Custer State Park Working Adventure: Being Tourists with Friends and Family

We love when family and friends come to visit us on our adventures. It not only helps with our homesickness but also gives us a great excuse to become tourists, or travel guides, as the case may be.

Lee and Lynda came through the Black Hills on the way home from their trip out west. We made a whirlwind day of adventure looking for buffalo and wildlife, and checking into Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore. There was lunch at the Purple Pie somewhere in between too.

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Crazy Horse with Lee and Lynda

State Flags at Mt. Rushmore

Lee and Lynda at Mt. Rushmore

Lee, Lynda, Jennifer and Russ. Mt. Rushmore

Our drive took us through Wind Cave National Park, where we saw buffalo and prairie dogs.

Buffalo in Wind Cave National Park

 

Buffalo in Wind Cave National Park

 

Prairie Dog. Wind Cave National Park

 

Prairie dogs. Wind Cave National Park

Our animal sightings in Custer State Park included pronghorn deer, donkeys and water buffalo (haha, just kidding…it was really buffalo in water)!

I haven’t heard his name yet, but the small herd of burros has an addition. Custer State Park

 

Triplet pronghorns. Custer State Park

 

Water Buffalo. Custer State Park

The following week, our son Josiah took a few days in between tour dates to come and visit us. This mamma can never spend enough times with her babies and we had a great time doing a little sight-seeing and some hiking.

Hey…I didn’t get a copy of the pic you took…

It’s what he does.

 

These two! What are they into now?

 

Over there. Where?

 

The only time we gets pics together (with both our heads in the shot) is when Josiah is in town.

 

Exploring Wind Cave National Park

 

The truck straddling French Creek in Wind Cave National Park.

We had bison at the Bugglin’ Buffalo.

Did the touristy stuff at Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore. (I have no pictorial proof of Crazy Horse for some reason!)

Hi George. Mt. Rushmore

 

These two! If you’ve ever wondered why I have gray hair…its definitely one of these two.

 

My boys.

 

Mt. Rushmore National Monument

I made him go hiking. Told him he had to get off the electronics and get fresh air. Just kidding…but grateful to have kids who love the same things we do.

We hiked to Little Devil’s Tower in Custer State Park. The views are spectacular and the hike isn’t half bad either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He actually doesn’t care for being this high up. Thanks for hanging out with us!

 

 

 

What’s for lunch mom? Still PB&J son.

Best cell service in town. Hi Sami…we missed having you!

Only one of the three of us wanted to swim after our hike. Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park is beautiful, but it’s too cold for this Floridian.

Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park.

The cool breeze coming off the lake is nice too! Sylvan Lake

And just like that the friends and family left us to our adventure. Everyone is welcome to join us, we miss you all! Thanks for sharing our adventure with us.

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Custer State Park The Working Adventure: Baby Animals

I’m having a difficult time picking just the right pic for the feature photo. As you will see there is an abundance of cuteness in this blog post of the babies we have seen in the past few weeks. So enjoy!

Buffalo calf. Custer State Park.

Since I’m at Custer State Park, and one of the main animals many come to see here are buffalo, I’ve chosen one of the baby buffalo as my feature pic. There are over 350 calfs in the park this season. They start out cinnamon color (above) and darken up over their first year. If you zoom in you can even see the start of the horns. One of the things I keep encountering here are people who think its cool to get out of their vehicles to get a closer view. Definitely not a good idea. Buffalo can run at 30 mph. Last time I checked…I’m not outrunning that on foot.

Older Buffalo calf. Custer State Park

Babies in the herd. Custer State Park

Along Highway 16A, we spotted the mountain goats. This mamma had twins.

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Mountain goat kid. Custer State Park

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It’s better…they are mountain goat twins! Custer State Park

There are plenty of nicknames for the parks small herd of burros, the most common is begging burros. But I could beg to take this little guy home. He’s no bigger than a large dog, and he is definitely cuteness on over-load. I’m calling him Buddy Burro.

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I haven’t heard his name yet, but the small herd of burros has an addition. (I’m calling him Buddy Burro.) Custer State Park

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Foal “Buddy Burro.” Custer State Park

“Buddy Burro.” Custer State Park

The Pronghorn are busy too. This mama has triplets!

