Things to See and Do in South Dakota

Things to See and Do in South Dakota

I’m sure most of us have childhood memories of family vacations, and some of those vacations were more fun than others. One of my most memorable and fun childhood vacations was in South Dakota. The picturesque lakes, rolling landscape, granite boulders, and interesting wildlife, left an indelible impression on a young fourteen-year-old me from the flatland of Illinois.

Thirty-some years later, I experienced one of the best mother/daughter road trips to South Dakota. My daughter and I shared more laughs and mishaps during that five-day excursion, so much so, that we still talk about that trip today. And then several years later, I shared an amazing visit to the Black Hills with my husband and in mid-June of ’19, we returned again.

So, perhaps it’s obvious why the Black Hills in South Dakota is one of my favorite places I’ve visited. It’s all about sharing memorable experiences and explorations with loved ones, and what fond memories I have from all my visits. So, let’s return, but where to start?

How many days should I spend in South Dakota?

Whether you plan on stopping in South Dakota’s Black Hills on your way to your destination like we recently did, or it’s the main destination, be sure and plan enough time. We’ve never spent more than five days in the area on any given visit, and we were never ready to move on, but it all depends on your interests.

Buffalo crossing the street at a crosswalk
Pretty cool that these buffalo (Bison) are using the crosswalk ūüėÜ

My favorite things to see and do in southwest South Dakota

1. At the top of my list is a scenic drive. I promise you won’t be disappointed. You’ll love taking in the landscape by driving a couple of very scenic roads, but be WARNED, these roads are not RV friendly … unless you’d like to turn your lovely RV roof into a convertible – which has happened, unfortunately.

The Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway in the Black Hills of South Dakota is one of the most beautiful roads in the United States. Mix in America’s most patriotic monument (Mount Rushmore) and you have a never-to-be-forgotten road trip. Depending on the number of stops you make along the way, plan on spending 2-3 hours to drive this byway.

This 70-mile drive includes spiraling bridges, hairpin curves, granite tunnels, and awe-inspiring views. It’s roughly a figure-eight route, taking drivers through Custer State Park and passing by Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Several tunnels carved through the granite mountain not only provide a transportation passage but artistically frame the four faces on Mount Rushmore in the distance. These tunnels are one lane only and definitely have height and width restrictions. So, no RVs!

(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image)

Needles Eye Tunnel is just 8‚Äô 4‚ÄĚ wide and is one of three tunnels found on Needles Highway and is certainly the most famous, longest, and tallest. Its name comes from the remarkable granite spire located near the tunnel entrance. Cruising on Needles Highway isn‚Äôt about getting to the next destination, it‚Äôs about taking in the scenery. Spectacular sites to see along the way include Legion Lake, Stockade Lake, the Cathedral Spires, and Sylvan Lake. And if you’re lucky, you might even come across some cute mountain goats lingering alongside the road.

During our family road trip with the brand new motorhome back in the 1970s, my dad drove the motorhome through Needles Eye Tunnel much to my mom’s dismay. I credit my dad for talking to a ranger and measuring the motorhome a couple of times to verify that he’d fit. However, once he saw a tour bus go through it, there was no stopping him, but keeping the motorhome in the center of the tunnel was key. As kids, we thought dad was so cool!¬†

Sylvan Lake

2. Spend the day exploring a State Park and National Park.¬†Custer State Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife including antelope, deer, bighorn sheep, coyote, prairie dogs, and burros (burros who like to beg for food), but the park is probably best known for the nation’s largest free-roaming buffalo herds.

When driving the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road through Custer State Park, don’t be surprised that your travels may be detained by a “Buffalo Jam”. These large animals weighing in as much as 2,000 pounds walk wherever, whenever, and at their own pace, but can run as fast as 40 mph. So, if they feel like standing in the middle of the road, they do.

‚ÄčWhat is the difference between buffalo and bison? Scientifically, the term ‚Äúbuffalo‚ÄĚ is incorrect for the North American species; its proper Latin name is Bison. However, common usage has made the term ‚Äúbuffalo‚ÄĚ an acceptable synonym for the American bison, and around here, they are called “buffalo”.

The park is also home to a wide variety of historic sites including French Creek, made famous when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and President Calvin Coolidge’s Summer White House, the historic State Game Lodge.

Wind Cave National Park… if you’re looking to avoid crowds, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with this small national park. I’m not one for caves so I can’t share any info on the cave itself, but I can tell you, if you’re interested in seeing wildlife without the crowds in Custer State Park, then driving around Wind Cave National Park is for you. That’s exactly what I did and I definitely found beauty and wildlife.

I did attempt to hike to Lookout Point but stopped in my tracks when I encountered a lone buffalo alongside the trail. There I was hiking by myself wearing a bright pink hoodie. Mr. Buff stopped eating and just stared at me. My 135 pounds was no match for his 1,800+ pounds. So, I did the smartest thing by lowering my face to avoid eye contact and slowly retreated all the while glancing back over my shoulders to make sure he wasn’t following me.

Halfway back to the truck, the herd of Buffalo that was near the highway when I first started hiking had meandered up the hill towards the trail … toward me ūüėĮ. I quickened my pace and took great pleasure in photographing these beasts from the comfort of my vehicle. And that was the end to my attempts at hiking in the Black Hills last month. I’m getting too old for these wildlife encounters lol.

3. Take in the past. The Black Hills is rich in American history and filled with tales of cowboys, pioneers, Indians, and more. Be sure and stop in at the various visitor centers and learn about the area’s history.

There’s gold in them thar hills! With the 7th US Cavalry unit confirming the discovery of gold, the 1875 gold rush occurred and thousands of European-Americans invaded the Black Hills and founded the towns of Deadwood, Lead, and Custer. By 1875, the Sioux had had enough and they fought for control of their land (which was rightly theirs by the Laramie Treaty).  Lead by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, the Sioux made a valiant fight and gained victory at Little Big Horn. In the end, the US Army prevailed and the Sioux lost their land and were moved on to smaller reservations.  In 1980, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the land was illegally taken and the US government was forced to pay for the land.

A visit to Mount Rushmore is a must

4. Of course, no visit to the southwest part of South Dakota would be complete without visiting Mount Rushmore. After all, it’s the American thing to do, as is visiting Crazy Horse Memorial … another worthwhile stop.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is free to enter but you have to pay for parking ($10.00 in 2018). Upon entering the memorial, check out the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center and watch the film about carving Mount Rushmore. After that, head out to the Presidential Trail to get a close-up view of the sculpture. The trail is a 0.6-mile loop with a few stairs.¬†(Be sure and check the Mount Rushmore official website under “alerts” for any closures ahead of your visit so you won’t be disappointed.)

