Willow Springs

Willow Springs B&B celebrates 25 years in the Black Hills. Visit South Dakota stories (click at right) to read more about this relaxing getaway.

Russ Payton built the main house at Willow Springs.

Willow Springs B&B Marks 25 Years in the Black Hills of South Dakota

“Sitting under the willow with red wine and cheese. Fished the stream this morning — water was clear and cool. Five very healthy trout of good size were caught and returned. No need to go touring — this is as good as it gets.”

So wrote “Paul” of New Zealand of his stay at Willow Springs Bed & Breakfast in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Paul is not unusual.  Although Willow Springs is centrally located in the Black Hills and within easy driving distance of the area’s major lakes and wonders such as Mount Rushmore and the massive mountain carving of Crazy Horse, many of its guests spend more time at the B&B than anywhere else. The beauty and seclusion of Willow Springs, the peace and quiet, are a tonic for those who live most of their year run ragged in the workaday world.

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“… Five very healthy trout of good size were caught and returned.”

Willow Springs has been owned and operated by Joyce Payton and her husband, Russ, for 25 years.  It is built on land whose ownership reaches well more than 100 years into the history of the Black Hills and Russ’s pioneer family.

Russ is a skilled cabinet builder and constructed, of locally harvested pine, the main house and the two cabins. One of the cabins is made of logs that Russ salvaged from an old house that had been built by the WPA. The other is sided with rough lumber that complements its rugged surroundings.  The interiors of both cabins are done in appropriate rustic modes but are totally modern with sparkling fixtures.

Joyce is recognized throughout the area as a gourmet cook, and every morning she shows off her art as she takes a basket filled with breakfast goodies such as just baked rhubarb muffins to each cabin. You don’t have to trek to the main house for breakfast; you dine in the peace and privacy of your own retreat.

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The sign directs you into the canyon to the bed & breakfast.

I will never forget our first visit to Willow Springs. It was hot that day in nearby Rapid City, but as we drove southwest out of town on Sheridan Lake Road into the Black Hills, the temperature began to fall, and in only a few miles it was 10 degrees cooler. It took 15 minutes to drive to Willow Springs. We dropped off the highway, following the Willow Springs sign, and, on a gravel trail just wide enough for one car, we descended sharply into a narrow, pine-clad canyon.  In less than a minute we came to the main house and noticed the temp had fallen another 10 degrees. The cool, pure air was delicious. We feared Joyce would think we were nuts — standing there in her yard, eyes half closed and breathing deeply.  We needn’t have worried.  She told us it was a common reaction among her guests.

That night, we tried out the hot tub set a few feet from the cabin and gaped at the huge stars in the black, black sky. No light pollution there, cradled as we were by canyon walls.  If the Garden of Eden had been in a forest of ponderosa pine, it might have been like this.

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The hot tub is ready at the Willows cabin.

In the morning, overly fortified by a memorable breakfast, we walked a path through the forest and came upon a stream tumbling from the mountains above.

And right in the middle was a pond that beckoned us to take a dip. We briefly lamented not having swimming suits, but then it dawned us that there was not another person anywhere near. So, what the heck. . . .

Willow Springs is open until November, and now is the time to make your reservations. To learn more about Willow Springs, you can chat with Joyce by calling 605-342-3665. Or you can email info@willowspringscabins.com.  The website is http://www.willowspringscabins.com. Or Like them on Facebook.

Joyce stokes her beloved wood cookstove.

The glimpse of sparkling modern fixtures in the “Frontier” cabin contrasts with the rustic appearance of the cabins.

The swimming pool beckons, beautiful and well-hidden in the forest. Forgot your swimming suit? No problem.

Interior of the Willow Cabin

The rock knows the secret of Willow Springs.

Someday, Russ might get around to reviving his family’s 1942 Chevy truck.

Joyce and Russ relaxing at the Willow Cabin with Phoebe. Click for the full story.

Sights, sounds and random thoughts from the Land of Enchantment


Artwork to make you smile in one of many galleries off the Santa Fe President's Plaza.

Much of the architecture in the state is Spanish style — adobe-look. In Santa Fe, it’s the law, and it may be in other places, too. Two days spent in New Mexico’s wonderful capital city would not be excessive. Be sure to visit the La Fonda Hotel, and if you are a one percenter, take a room. If you are a 99 percenter, just look the place over and enjoy a fabulous pastry in the French pastry shop before you return to your economy motel room.

Chihuahua dogs everywhere — walking with their owners, being carried by their owners, riding in their owners’ vehicle. We have raised very large dogs for years and never paid much attention to small dogs. But we saw one little guy in a pickup truck that we would have adopted on the spot. He was a “deer head” as opposed to an “apple head,” and he was a dark, chocolate brown in color.

  • If you go to White Sands National Monument, and you absolutely must, you can slide down the big sand dunes on a sled. You can buy a sled at the monument visitor center’s gift shop for about $15, and sell it back for $5, unless you want to take it home and slide down snowbanks (which look exactly like white sand dunes!)
  • The sand at White Sands is very soft, almost powderlike and is actually gypsum that has been ground to powder by wind and water. It is against federal law to remove the sand from the monument. “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.”
    Our footprints at White Sands

    The print of our boots in the dunes at White Sands National Monument will blow away with the sand.

  • Altitudes range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet. If want to do any hiking, you probably should quit smoking.
  • Lodging is reasonable in the off-season; — I’m not sure when that starts, although we must have come in on the last part of it. Chain motels and hotels are in the $40 to $80 range.
  • Two eateries stand out. The Owl Bar and Café in San Antonio (between Socorro and the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge) boasts “the world’s greatest green chile cheeseburger,” while an establishment on the other side of the street features “the seventh best green chile cheeseburger in the world.” We stopped at the Owl and Suzanne and her daughter, Johanna, ordered the famous burgers while I got something else. They thought they were great. I thought they were okay — at best. There appears to be great competition among the restaurants in New Mexico as to which makes the best green chile cheeseburgers.
    New Mexico State Sandwich

    Owl Cafe's Green Chile Cheeseburger

  • New Mexico’s official state question is “Red or green,” meaning, do you prefer red or green chile sauce on your plate?
  • Clarification. There might be some confusion between the words chile and chili. A chile is a pepper (jalapeno, habanero, ancho, chipotle, etc.), and when it is used as an ingredient, you could end up with chili, like in the many chili competitions we have hereabouts.
  • We visited in early February, which can be too cool. March gets better. I have been in that part of the country several times, and can advise that the summer months are very hot. The sun in the southern part of the state can bust your head. October is great.
  • Restoration of wildlife habitat along the Rio Grande River has created numerous refuges along the I-25 corridor. We spent a couple days visiting the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in San Antonio watching sandhill cranes and snow geese. We were able to add the New Mexico state bird, the roadrunner, to our bird checklist while there, but missed the herd of javelinas spotted by visitors earlier in the day.