Anyone who has ever traveled with me knows that I like to see and do as much as possible when I am in a new place. There are so many places to see, that chances are good I won't return, so I have to do it all while I am there. I realize you cannot cover two massive states in less than two weeks, but we gave it a good college try. North Dakota got the short end of the stick as we really only covered one small section of the state with Medora
and the Theodore Roosevelt Park, but we covered that area well.
For South Dakota we drove from one side of the state to the other and back, but still did not see it all. As in other states, the topography changes greatly from one side to the other. The central and eastern parts of the state are extremely flat and lightly populated. Cattle, sheep and buffalo ranching and pastures seem to be the main agriculture.
We did see some corn growing, but they have had a lot of rain too, and their crops are behind schedule. We talked to some folks who say they may not be able to get a crop planted for summer. We heard many times that the badlands have never been as green in late June/early July as they were this year with all the rain.
On the western part of the state, you have mountains, trees, rocks, and tourism.
We were thrilled to hear so many different languages being spoken while at Mount Rushmore
and Crazy Horse. If we had a shock seeing the vastness of these states, I am sure Europeans and Asians were even more stunned.
Custer State Park was our home for two nights on the trip and we tried to see as much of it as we could.
It is a huge state park covering 71,000 acres in the Black Hills. (They get their name because of the dense tree cover which from a distance makes them look black or dark in appearance.) We rented a cabin and made forays to and from it while we were there. They are known for an abundance of wildlife in the park, and they have 1,300 buffalo living on the park grounds. Each fall they have a roundup of all the animals to help assess the herd. In addition there is an arts festival as well--this year that will be September 26-28. I think it would be impressive to see, but I won't be there. They claim the best viewing area for wildlife is the Wildlife Loop Road which is 18 miles long. Photos on the website show you have to stop to let buffalo cross--that didn't happen for us. They always say wildlife is more active at dusk and dawn, so we loaded into the car with great excitement (for some of us) to see buffalo, elk, long horned sheep, and more. We didn't see much. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. We saw deer--but we can see more of those in Arkansas.
We were not alone in our lust for wildlife viewings. Cars were poking along on both sides and from time to time we would stop and compare notes--no sightings! We did come upon a group of feral burros, who were quite friendly.
As this was really our first up-close wildlife sightings, everyone was going crazy--for burros!
At the end of the loop we did see some buffalo in the distance but only a handful--nowhere near the 1,300 who live there.
Then it was a slow, sad journey back to the cabin.
The next day we drove into Rapid City to see the town. We found some quaint shops.
Rapid City is known as the City of Presidents with a series of life-size bronze statues of our past presidents which they started back in 2000.
We tried to identify them as we drove by and got up close and personal with some as well. After lunch, we drove a different route back into the park so we could see Sylvan Lake
and drive the Needles Eye Tunnel
and Iron Mountain Road, which makes the Pig Trail in Arkansas look tame.
The scenery was amazing.
The roads were narrow and the tunnels tight, but there were tour buses going through which held up traffic a bit. How they made it through is beyond me.
On our way back to the cabin, a herd of big horned sheep were in the road.
We got to stop and see them up close and personal.
It spurred us back into another crack at the Wildlife Loop. After a short rest, Margaret and I were back out looking for wildlife and we were not disappointed.
We saw several groups of pronghorns,
more deer, loads of buffalo (although not in the road)
and some prairie dogs.
The only animal we did not see on this trip that we thought we would were elk. But we were satisified.
Weather varied as well. We had some very warm days--low 90's but low humidity as well. We had a couple of days with highs in the low 80's with nighttime temperatures in the upper 40's. We were lucky on rainfall. We drove through a little rain driving up and one storm coming back, but we only had rain while we were sleeping or eating lunch. We didn't use an umbrella once.
It was a great trip with wonderful friends, so there was a lot of laughter and fun times. I am ready for a slightly slower pace and happy to be at home for a bit--not living out of a suitcase.