My daughter and I really enjoyed visiting the Carver’s Studio and learned a great deal about Gutzon Borglum and how they managed to carve the mountain. You might also consider a Ranger program or stay for the illumination on Friday evenings and learn a little more about the history of the monument.

And best of all, eat some Thomas Jefferson’s Ice Cream. Without Thomas Jefferson, we may not have this delicious treat. Give your Mount Rushmore vacation a taste of the first recorded ice cream recipe in American history.

As long as you’re in South Dakota, you really should visit the world‚Äôs largest mountain carving; Crazy Horse Memorial. This is another monumental sculpture that is huge. If budget or time is a problem, Crazy Horse can easily be seen from Highway 385.

Crazy Horse Memorial. The white sculpture is a small version of what the finished sculpture should look like – in progress in the background.

I recommend starting your visit at the Orientation Center. The short film, ‚ÄúDynamite and Dreams,‚ÄĚ will help you gain an introduction to the memorial and its history. Then walk through the Indian Museum of North American and Native American Cultural Center to learn about the American Indian heritage before heading out to the observation deck for views of the massive monument. For an additional fee, you can take a bus to the bottom of the monument for better views. Don‚Äôt forget to stop at the information desk to get a return ticket for the ‚ÄúLegends in Light‚ÄĚ laser light show they perform in the evening from the end of May to the end of September.

And twice a year, you can actually hike to the top of Crazy Horse: Volksmarch hike. This is high on my ‘must-do’ list.

Somewhere back in one of my storage units in Colorado, I have photographs of Crazy Horse that my dad took during our family vacation to the Black Hills in the early ’70s. It would be fun to compare the progress via our photographs.

Granite rock reflections at Sylvan Lake in South Dakota
Sylvan Lake

5. Outdoor recreation: Lakes, Hiking, fishing. I absolutely love the picturesque lakes around here. There are many lakes and streams perfect for fishing, boating, or picnicking lakeside, and they are all pristine in my opinion. During that 1970s family vacation, I thought Sylvan Lake was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen. My brother and I hiked and explored all around this stunning little lake. We were intrigued by the granite rock and boulders and the clean, clear, cool water.

We even rented one of those paddle boats. While my brother and I exercised our legs, my dad sat on the back of the paddle boat with a fishing line in the water.¬† No surprise, dad brought his fishing gear on this summer vacation just like any other trip. Nothing like trolling via sustainable energy. Dad was great in giving my brother and me directions on where he wanted us to paddle and gave no thought to our weakening leg muscles, but after catching a couple of teenie tiny fish, dad had enough … our legs were saved thank goodness. Ah, the memories!

A family fishing on Stockade Lake.

I couldn’t wait to share Sylvan Lake with my daughter and I tried to recreate the hike with her that my brother and I took all those years ago.

After the hike, we stopped in at the Sylvan Lake Lodge to check out what the park considers their crown jewel. You can picnic on the grounds or have lunch at the restaurant.

Another beautiful lake and one of my favorites is Stockade Lake. It’s the largest of five lakes in Custer State Park. You’ll find a couple of campgrounds nestled in the pines near the lake, as well as a day-use picnic area.

Hiking in the Black Hills

There is no storage of trails to hike in the Black Hills, but one of the most popular trails is to the highest peak in South Dakota; the Black Elk Peak which was formerly known as Harney Peak. Even though this trail is popular, my daughter and I did not find it easy considering it’s mostly uphill. There are gradual inclines and some flat surfaces at the beginning that leads to steep inclines and stairs. The trail is considered moderately difficult.

Once you reach the 7,242-foot peak topped by a stone fire tower, you are rewarded with breathtaking views of the Black Hills National Forest. Be sure and take a break to have lunch at the top and enjoy the scenery. The fire lookout, dam, and pumphouse were built in 1939 and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Most people catch the trail near Sylvan Lake, but my daughter and I started at the trailhead for Little Devil’s Tower and then connected. The views of Cathedral Spires is quite stunning and not to be missed.

At the top of Black Elk Peak – We made it!

Top 5 things to see and do in South Dakota

    1. Take a scenic drive and don’t forget your camera
    2. Visit Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park
    3. Explore the local history
    4. Visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse Memorial
    5. Enjoy outdoor recreation: hiking, fishing, boating, 4×4 exploring

(Pin this post)

Other sights worth noting

During my recent visit, I drove to the Mount Coolidge Lookout Tower. To get there, I turned off of Hwy 87 and continued up a 1.7-mile gravel road to the summit where I took in the views of the Black Hills. This site is 6,023 feet above the forest and is not for folks with a fear of heights. The gravel road is narrow in places with steep dropoffs and no guardrails, but the views are amazing. On a clear day, you can see Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and the Needles.

Towns of Spearfish and Deadwood

Spearfish is a cute little town from what we could gather, but we didn’t stop. We were here to drive Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway and take in the stunning landscape. With soaring limestone bluffs, a glistening creek, wildflowers, and three flowing waterfalls, it did not disappoint. The 20-mile byway is north of Custer State Park along Highway 14A and is an incredible road. Several scenes from the movie, ‚ÄúDances With Wolves‚ÄĚ were filmed in the canyon.

Next on our list was a visit to the historic town of Deadwood. Al and I are huge fans of the HBO series titled Deadwood and really looked forward to our visit.

The town is a throwback to the Wild West where gambling and bars are alive and well. Gamble in one of the many casinos and follow the footsteps of legendary characters like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. ¬†Although we enjoyed the day, we probably wouldn’t return. It’s a kitschy tourist town (in my humble opinion).

But a place I always look forward to visiting is …

The Badlands

Badlands National Park is most definitely a worthwhile visit. Be sure and spend at least one day exploring the 244,000 acres of this other-worldly landscape. Driving the 31-mile scenic Badlands Loop Road is an absolute must and do take advantage of every pull-off and overlook. Can you say photo-op?

Even better, take a few short hikes. If you have time get off the beaten path on Sage Creek Rim Road to look for buffalo and bighorn sheep. Make sure to check with a ranger on road conditions before taking the drive.

