Our trip continued Wednesday in the Black Hills, as we did as much as we could in the short one day time frame we squeezed in. The kids made us promise we’d spend a week here sometime in the future to see and do all the stuff we had to skip (such as Bear Country, Reptile Gardens, and the northern Hills — Lead, Deadwood, Spearfish Canyon, etc.). Still, we fit a lot into one day.
We started at Rushmore Cave, not one of the deepest or most impressive caves, but still fun for the kids, and cool to go underground and see what once was a local cave explored by the kids of Hayward, SD — a cool excursion. From there it was on to Mt. Rushmore, or “the four faces,” a monument known by all. I first visited Mt. Rushmore at age 1, and growing up we saw it about every year, as my Grandparents lived in Rapid City. It’s amazing how the monument has changed in 40 years — from one visitor’s center with a viewing deck to a series of trails and buildings offering tourists a load of information about how those famous carvings came into being.
After lunch in Keystone we went on the Iron Mountain road, with its famous “pig tails” (the road loops under and over a bridge in pig’s tail like curl) and tunnels. The boys loved the drive, and then on the Custer State Park nature loop we encountered buffalo and burros. The burros are extremely tame donkeys who will come stick their head into your car hoping to be fed. We got out of the car and fed them, as a whole group of burros enticed cars to stop.
Later buffalo actually caused a traffic jam. There were dozens located on each side of the road, with one blocking a line of traffic. When the car tried to go around it, the buffalo actually moved to block it!
Dana was a bit scared and demanded I keep his window rolled up, but that was when the buffalo was literally six inches from our car (I even rolled mine up at that point). One poor member of the herd got on the wrong side of the fence, and couldn’t get back. The highway has steel buffalo guards at the entrance of the reserve, and the poor buffalo touched it gingerly with its hoof, standing there five minutes before turning back. It tried to get under a fence that was loose, but failed. As we left it was walking along the fence, looking for a way back in (it may have escaped through the loose fence, but it was bent in a way it couldn’t get back). Deer and Mountain Lion also roam there; we saw deer, but no mountain lions.
From there it was up the Needles highway, with some short hikes at various points. Finally it was back into Rapid City, with dinner at Perkins Restaurant. At 8:00 MDT we departed for the five hour trip back to Sioux Falls. Saturday it’s back to Maine.