Custer State Park

Our last day (yesterday) in South Dakota was a beautiful day and temperatures were supposed to reach mid to upper 70s. We planned to explore Custer State Park some more.

While in Wall, SD, we met some new friends, Rich and Joanne, and they were coming over to our RV park for breakfast that morning. Our park offers a really good breakfast plus coffee or hot tea for $5.00 (scrambled eggs, bacon, and biscuits & gravy, or scrambled eggs, bacon, and two pancakes). We really enjoyed breakfast with our new friends.

(NOTE: Rich and Joanne and us became good friends quite easily. They were going to be in the Mount Rushmore area a day or two after we left Wall. We discovered that their RV park was only about a 20 minute drive from our RV park, so we decided to stay in touch with them. We “dropped in” on them at their RV park the day they arrived on our way back from the Crazy Horse Memorial (see previous post). We made plans to meet in Keystone one day for lunch. After lunch we walked around town exploring some shops. It was fun, and we all talked nonstop. One lady in one store made a comment about us being such good, long-time friends, and she was shocked when we told we had only known each other for a week! Sometimes you meet people that you just “click” with, and it seems like you’ve known them all your life. That would be Rich and Joanne.)

Now, back to Custer State Park. We were going to take the Wildlife Loop of highway through that section of the park. We had heard you could see wild buffalo, donkeys, deer, antelope, mountain goats, elk, coyotes, prairie dogs, big horn sheep, and wild turkey. While we didn’t see near all those animals, we did see a few and really enjoyed the drive.

These are wild donkeys. Some people don’t read or abide by the signs that say “View wildlife from a distance. Do not approach wild animals.”

First buffalo we saw. Before the day was over, we saw hundreds of bison…and some VERY close up!

The buffalo would not get out of the road. What you can’t see is that there was a couple that looked like they were in their 60s, riding a tandem bike. They had nothing between them and the buffalo! Another car graciously offered to be their “shield.” They slowly drove past the nearest buffalo between the bicycle and the buffalo. I was scared to death for that couple!

As you can tell, this bull was very close to our car.

It decided to walk around the back of our car to the other side!

We were very glad Zoey didn’t see it. No telling what the bull might have done if Zoey had started barking. I’m certain that she would have barked if she had seen it!

They are MAGNIFICENT animals!!

There was an abundance of calves in the fields with their Mamas. In just one small section of a field, I counted THIRTY calves! The calves are a much lighter brown color.

Calf nursing.

The Wildlife Loop Highway came out on the south side of Custer State Park. We decided to keep going south to Wind Cave National Park. There are several caves in this park that we would have loved to explore, but we were running out of time.

We drove around the park and enjoyed the scenery and a couple of wild animals. We also stopped at the visitor center.

There were SOOO many beautiful, scenic views!

Can you see the momma dear on the left side of the stream? I saw her hop over, but her baby went to the edge and wouldn’t jump. The fawn then back tracked some and got further away from the stream.

Arrow is pointing to the fawn.

Then the fawn walked downstream some and is in the tall grasses.

Mama dear just turned around and looked at her baby. We watched for quite a long time. Momma watched the little fawn getting further away from the stream. I have no idea what happened because we decided to continue driving.

More prairie dogs! Can you tell I just LOVE these little guys? We even saw a group of prairie dogs running and playing around and around a big bull buffalo! He could have cared less about them. Did you know buffalo are herbivores?

Before we left Wind Cave National Park, we saw one lone buffalo.

When we exited the park on its southern side, we were very close to Hot Springs, SD. In order to get to the highway that would take us back to Hermosa, we had to drive through the town of Hot Springs, SD. I am SO glad we drove through that town!

Hot Springs is a quaint town with about 3,700 people. It contains over 35 sandstone buildings, some of which were constructed as far back as 1892. One of its attractions is the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs and Evan’s Plunge built in 1890. The spring is naturally warmed to 87 degrees year round. Hot Springs is one of the warmest places in South Dakota. It has a mean temperature of 48 degrees, and during December through February, it could have as many as 25 afternoons with temperatures that would exceed 50 degrees (or higher).