Just northwest of the Badlands National Park on I-90 is Wall Drug. It’s one of those roadside attractions that’s synonymous with American road trips.

At Wall Drug, there are walls upon walls filled with photos from years gone by.

A roadside attraction called Wall Drug. The story behind this place … Wall Drug started simply enough when Ted Hustead purchased the South Dakota town of Wall‚Äôs drugstore in 1931. But it was Ted‚Äôs wife Dorothy who hit upon the idea that changed not just the drugstore, but the entire 231-person town of Wall. The idea: ice water. In an attempt to attract people, Dorothy Hustead put up a sign advertising free ice water to parched tourists on their way to nearby attractions. It was a big hit. From then on Wall Drug grew under its own strange power, adding a bizarre assortment of fiberglass animals, including the iconic Wall Drug jackalope, giant dinosaurs, and an array of taxidermy jackalopes. And then there are the hundreds of photos and newspaper clippings adorning the walls from years ago. My husband could’ve spent hours just looking and reading all the old photos and memorabilia hanging on the walls.

If you are a honeymooner, veteran, priest, hunter, or truck driver, you can also get free coffee and donuts. They still give out ice water too. Some 20,000 cups a day. This is also a fun place for kids. Every 30 minutes the dinosaur inside comes to life and gives you a little show. Seriously, regardless of age, make sure you spend a couple of hours in this little eclectic town at least once.

Conclusion

Southwestern South Dakota has something to offer just about anyone, from young to old and everyone in-between. It’s one of those places that one visit may be enough, or if you are like us, once is not enough and we find ourselves wanting to return after every visit. It’s a fun place to take children with many more kid-friendly attractions than mentioned here.

There are some great restaurants, breweries, live entertainment, and plenty of outdoor activities. Lodging is available in all forms from basic campgrounds, to RV Resorts, to motels and hotels, as well as vacation rentals. Yep, the Black Hills is definitely a great vacation destination or place to spend just a few days while passing through.

Have you ever visited this part of South Dakota? If so, what was your favorite thing to see or do?

(Thank you for shopping my affiliate links … a few of our favorite products these days)

Panasonic LUMIX FZ300 Long Zoom Digital Camera – Splash & Dustproof
Merrell Women’s Sandal
KEEN Men’s Hiking Sandal

Camco Heavy Duty Leveling Blocks
Indoor/Outdoor Lightweight, Reversible, & Fade Resistant Area Rug
Lightweight Raincoat

Favorite RV Destination

Do you have a favorite RV travel destination? That’s a question we seem to be asked frequently and it’s not an easy one to answer. There are so many variables that make a place special and memorable. With that said, favorite destinations are truly a personal experience based on individual opinion. Of course, I do have a list of faves.

I have friends that have been brought to tears when they first set eyes on the Grand Canyon while others don’t see the big deal. In addition to the actual place, I feel a lot has to do with one’s frame of mind. For example, if you and your partner are quarreling or you have a child who’s being difficult, no matter how beautiful the scenery may be, you probably won’t have the fondest memories of that particular destination.

Sylvan Lake, SD

On the flip side, let’s say all the stars align, the sky is filled with rainbows, and you’re surrounded by dancing unicorns, even staying in a Cabela’s parking lot in Mitchell, South Dakota can turn into a fun and memorable place to spend a birthday. Yep, been there, done that!

A favorite destination; the Black Hills in South Dakota

I was around fourteen years old the first time I visited the southwest corner of the state of South Dakota. My parents had just upgraded from a popup travel trailer to a Class A Motorhome and this would be our first family vacation with the new RV. It would also be our first time traveling outside of the Midwest. We lived in the Chicago suburbs at the time, and our vacations for our family of five always revolved around my dad’s love of fishing in Wisconsin.

And guess where I am today? I’m back in Hayward, WI … the very place that I spent many childhood summer vacations, but that’s for another post.

That family vacation was an unforgettable trip to the Black Hills and Custer State Park. Ever since that trip, I had always wanted to return but didn’t get a chance until my daughter and I visited during the summer of 2010, and then I returned in 2015 with Al in tow. And guess what? I was recently able to return again in June of 2019.

A revisit to a favorite destination, but first a stop in Nebraska

Anytime I have an excuse to visit the Black Hills in South Dakota, I’m all in. Well, in reality, I don’t need an excuse but a reason sure does help with any trip route planning. And a fine reason we had on our trek from Arizona to Wisconsin to stop for a spell in the Black Hills in mid-June and connect with blogging pals. Once again, we were offered the opportunity to stay on private property from someone we had never met before. Oh yeah, twist my arm! I love my blog community. ‚̧

But first … Since we had well over 400 miles and nearly eight hours of driving time to get to our South Dakota destination, we broke up the drive into two days and knew just the place to overnight; the Cabela’s in Sidney, Nebraska. This is the original store and home to the founders of Cabela’s. Unfortunately, Bass Pro purchased Cabela’s in 2017 and closed the headquarters in Sidney putting a bunch of employees out of work. Sidney is a small town and this acquisition has had a definite impact on the community in a negative way.

Considering Al had a few outdoorsy things he wanted (when doesn’t he?), he thought he’d help the local economy by purchasing a few items. Ah, but we didn’t stop there. Since we would be boondocking at Jim and Barb’s, we opted to spend a little on a campsite and get a full hook-up site for the night in their campground in lieu of staying for free in the parking lot. (I think it was around $32 for the night) This is a great spot to overnight with numerous restaurants within easy walking distance and a Walmart just down the road. Plus, it’s super easy to get on and off Interstate 80.

Barb and Jim’s driveway. Our RV in the distance.

Beautiful property with a unique building

The next day, we had no trouble finding Jim and Barb’s lovely property located not far from Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park. We arrived just in time to reconnect with Jim and Diana whom I had previously met in Sedona this past April. They would be leaving the next morning. Needless to say, that evening we all enjoyed happy hour together … good conversation and tasty margaritas.

A barndominium in the works. Jim and Barb have been RVing full-time since 2014. A couple of years ago, they purchased their dream property in South Dakota and are now in the process of building a home … a unique home that is part barn (that will fit two RVs) and part house. Actually, it’s quite perfect for those of us that love RVing, and it’s something Al and I have often talked about building. Our problem is we can’t pick a location.

The more Jim blogged about their “barndominium”, the more I wanted to see it … and of course, meet Jim and Barb. It really is a great idea and will meet their needs perfectly. They still intend to continue RVing and traveling regularly.

