that I like the idea of buffets better than most of their executions, I will make an exception for breakfast. Why? Because a breakfast buffet means bacon. Endless amounts of bacon. All-you-can-eat bacon. Eat-until-you’re-sick bacon. Bacon. Beautiful bacon.
The dining room underwent a renovation in 2009 which combined modern space and light with rustic comfort.
A side room offered more intimate dining.
This sense of comfort extends into the “lounge” with a large stone fireplace on one wall and seating provided by leather sofas, rockers, and wing chairs.
While the lodge offers a full breakfast menu that includes such intriguing items as the Buffalo Benedict (buffalo salami, poached eggs, tomatoes, and ancho chili hollandaise) and the Smoked Trout BLT (smoked trout on toasted sourdough with scrambled eggs, apple wood bacon, and tomato), we both chose the buffet which included: scrambled eggs, potatoes, country sausage, crisp bacon, French toast, waffle station with assorted syrups and toppings, corned beef hash, biscuits and gravy, oatmeal, fresh fruit, assorted baked goods, and pastries.
I tackled the buffet with my first plate (Yes, there was a plate Number Two) and had no sooner returned to the table when I noticed our fellow diners looking out a back window and pointing with excitement.
Yes, there was a huge bull buffalo just outside the window which prompted my Favorite Traveling Companion to call out to the hostess “Table for one.”
But one table wouldn’t have been enough. Suddenly, the lodge was surrounded by a herd of buffalo. There were buffalo in the back yard.
Buffalo were lolling in the grass on the side yard.
One young bull was trying to breakfast on a pine tree sapling. I was reminded of the lyrics to the 1972 song “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealer Wheel “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right” except in this case it was “Buffalo to the left of me, buffalo to the right.”
Finally, the buffalo excitement died down, and I returned to breakfast.
My plate contained a serving of biscuits and gravy, a serving of corned beef hash, scrambled eggs cooked with peppers and onions, sausage links, and—of course—bacon. Lots of bacon. All my choices were excellent with the exception of the biscuit under the sausage gravy. This may have been the worst biscuit ever. It was so over-baked that it more resembled hardtack than a biscuit.
Chuck’s first plate contained the same eggs, sausage, and bacon to which he added potatoes (naturally) and three slices of semi-thick French toast that had been dipped in a nutmeg-scented egg mixture.
My second trip brought forth a serving of French toast, a portion of fresh fruit, and—of course—more bacon.
Chuck’s second helping contained more eggs, more potatoes, more French toast, and more bacon.
As we left the State Game Lodge following our 4.0 Addie breakfast, three-quarters of the herd was headed down the road. As Chuck started the Big White Truck (AKA Silver), I could be heard to say “Follow those buffalo.
And if you are asking yourself if I feel guilty about eating the blackened buffalo at the Sylvan Lake Lodge—yes, maybe a little.