Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Custer State Park

Custer State Park

Over the course of several days, we explored almost every inch of Custer State Park.

Along the Needles Highway we travelled through the higher elevations of the park,

View from the top of Coolidge Mountain

through giant boulders,

Cathedrals View



Climbing the rocks

and through tunnels.

Tunnel on the Needles Highway

The landscape was breath-taking!

Overlooking theBlack Hills

Rock column




Also on the Needles Highway is the Sylvan Lake Recreation Area.  There’s a campground, lodge, store & cafĂ©, and even a wedding facility!

The lake is really beautiful!

Sylvan Lake

We stopped in the store for a few minutes, and Bryce found a hat he liked,  Water Buffalo Bryce!






then we decided to walk the 1 mile loop around the lake to stretch our legs.  The path started out as an easy gravel path along the edge of the lake,


Bridge to nowhere

and we thought this little bridge was going to take us to the other side.  It ended at the big boulder though, so there was nowhere for us to go unless we were prepared to climb the rock (which we weren’t!)!

We made our way around behind the rocks, 

Hope that rock doesn't fall!

and continued our hike up and over the boulders.

Up and over the rocks!

Nicolas found a narrow crevice with a waterfall in it, and squeezed in to touch the water.

Nicolas climbs intot he crevice









As we continued our hike, the sky began to darken and we heard thunder, so we picked up the pace a little bit!


As reached the day use area on the far side of the lake, it was starting to clear out, and Nicolas found a window in the rock!

Window in a rock

We arrived safely back at the parking lot, and it never did rain . . .

As we exited the park on the west boundary, we could see the needles area in the distance.












From the Needles Highway, we continued to the Wildlife Loop.  We weren’t seeing much wildlife,

Nobody in the valley

except for a few prairie dogs,

Prairies Dogs

and a small herd of pronghorn.

A group of Pronghorn

As we made our way up the east side of the Wildlife Loop, we saw the resident donkeys (not native to the area, but left over from when they were used for trail rides),

Really friendly donkey



but we still hadn’t seen any sign of the buffalo herd.

As we reached the end of the Wildlife Loop, we finally found them, and it looked like the entire herd was together!


They were just strolling down the road, without a care in the world, but careful to keep the calves nearby.

Walking their kids down the road

This little guy was all on his own, though!

Buffalo Calf

Then we saw this guy . . . he must be the great grand daddy of them all!


Out at the Ranger Station, there was a huge gathering of buffalo . . . and nobody taking pictures at the entrance sign . . . I wonder why!

No families taking pictures at this sign!

Our last drive took us gown the Iron Mountain Road, home of the famous pigtail curves,

The pigtails on Iron Mountain Road

and 4 tunnels,

Double Tunnel

each of which is centered on Mt. Rushmore.

Mt. Rushmore in the distance

The drive was exhilarating, especially at dusk with all the deer around!


The view from the top was amazing,


and Bryce found some more rocks to climb on!

Climbing rocks again!

Custer State Park is HUGE . . . with lots of great recreational areas, and about 20 different campgrounds – we saw several that we probably could have even fit our RV into!  We could definitely see why it is the “Jewel of South Dakota”!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse


We couldn’t come to South Dakota without visiting Mount Rushmore, and it was at the top of Nicolas’ and Bryce’s “must see” lists!

Our first visit was on a beautiful sunny day, and the blue sky made for a lovely background behind the memorial!

Our fist glimpse of the Presidents



There were LOTS of people there . . . it felt like even more than at Yellowstone!


We were a little annoyed that our National Park pass wasn’t good at this park . . . they don’t charge an admission fee, but they let a concessionaire charge a “parking fee” . . . it just didn’t seem right!

Anyway, we paid our parking fee and walked through the corridor of state flags to the Grand View Terrace.



From the terrace, we walked along the Presidential Trail, which takes you through the sculptor’s studio and partway up the mountain to the memorial.

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum

Gutzon Borglum was the sculptor commissioned to create the memorial.  Original suggestions included Lewis & Clark and a Native Indian Chief, but Borglum was very patriotic and he wanted to honor presidents who had made especially significant contributions to the country.

He selected George Washington to represent Birth, Thomas Jefferson to represent Expansion, Theodore Roosevelt to represent Development, and Abraham Lincoln to represent Preservation.


In the sculptor’s studio, we saw the model that Borglum created for the workers to follow,

The model

Lincoln's maskas well as the porcelain masks of each face that were hung up on the mountain for the workers to follow for the details of each president.








Just outside the studio, there were several mountain goats hanging around, so we just had to stop and watch them for awhile . . . a new animal for us!

Mountain Goat


As we continued along the Presidential Trail, climbing flight after flight of stairs, we started to think that maybe we should have taken the loop in the opposite direction (and when we watched National Treasure 2 later that night, we noticed that they went the wrong direction around the trail, too!)!

We made it around, though, and were rewarded with some great views of the memorial!



Washington's Profile

From the Presidential Trail


Mount Rushmore is an amazing and inspiring sight, especially when you watch the video of how they created it, and you see men hanging from harnesses to chip away the rock!  the tools and equipment that they used was so primitive, and yet they created something so incredible!

From Mt. Rushmore we continued to the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Crazy Horse

We wanted to see the memorial, but decided that the cost wasn’t really worth it ($10/person) . . . so I just took a quick picture as we turned around to leave.

Crazy Horse . . . this is as close as we got!

Maybe the next time we’re in the area . . .

We returned to Mount Rushmore in the evening for the Ranger Program and the lighting of the memorial.

We arrived at dusk,

Twilight at Mt. Rushmore

found seats in the amphitheater to wait for the show.

Waiting for the lighting ceremony

The program was very good, and the memorial was just as impressive when lit.

The lighting ceremony begins