(To enlarge photos in a gallery, simply click on any image)

During our five day visit, the building process needed to continue. While Barb ran errands (visiting lumber yards, picking up doors, etc.), Al helped “fishing Jim” install some windows. Why “fishing Jim”? When there are two different “Jim’s” on the premises, ya gotta have a way to differentiate the two. So while I call Jim, the property owner, “fishing Jim”, I call the visiting Jim, “Michigan Jim”. Seems to work when I’m communicating with my husband. He always knows which Jim I’m referring to, and yes, Al and Jim did talk fishing, but that was after the other Jim returned to Michigan.

Al and me on the left, Jim and Barb on the right.

So, while everyone was busy working on the barndominium, I went out exploring with my camera. Hey, I did my part by offering some very helpful and important tidbits. As a former home builder, I’m full of all kinds of useful (and non-useful) information.ūü§£

Actually, door swings, placement of electrical switches, and cabinet layout are rather important and I gave Barb some suggestions on how to ensure an end result that she’ll be happy with. I think we’ve all visited a place where the light switch is in an awkward location or even behind a door. It’s all about the planning and attention to little details and that’s my expertise. Oh, and I’m really good at pointing a finger and telling people what to do. Just ask Al!ūüėŹ

However, it wasn’t all about the build. We did have time for some fun together. One evening we saw a comedic play at the Black Hills Playhouse. Another day, Al and Jim did some backroad exploring with the Jeep and then Jim took me on a 4×4 drive in the four-wheeler in search of photo-ops. This image is for you Jim.

A great campsite

Our five-day stay in the Black Hills whizzed by. We would’ve loved to stay longer, but 1. we didn’t want to overstay our welcome having just met these lovely folks in person for the first time, and 2. rain was expected and with rain comes a very muddy driveway … that’s the real reason we bid farewell. If it hadn’t been for the impending rain, they may never have gotten rid of us … but shhh, don’t tell them that or we may not be welcome back.

Come on, with a campsite like this, why would we be in a hurry to move on? It’s obvious why Jim and Barb fell in love with the property. If it weren’t so darn far away from our children and the winters weren’t so nasty cold, we would consider buying land in the area. Yes, we really do like the Black Hills that much … in the summer, that is.

Thank you, Jim and Barb for opening your home to us. We enjoyed meeting you, hanging out, and hope to do it again. Oh, and let’s not forget about the handsome neighbors.

Jim and Barb’s neighbors

But why are South Dakota’s Black Hills one of my favorite vacation destinations? I’ll share more photos and information about the area in my next post.¬†

(Thank you for shopping my affiliate links)

Camco Heavy Duty Leveling Blocks
Renogy 100 Watt Off Grid Portable Solar Panel
Adjustable Zero Gravity Lounge Chair Recliners

Wildlife is the Best

Custer State ParkWe thought a week in the Black Hills would be enough time to see all the sights that were of interest to us, and although we touched on the ones at the top of our list, we could have easily spent another week exploring.

Al and I were both curious about the towns located at the northern end of the Black Hills:¬† Deadwood, Sturgis, and Spearfish.¬† As we embarked on a scenic drive, our first stop was a quick drive through Sturgis; famed for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.¬† Not our thing, but we were curious.¬† I’m sure this place can get really crazy during the cycle rally.¬† During our excursion, it¬†appeared to be¬†just another small town with a twist; businesses geared toward motorcycles.

Bear Butte State Park
Bear Mountain is sacred to many American Indian tribes who come here to hold religious practices

While in the area, we checked out Bear Butte State Park and its sacred mountain.

It was then on to¬†Spearfish where we¬†took the Spearfish Canyon National Scenic Byway.¬† Twisting and turning through towering limestone cliffs, along mountain streams and waterfalls, the drive was reminiscent of Boulder Canyon in Colorado and very pretty.¬† We didn’t stop much for photos as our bellies were growling which kept us focused on moving along.

Deadwood, South Dakota
Main Street, Deadwood, South Dakota

Deadwood, South Dakota

We arrived in Deadwood, South Dakota, just in time for lunch.¬† Al and I were really curious about Deadwood and this was the focus of today’s drive.¬† We’ve watched the complete series of the HBO production Deadwood ….. a couple of times, which was the catalyst that piqued our interest in laying¬†eyes on this historic town.¬†¬† The series tried to stay true to history with a little Hollywood thrown in for¬†amusement.

We ate lunch at Diamond Lil’s located inside the Midnight Star Casino and owned by Kevin Costner.

Diamond Lil's
The place is adorned with costumes from Kevin Costner films. Even Whitney Houston’s costume from “Body Guard” was hanging in the place. The wall d√©cor provided a level of entertainment.

The food at Diamond Lil’s was average, but the walls decorated with movie costumes made it interesting.¬† Gaming in little casinos, average food, tourist attractions playing off of the Wild Bill Hickok days, and plenty of cigarette smoke sums up my take on Deadwood.¬† I can check Deadwood off my list with no need to revisit!

Pactola Reservoir
Pactola Lake, west of Rapid City, South Dakota

Beautiful lakes in the Black Hills

On our way back to Rapid City, we stopped by Pactola Reservoir and fell in love with this picturesque lake.¬† It reminded us of the many lakes we enjoyed paddling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota; surrounded by granite rock and pine trees….. pristine and beautiful.

The next day found us returning to Custer State Park and meandering along some of the scenic byways around this part of the Black Hills…. again!

mountain goats
mountain goats along the side of the road
mountain goats
Which one do you want?

mountain goats

Is there anything better than coming across wildlife when you least expect it?  How cute are these mountain goats?  Wildlife is the best!

mountain goats
“I know, I’m cute, but you can’t take me home”!

I could’ve sat there watching these agile hikers for hours, but lunch was calling. (Lunch is our fave)¬† We’d heard Custer, South Dakota restaurantsfrom a couple of bloggers that the Black Hills Burger & Bun was the place to have lunch in the town of Custer, and boy, it did NOT disappoint.

