05.11.2018 - 05.14.2018
We love South Dakota! The quaint, historic towns...the friendly people...the laid back approach to life...the open country and canyons...and the MOST dog-friendliest place we've been.
We left Wall, SD early, unusual for us, but we were excited to get to the Black Hills and Wall was cold and completely fogged in. Unfortunately, pretty much all of Western SD was also fogged in! We entered Custer State Park and drove part of the wildlife loop, cutting out the South end onto dirt roads that led to Wind Cave National Park, but most of the time we couldn't see more than 10-30 feet outside the car.
Sylvan Lake before the fog lifted
It was fascinating in its own way but needless to say not much wildlife viewing happening there. The thing to notice in the video, that we did, are the wide open plains of the short grass prairie. It's similar but still really different from the long grass prairie of the Badlands. More rock, more Ponderosa Pine but the same wide open spaces.
So we headed on down to Hot Springs for lunch and to check out the town. It's a cute old town with a nice stream running through it and it was nice to have a hot meal on such a cold and wet day.
We continued to have cloudy, drizzly days for most of the next two days. One of them we decided to make a rest day and didn't leave our little house!
Good thing they had an awesome DVD collection since there was NO WiFi and we each could only get one bar inside the house! Lesson learned - only stay in tiny metal houses if they come with WiFi. They are incredibly effective at blocking cellular signals!
HAIL & SNOW
Yes we even saw a tiny mound of snow left over from 3 weeks ago when SD had its last snow storm.
And yes, yesterday, we did some amazing off road trails and got hailed on. Seriously, the sun was out one minute and it was hailing the next!
Speaking of off-roading, The Black Hills are a Mecca! Their maps are awesome and downloadable into a GPS enabled app so we can see exactly where we were at all times. They also have a ton of trail systems ranging from dirt and gravel roads accessible to anyone, trails for street-legal vehicles (cars/trucks), and trails for ATVs and motorcycles only. We spent the entire day yesterday in the woods and off asphalt. It was really awesome not only for the views but also for the wildflowers and wildlife. Hope you enjoy the video.
We've seen Elk, Wild Turkeys, Bison, Burros, Deer, and Antelope! The Elk were a special treat. We saw a huge herd up in the hills, only visible with binoculars, on our second attempt at the Custer wildlife loop but then we saw a few again way back in the woods on an off-roading trail. Boy are they skittish! Photos were a challenge.
Elk (sort of)
Turkeys - four ran across the road!
We also ended an off-road trip at Silver City, which has a beautiful creek and saw a Bald Eagle. Too far away for photos but it was a treat. And we saw it's nest, which at first I mistook for an Osprey nest but after Florida I knew the babies calls weren't Osprey's!
Oh and just cuz I missed it in the last post, here are some Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep from the Badlands.
MOUNT RUSHMORE & THE CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL
Finally the fog lifted and we got to see Mount Rushmore. It is truly an amazing sight. It's one of the few places we've been where busloads of foreigners were visiting, too. It does hold a special place in Americana.
We were also really moved by the Crazy Horse Memorial. The story of this place is worth reading about if you don't know it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crazy_Horse_Memorial The singular purpose and vision of Korczak Ziolkowski and Ruth Ross, and now their family, is amazing and incredibly inspiring. Definitely worth a visit and a contribution.
NEEDLES PARKWAY & IRON MOUNTAIN ROAD
So the Black Hills ROCK not only because of all of this but also literally because of all the rock. There are two amazing drives that really showcase the granite formations. The architects and builders of these roads were amazing! Especially the Iron Mountain Road. It had:
The four presidents are because each of the three tunnels was lined up perfectly so you could see Mount Rushmore THROUGH THEM!
The tunnels in the fog reminded us of doorways to heaven and the pig-tail bridges were just amazing.
Next, on to the Limestone Canyons of the Spearfish Canyon and the National Historic Landmark of Deadwood...
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