The Springs create a river that flows right through the middle of town. There are several waterfalls like this one that is also right in town. Hot Springs was a really lovely town that I wish we had more time to explore.

Tomorrow we continue our journey west.

So, for now ….. “On the Road Again!”

Betty

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

We left Wall yesterday and made our way west to Rapid City. Then we turned south to head a little way down Highway 79 to a small town called Hermosa, SD. We found an RV park called Heartland RV Park & Cabins. It is right along Hwy. 79.

The park is only 5 years old. There are 165 camping sites with 120 of those sites with 50 amp, full hookups. However, they are working on adding A LOT MORE sites! I don’t know how many more, but it’s a lot. Because it is such a new campground, the trees are small, so there isn’t much shade. All the facilities are, also, very nice!

This morning we got up early because we decided to go see Mount Rushmore. I brought my dad to see Mount Rushmore exactly five years ago, and it was the exact same date! The sun was shining and it was going to be a great day.

As we got near the mountain, we got some “sneak peeks” of the four presidents. There’s nothing like seeing the carvings on the mountain for the first time! Even though it was second time here, the sight of that mountain is still exhilarating.

We arrived at the memorial around 10:00 a.m. They had a snowstorm here last week (the news said 14-16 inches of snow!), so there were still piles of snow in various places.

We parked the car and walked to the entrance. Walking through the entrance and down the “honor guard” of pillars with flags representing all 50 states is inspirational. Add to those flags Mount Rushmore in the background, and, well, people just halt right where they are, looking up and gawking for several minutes.

Looking at the mountain from the edge of the viewing area, which is at the back of the amphitheater, is fantastic (it’s the view you see in textbooks and other publications). I could sit there for hours and just stare at those four presidents.

There is a hiking trail that goes to the base of the mountain where you will see some unusual and special views of Mount Rushmore. We decided to walk the trail and went to our left from the main viewing platform to start it (you can also go to the right; it’s the same trail).

The sun was still shining, but we could see some clouds building. We didn’t think much about it. However, it did start to lightly sprinkle about the time we were directly below the presidents. Then the rain drops got bigger and the temperatures had dropped. Needless to say, we began walking faster, so we wouldn’t get too wet. Before long, we arrived at a building called the Sculptor Studio, so we went inside and looked around for a while during the heaviest part of the rain. When the rain almost stopped, we finished the hiking trail and ended up on the right side of the viewing platform.

Before we left, we had to go in the Gift Shop (of course!). It is large gift shop, and I had been in there with my dad five years ago. However, today was a special day at the gift shop. They had a special guest: Mr. Don “Nick” Clifford. Mr. Clifford was one of the original Mount Rushmore drillers from 1938-1940, and he is the only person who worked on the mountain who is still living today. He was 17 when he started working on Mount Rushmore, and he is 97 years old now. He goes to the gift shop 2-3 days a week, signs copies of his book, and answers questions. If you buy his book, you get to have your picture taken with him. He was such a sweet man and his wife was there with him helping with the people.

When we left Mount Rushmore, we decided to take a different route back to the RV. We had heard about two scenic drives that many people take. One was called Iron Mountain Road and the other one was Needles Highway. We knew both of these roads were very curvy and had some tunnels. We chose Iron Mountain Road which is Highway 16A. You won’t believe the curves, tunnels, and scenic views!

We will be up on that bridge in a minute. The road makes a 360 degree turn here. There were several of these 360 turns along Highway 16A.

Zoom in and you will see Mount Rushmore from another far away angle.

When we got back to the RV, we rested a little while, did some chores, and ate some supper. Our plan was to go back to Mount Rushmore at night. The mountain looks SO different and beautiful at night! Did you know there is no admission charge to enter the park?! Also, the memorial is open from 5:00 a.m. until 11:30 p.m., and your parking receipt gets you back in for the nighttime lighting program at 9 p.m. Actually, when you pay for the parking, it is good for one full year!!

We haven’t totally decided where we are going tomorrow yet. I guess you will just have to come back to our travel blog and check it out.

Thanks for stopping by and reading about our adventures around the good ‘ole USA.

So, for now ….. “On the Road Again!”

Betty

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