The food was delicious and we wanted to go back on another day before we left town, but they closed for a few days for some much-needed time off.  They grind their own meat daily and everything was very fresh.  Al had the bison burger while I enjoyed Angus.  Seriously, for anyone looking for a great meal while visiting the Black Hills, this is the place to go.  FYI Рit is a busy place, for obvious reasons.

scenic byways
The scenic byways are a main attraction in the Black Hills

Sylvan LakeOur last day in the Black Hills had me longing to go back to Sylvan Lake just one more time.  We met fellow blogger, Lenore, and her beautiful Golden Retriever, Honey, for a stroll around the lake and a picnic lunch.  We had a lovely visit and the weather was perfect.

Our time in South Dakota’s Black Hills¬†went by way too fast.¬† I know we’ll need to return for further explorations.

Sylvan Lake
above the damn at Sylvan Lake
Sylvan Lake
Al and I at Sylvan Lake

Visit Mt. Rushmore

George Washington

A few of the things that Al and I didn’t get around to doing that my daughter and I did do……

No trip to the Black Hills would be complete without a visit to Mount Rushmore.¬† After all, it is the American thing to do, isn’t it? ūüėČ

Be sure and stroll this memorial leisurely and take in some of the displays sharing the model and the history of this spectacular sculpture.

Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore
Crazy Horse
Crazy Horse Memorial in the distance
Crazy Horse Memorial
Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse is another monument not to be missed.  Once complete, this sculpture will be the largest mountain carving in the world.

A hike to remember

Daughter - Harney Peak hike
Daughter – Harney Peak hike

Black Hills hiking

And then there’s the fabulous hiking in the area.¬† When Ashton and I visited, my hiking abilities at the time consisted of the necessary walking required in a super Wal-Mart or Mall.¬† I was twenty pounds heavier than I am now and called a workaholic by my children.¬† The thought of hiking a seven-mile round trip trail with something like a 1,000 foot plus elevation gain was beyond my thoughts….. AND abilities.

Ashton and I started our Harney Peak (now known as Black Elk Peak) hike via the less popular trailhead off Needles Highway and quickly took a wrong turn which lead to us enjoying the view of the Cathedral Spires before retracing our steps and taking the correct turn.  This, of course, added a little distance and a few chuckles to the day.

Black Hills hiking

The hike took us about 4 hours, which included some hanging around time at the top.¬† Upon our return to the trailhead, I was exhausted but felt incredibly alive.¬† I hadn’t felt that way in years and I credit this hike with sparking the hiking bug within me.¬† Even though I was so sore and moaned with each step taken the following day, I looked forward to embarking on my next hike.

Black Hills, South Dakota

So that about wraps up our time in the Black Hills.  Next up, we move down into Nebraska.

Longhorn

Skilled, Adventurous, or Crazy?

Black HillsMy reminiscing didn’t end¬†in the Badlands.¬† The memories continued as¬†Al and I moved on to¬†South Dakota’s Black Hills and Custer State Park.

Not only did my childhood family of five visit this area umpteen years ago in dad’s new Motorhome, but five years ago my daughter and I visited during a gals road trip.

 

 

Mount Rushmore

My daughter, Ashton, and I visit Mount RushmoreMount RushmoreAshton was in college at the time and enjoying a break before heading off to Sydney, Australia, for a semester abroad.   She and I hopped in my little red Toyota Tacoma and made the five-hour drive from Fort Collins, Colorado to Custer, South Dakota.

Ashton¬†and I had such a fabulous time during that visit that I couldn’t wait to return to the Black Hills someday.¬† And return I did in early September……… with hubby in tow this time.

The three-day Labor Day weekend was nearing and since we were traveling via Plan B, without reservations, we¬†had concerns about a place to stay.¬†¬†After an exhaustive search, we ended up¬†finding a place to park¬†at¬†the¬†Elks Lodge in Rapid City.¬† The lodge offers ten RV sites on a first-come, first-serve basis and had an open spot for us.¬†¬†It wasn’t the picturesque setting I usually crave, but the lodge was really nice and even located on a golf course.

Pronghorn
Pronghorn – Custer State Park, South Dakota

With the RV parked, Al and I¬†ventured off¬†exploring Custer State Park.¬† Shortly after entering the state park, we needed to stop for pedestrians bison in the crosswalk…. smart guys, huh!

Bison, Custer State Park

A managed herd of about 1,300 bison roam freely throughout Custer State Park.¬† The herd is one of the largest publically-owned herds in the world.¬† Bison are huge and can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms).¬† During the third week of September, the park holds a Buffalo Roundup.¬† This is an event I’d love to attend someday.

Black Hills, South DakotaDuring this recent visit, we spent a great deal of time in the truck taking in the sights by driving the scenic byways.  The first was the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road that twists and turns through rolling prairie and ponderosa pines.

As the name implies, we saw plenty of wildlife on this scenic loop during this visit as well as previous visits.¬† From buffalo …Wildlife Loop

to Pronghorn, and prairie dogs, to free-loading burros.¬† You know how you’re never supposed¬†to approach wildlife or feed them?¬† Well such is not the case with these entertaining burros.

Burros

Custer State Park
During my visit with Ashton, we shared an apple with this cutie

Burros Custer State ParkIt’s ok to bring them goodies.¬† Keep it healthy though.¬† I forgot to bring the bag of carrots that I purchased especially for these guys.¬† Once this¬†burro realized I had no treats to offer, he was on to the next car.

Unlike other wildlife, the burros hang around one particular area in Custer State Park and a ranger at the visitor center is more than happy to brief you on that location and the do’s and don’ts.

After our successful wildlife viewing, we stopped at Stockade Lake for a picnic lunch.¬† It’s a beautiful lake that allows boating and has¬†a wooded campground.¬†¬†¬†As pristine as Stockade Lake was I couldn’t wait to show hubby¬†Sylvan Lake.

Sylvan Lake
Sylvan Lake, South Dakota

As a fourteen-year-old gal from Illinois, I thought Sylvan Lake was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen.  My brother and I hiked and explored all around this little mountain lake.  We were intrigued by the granite rock and boulders and the clean, clear, cool water.

Black Hills

We even rented one of those paddle boats.¬† While my brother and I exercised our legs, my dad sat on the¬†back with a fishing line in the water.¬† Yep,¬†dad brought his fishing gear. Nothing like trolling via sustainable energy;¬† as long as¬†brother’s legs and¬†my¬†legs held up that is.¬† Dad was great in giving directions on where he wanted us to paddle and gave no thought to our weakening leg muscles.

Needles HighwayOn my recent trip to Illinois, dad and I shared some laughs as we reminisced about this trip.

After giving hubby the tour of Sylvan Lake and sharing some of my childhood memories with him, I had one more memorable item on my list that I had to show him for Al to fully comprehend.

We ventured¬†over to¬†scenic¬†Needles Highway; named after the needle-like granite formation located just past Sylvan Lake.¬† There are two one-lane tunnels along this stretch of road.¬† Tunnel #5 is 8 feet 4 inches¬†wide and 12 feet high.¬† My dad drove his brand new motorhome through this tunnel back in the early 1970s.¬† I remember my mom begging dad not to go through the tunnel and covering her eyes in fear.¬† As children, we thought dad could do no wrong and found humor in mom’s dramatic behavior.

Needles Highway

As Al and I waited for oncoming traffic to clear the tunnel, we pulled in the side mirrors on the F-250.¬† When it was our turn, I slowly drove through the tunnel all the while I kept repeating, “I can’t believe my dad drove the motorhome through this tunnel”.¬†¬† I now understand why mom freaked out.¬† I asked myself, was dad a skilled driver?¬†¬†¬†Did his sense of adventure push him?¬† Or was he just plain crazy?

In dad’s defense, I must add, dad did do his homework before driving through this tunnel.¬† He spoke with a ranger.¬† He jotted down all the dimensions on both tunnels and verified the Motorhome’s size.¬† He also discovered a tour bus once a week would travel this route.¬† I guess with that tidbit of information, that sealed the deal for dad and through we went with inches to spare.

Needles Highway
If a tour bus could fit, so could dad’s motorhome.

As Al and I exited the tunnel, we were greeted with stunning views.  Needles Highway traverses through rugged granite mountains, a diverse forest, and mountain prairie.  This is a beautiful drive not to be missed, but a lot less stressful and much more fun in a small vehicle!

Needles Highway
another view of Tunnel #5 as a vehicle enters

Needles Highway

The next¬†day¬†hubby and I¬†explored Iron Mountain Road.¬† This scenic drive connects Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore National Memorial.¬† “Experience the road that engineers once said couldn’t be built.”¬† This road was built in the 1930’s and considered an engineering marvel at the time.

Iron Mountain

There are three tunnels to pass through and each one frames Mount Rushmore in the distance when entering from Custer State Park.

Mount Rushmore

Iron Mountain Road is another very fun and scenic drive not to be missed.  For anyone interested in engineering, construction, or design, this is a unique road.  I loved all the log bridges, the tunnels, and the views.

Black Hills
We had just driven through the above road and tunnel before looping underneath

Next up, more Black Hills adventures!             Custer State Park Map


Our Boomerang Trip – Badlands

South Dakota, BadlandsFrom Mitchell, South Dakota, we continued our westerly trek.¬† I¬†couldn’t wait to get to Badlands National Park.

South Dakota’s Badlands holds a special place in my heart.¬† I was a mere 14 years old the first time¬†this gal from Illinois¬†laid eyes on this incredible land.

It was¬†the first¬†family excursion in my dad’s new pride and joy; a brand new motorhome.

South Dakota Badlands
Badlands, South Dakota

That was an exciting adventure for our family of five, because this was a trip that didn’t entail fishing in Wisconsin, my dad’s favorite pastime.¬† Family vacations ALWAYS centered around camping¬†near fishing action.¬† No fishing involved during this trip!South Dakota, Badlands

My brother was eighteen at the time and getting ready to head off to college.¬† Dad put him in charge of navigating, which was a much better choice than my mother, who could get turned around in the blink of an eye; directionally challenged¬†one might say.¬† While the guys were up front driving and navigating my little sister, mom, and myself sat at the dinette table taking in the sights out of the motorhome’s big windows.Badlands, South Dakota

The barren,¬†rugged land made mom quite uncomfortable. While the rest of us were oohing and aahing, she sat in silence.¬† You see, mom and dad¬†grew up in¬†Germany, even my brother was born in Germany and this kind of vast desolation doesn’t exist in her homeland.¬† This was like nothing she’d ever¬†seen before and it made her feel uneasy.

South Dakota, BadlandsWe stopped at various pull-outs and scenic overlooks¬†before it was time to decide where to camp for the night.¬† Dad was definitely feeling adventurous during this trip and decided to take the twelve mile rutted and rough gravel-dirt road to the primitive campground.¬† It wasn’t a campground, but merely a designated parcel of land¬†allowing overnight camping.¬†¬† I don’t even remember there being a pit toilet, just raw open land.¬† Ah yes, this is what¬†us RVer’s¬†now¬†refer to as¬†boondocking.South Dakota, Badlandsprairie dogsThis was definitely not mom’s idea¬†of a relaxing vacation and I remember her¬†freaking out as my brother and I took off exploring.

I wanted to see buffalo and maybe even a rattlesnake.¬† I saw neither during that trip but wasn’t disappointed because the adorable Prairie Dogs captivated my attention.South Dakota

So here I am, umpteen years later and oohing and aahing every bit as much, if not more, as I did years ago.  I really wanted to camp at that same primitive campground from the family trip, but with temperatures in the 90 degree plus range, we opted to stay at the Cedar Pass Campground with electric hook-up so we could run our air-conditioning during the heat of the day. camping in Badlands

Cedar Pass
Loved my view! Cedar Pass Campground – Badlands National Park

However, a trip to the primitive Sage Creek Campground was in order.  I had to refresh my memory.  Unlike my last visit, this time I saw plenty of buffalo aka bison.

camping in the Badlands
We pass herds of bison on the way to the Sage Creek Campground

We turned off the main paved road onto a well maintained gravel road.  The road was in much better condition than all those years ago.  We continued the twelve miles down the road passing herds of buffalo in the distance.  The sky was hazy with smoke drifting down from the Pacific Northwest wildfires.South Dakota Badlands

Not only was the road very well maintained,¬†the campground turned out to be a little more developed than all those years ago.¬† There were picnic tables and pit toilets…. no water.¬† The campground is used predominantly by tents, but is also accessible to RV’s.

camping in the Badlands
Sage Creek Campground, Badlands National Park

Bison routinely meander through this campground causing a need to watch where you step…. fresh Bison droppings¬†wouldn’t be¬†fun to step in.

Buffalo in the Badlands
The cars give perspective showing how large Bison are.

I assure you, on our next visit to the Badlands National Park we WILL definitely be Badlands National Park, South Dakotastaying at this campground.¬† I’ll admit though, I did have an uneasy moment with one Buffalo.

I was sitting¬†in the truck taking his photograph when he started to approach me; heading straight toward me and the driver’s side door.¬†¬† As his pace quickened in my direction, I dropped my camera and put the truck in drive, not waiting around to see what his intentions, if any, were.¬† Perhaps we made eye contact a little longer than he liked¬†or perhaps he just wanted me to scratch behind his ears horns.¬† Didn’t matter, I was outta there!

Bison have been known to attack, so ample distance, a wide berth, and good judgment should always be heeded.

Badlands National Park
Check out the wounds on this guy!

After my fun moment of reminiscing and communing with buffalo, we continued on the scenic drive to the town of Wall, located near the Badlands National Park western entrance.  This is definitely a tourist attraction complete with plenty of souvenir and T-shirt shops.

Wall Drug, South Dakota
Wall Drug, South Dakota

Wall Drug is the focus of this tourist¬†draw and although Al and I usually shy away from such venues, we found ourselves entertained.¬† The story of the Hustead family is one of tenacity and the pioneer spirit.¬† You can read their fascinating¬†story here.¬† We were also surprised to find a place where you can still get a cup of coffee for 5¬Ę.¬† Granted, we’re not talking designer coffee (aka Starbucks), but for a nickel it was a tasty cup of Joe.

Wall Drug
The corridors at Wall Drug were filled with old photos and newspaper clippings. History buff hubby loved it and even non history buff me, found it enlightening and interesting.

Three T-shirts later (yeah, I have a thing for T-shirts), we headed back to camp.  I spent the next couple of days close to camp observing natures beauty.

Badlands South Dakota
Beauty near and far!

Upon first glance, the buttes, spires, and pinnacles of this steeply eroded land may look desolate.  But if one looks closely, diverse and beautiful signs of life can be discovered.Badlands

There’s an abundance of rich and varied vegetation, including one of the largest mixed-grass prairies in the country.

Badlands National Park

 

 

And then there’s the bountiful wildlife.¬† A watchful eye and a¬†silent slow pace¬†will reward onlookers.

This land of extremes, evokes a sense of mystery.  While living in my RV surrounded by the Badlands, I immersed myself in this surreal landscape.

South Dakota, Badlands
I share the amazing scenery with my friend perched on the picnic table.
Badlands National Park
these little blue birds offered a sharp contrast to all the unique colors seen in the Badlands
South Dakota, Badlands
Mountain Sheep abound in this harsh environment

Badlands National ParkThe weather can be extreme but when approached with a preparedness, the Badlands can offer an endless supply of pleasure and fascination.Badlands National Park

Due to the smoke-filled, hazy skies and extreme heat during our visit, our explorations at Badlands National Park may have been minimal, but the visit was equally as memorable and special as my childhood experience.Badlands National Park

I’m so glad we changed up the trip and added this stop to the itinerary.¬† I know….. I’ll be back! (she said in a heavy Austrian accent)Badlands National Park

The Next Exit 2015: The Most Complete Interstate Hwy Guide
Juli Bauer’s Paleo Cookbook: Over 100 Gluten-Free Recipes to Help You Shine from Within

 

Our Boomerang Trip – Part I

I can’t believe it’s September already.¬† It seems like just yesterday¬†when I was in the planning stages¬†for our Midwestern excursion.¬†¬†And here we are, it’s the middle of¬†September and I’m back in Colorado¬†where we started¬†six weeks ago.¬† It was pretty much an out and back trip….¬† Kind of like¬†mimicking a boomerang one might say.

Let’s do a¬†quick recap of the first part of our trip…..¬† We pulled out of Cherry Creek State Park (Denver) at the end of July and after a quick overnight in¬†a Cabela’s parking lot in Omaha, Nebraska, (forgot to add this stop on the above map – oops) we arrived at Starved Rock State Park.¬†¬†We took in¬†a couple of days exploring this interesting Illinois State Park before¬†driving up to the Paul Wolff Endangered CranesCampground.¬† I loved the location of this county park.¬† It¬†was an easy 20 minute drive to my dad’s place which allowed¬†us to visit¬†with him¬†often, and if we had¬†wanted to take¬†the train into Chicago, the train station¬†was only 5 minutes away.

From our Elgin location,¬†we moved¬†over¬†to Rockton, Illinois, where we stayed at Al’s sister’s place for a wonderful ten-day visit.¬† After Rockton, our next¬†destination was¬†Baraboo, Wisconsin.¬† I was thrilled with the hiking at Devil’s Lake State Park, but the highlight of this stop was my visit to the International Crane Foundation.

Green Bay PackersAfter communing with cranes it was time to commune with friends in Marshfield, Wisconsin, where I was challenged to wear a Packers Jersey.

After my momentary lapse, we moved over to Algoma, Wisconsin, along the shores of Lake Michigan.¬† This is where I discovered Door County and its magnetic personality.¬† Quite frankly, I fell in love with the area and could’ve stayed a month.¬† I can imagine the fall colors around¬†here to be¬†stunning and worth sticking around for.

Algoma, WI
Camped in Algoma, WI. The marina on one side and Lake Michigan on the other. Loved camping on this peninsula with water on 3 sides. Sunrise Cove Marina and Campground was basically a gravel lot with electric hook-up and thus merely ok, but the location was great; waterfront & walking distance to town.

As much as we¬†considered hanging around Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a little leaf peeping, we¬†decided to turn¬†the RV around and head back west to assist our daughter with a project.

Foggy morning
Early morning fog as we drive through Wisconsin

So with Plan B in mind…. It was time to say good-bye to the Midwest and mosey in a westerly direction.¬†¬†The¬†morning¬†of August 27th started off foggy¬†as we began¬†our¬†journey¬†west.¬† We put in an eight-hour travel day (360 miles – 574 km) that first day, crossing the entire state of Wisconsin and part of Minnesota.

Wisconsin
We enjoyed driving some back country roads but sure hoped this bridge was high enough. No height was specified and an RV crew cut was NOT part of our plans. Fortunately, we did see a tall truck pass under first.

We stopped frequently and even enjoyed a road side picnic near Necedah, Wisconsin.Ship Rock Wisconsin

By dinner time that first day, we checked into a campsite at Myre-Big Island State Park, near Albert Lea, Minnesota.  This is a heavily wooded state park and even though they market the White Fox Campground loop as the prairie loop, it is in no way situated in a prairie.

Albert Lea Minnesota
Myre-Big Island State Park. We’re camped in site 55 White Fox CG loop.
Albert Lea Lake
After an eight-hour day in the truck, it felt good to stretch the legs and check out the trails
Albert Lea Lake
Albert Lea Lake – it was disappointing that there were no trails with access to the water’s edge.

We originally intended to relax and spend two nights at this state park, but it was raining when we set up.  It continued to rain all night and was expected to not let up for another day.  So we hit the road early the next morning, wearing rain gear as we broke camp, and drove through the rest of Minnesota in a consistent and steady stream of rain.Minnesota

A¬†few miles into South Dakota, the rain¬†stopped.¬† We¬†encountered sunny skies with a hint of haze caused by the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest.¬† Just in time for a late lunch, we set up camp in the Cabela’s parking lot in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Cabela's
We’re parked in the distance at the Cabela’s in Mitchell, South Dakota

Cabela’s had a HUGE area for RV’s.¬† The semi-trucks seemed to be parked off in another lot and there was even a separate area for equestrians complete with horse corrals.¬† This turned out to be a great place to overnight, complete with pond.

Cabela's
The smoke from the wildfires gave the sky an interesting hue at sunrise.
Cabela's
Although overnighting at a Cabela’s is free – we always manage to find something to buy.

Next stop;¬†South Dakota’s¬†Badlands and Black HillsBadlands
The Next Exit 2015: The Most Complete Interstate Hwy Guide
I Don’t Need Google My Wife Knows Everything Funny T-Shirt By A2S – White – X-Large

Quick, Quick, Slow, Slow

Not only does it sound like we’re doing the Two-Step, it feels like we’re doing the Two-Step …..¬†country dancing¬†across America’s Heartland.Two-stepping across the country

Amish
Our horse and buggy goes a little faster, but we stop and shop at the same store

Quick, quick across Wisconsin and Minnesota.Wall DrugSlow, slow as we explored South Dakota’s Badlands and Black Hills.

Badlands
Badlands, South Dakota

Buffalo

Black Hills
Sylvan Lake, Black Hills, South Dakota

Quick, quick as we skirt through Nebraska,

Carhenge
Not Stonehenge, but rather Carhenge
Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock, Nebraska

and slow, slow as we settle into Colorado for the rest of the month.Monarch ButterflyAnd¬†come the end of September,¬†it’ll be back to a quick, quick pace to Phoenix, Arizona to settle in for the winter.¬† The slow meandering we had hoped to do on the way to the desert southwest won’t be possible due to assisting a family member.kidsSo once I catch my breath, I’ll fill you all in on our time between Door County, Wisconsin and Denver, Colorado.¬† In the meantime, enjoy some of my photographs from our¬†journey as hubby and I get back to Two-Stepping down the road ūüôāNebraska
Railroad
Wall Drug
Badlands, South Dakota
Game of Thrones: Season 5
Weber 50060001 Q1000 Liquid Propane Grill

Pronghorn Antelope

Will we fit?

There’s a quiet beauty to Custer State Park¬†with its dense forests, open grasslands, and towering granite.¬† The towns, more like villages, through-out the Black Hills have a laid back charm.¬† With the exception of Rapid City, you won’t find any¬†chain restaurants or big box stores.¬† What you will find are plenty of narrow, winding roads with the occasional one lane tunnel (RVer’s beware!) and plenty of wildlife.

Pronghorn Antelope

I was successful in my hunt for Buffalo and today I’ll be in search of Pronghorn, or more aptly¬†called Antelope.¬† Colorado is heavily populated with Antelope and it’s not unusual for me to see a herd while traveling Interstate 25.¬† However, I have never had the right opportunity to photograph an Antelope.¬†¬†Thus today will be the day….I hope anyway.

Daughter and I get off to an early start.¬† That is an early start to¬†a college student, a late start in my book.¬† It’s about nine in the morning and we’ll take Wildlife Loop Road¬†again.¬† Since we’re familiar with the area, we now know where we¬†plan to focus our efforts.

It isn’t long after turning onto Wildlife Loop Road¬†that we come upon some deer.¬† How cute is this little guy?¬† We continue heading south and¬†shortly after, we notice some Antelope.¬† We find a place to pull off the road and now it’s photo-op¬†time.¬† Normally Antelope are very skittish, but these guys allow me to get unusually close.

Antelope¬†are one of the fastest mammals in the Western Hemisphere.¬† They can run as fast as 60 mph.¬†¬†Antelope are poor jumpers and therefore they won’t jump fences.¬† They live primarily in grasslands, and can be routinely seen in Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, and New Mexico.

I find these guys fascinating and am pried away by a bored daughter.  How do we top this day?

Bison – part one

A couple of years ago, my daughter and I went on a road trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota.  My main goal and objective was to see the herd of free ranging buffalo.  I guess the proper term is Bison (Latin) but the name Buffalo (Europeans title) is more commonly used.  According to all the info I read published by Custer State Park either term appears to be acceptable.

Custer State Park is home to almost 1500 head of Buffalo.  Each September the Park has a Buffalo Roundup, available for visitors to view.  Park staff and volunteers will have up to 60 horseback riders and 20 trucks aiding in the round-up.  This yearly round-up is important in the control and health of the herd.  Round-up; note to self for a future visit.

I was not disappointed in our quest to find a herd.  It did take some exploration though.  We found a herd while driving Wildlife Loop Road.  However, our first wildlife encounter were Burros.  There is a herd of Burros that wander the park, and although considered wild, they are accustomed to people.  Caution and common sense are prudent when approaching these animals.

daughter finds this little guy “way too cute”

The Wildlife Loop Road¬†is an eighteen¬†mile paved scenic drive with numerous¬†gravel roads off shooting in different directions.¬†¬† We did venture down a couple of these gravel roads in search of buffalo.¬† The first herd¬†we encountered¬†were pretty far off in the distance.¬† So, back to the paved road and thirty minutes later, we met a herd on the side of the road…..awesome.We spend a good half hour observing these large animals.¬† My daughter gets concerned as this calf starts to approach me.¬† Where there’s a baby, there’s a mama.¬† A quick photo-op and I return to the vehicle.¬† These guys are huge.¬† The bulls can weigh as much as a ton while the cows come in at 900-1200 pounds.¬† New born calves are about 50 pounds…ouch!

Tomorrow we’ll be in search of Pronghorns…..