Mama Pronghorn with triplets. Custer State Park

Triplet pronghorn fawns. Custer State Park

There are no shortage of white tail deer here. The fawns are just mesmerizing to watch. They hop about and jump with no restraint as they enjoy the day.

Mama Deer and her fawns. Custer State Park

This shot cracks me up. Fawn #1 is poised and ready to follow mamas lead. Fawn #2, not so much.

Every family has the obedient child…and the other child. Custer State Park

And with a little sibling scolding…they were off.

Come on brother…time to move. Custer State Park

What a beautiful treat to see the babies in the park. Living proof that life goes on and the promise of newness. Thanks for taking the time to share our adventure. We will be back with more from Custer State Park soon.

Custer State Park the Working Adventure: Life Around Camp

We are beyond happy with our decision to come all the way to Custer State Park in South Dakota! This place is awesome…and the work we are trading for our campsite isn’t too bad either.

We signed up as volunteers at Custer State Park. Russ has been assigned to the Ground Maintenance team and is doing more than he was originally told he would be doing. And has a work truck…and…HE GETS TO CUT GRASS TOO! Yes, he is that excited.

I survived my first week of visitor center training (there are four of them here), it was like standing in front of a fire hydrant. But I’ve already met people from all over the world, and it helps me get my two thousand plus words a day out!

One of four visitor centers, Badger Hole is by far my favorite places. Badger Clark was the first Poet Laureate of South Dakota and wrote the Cowboy Prayer. Custer State Park

We arrived later in the day on June 29th. Setting up was going uneventful when several of our neighbors started talking about an in-coming storm. Several moved their vehicles across the road under the trees. The sky darkened up. Hail was mentioned, and just as we buttoned up the last few things…it let loose. Welcome to South Dakota, home of the bi-weekly hail storm.

But the hail can be overlooked when the view is in your backyard. Here’s just a few of our initial greeters.

That’s a big boy. Buffalo in the campsite. Custer State Park

 

Little man, you still have fuzz on those antlers. Custer State Park

 

Little Buck. Custer State Park

 

“I’m sure there will be something good if I get closer.” Custer State Park

This is the view looking down into our camping area.

Home sweet home for the summer and fall!

 

Our fire pit has a view up the hill. Custer State Park

 

We have many birds, this little American Goldfinch stopped by to rest on a rock in the yard. Custer State Park

Just behind our camp site and up the hill, is one of the many hiking trails in Custer. Lover’s Leap is a 3 mile loop and if you don’t confuse the trail marking “ahem, Jennifer” its a fun trail which crosses over the creek about a dozen times and has a scenic view of the park and beyond, from the peak.

Early morning dew. Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

Dragonfly. Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

Dragonfly fun. Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

Taking a break from the cold creek. Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

There was a fire in the park last December, about half the park was effected. But, everything is greener and making a come back.

Remnants of 2017 December fire. Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

Fire damage. Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

Everything is coming back strong. Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

Ruger is new to hiking. Not sure if he knew he was stepping in mud or not, but he sunk down pretty deep and needed a creek clean up. #muddydog. Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

You can lead a dog to water… Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

Almost a dozen creek crossings. Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

A little trail break. Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

The view from the top. Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

view from the top. Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

Afternoon storm approaching. Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

 

Lover’s Leap Trail, Custer State Park

There is more to come from our Custer State Park, can’t wait to share all the baby animals we’ve seen so far. Thanks for sharing our adventure with us.

Custer or Bust: Summer/Fall 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: JOYCE BARINGER!

Making Custer State Park with 2,129.5 miles behind us, as I hurriedly gather the last of the pics together, we have 196 miles left is almost happening! Our newest adventure in the Black Hill of South Dakota will involve work camping three days a week and four days to explore and enjoy one of our favorite spots from our Short, Short Trailer, Long, Long Trip back in 2016.

We left Home 12 days ago, and for the most part we have putted across the States to our destination. (Look it could be done in 30 hours and there was a time when we were that crazy dumb!) Instead we scheduled a leisurely two nights at each camp ground, we did some kayaking, some motorcycle cruising, bicycle riding and hiking. With only a minor last minute change to our plan, I’ll explain later, we enjoyed the trip.

Here’s the log, enjoy our trip with us:

Custer South Dakota Trip

June 18, 2018 depart

June 29, 2018 arrive

-Day 1, 2: June 18, 19 Rainbow Springs SP, FL

19158 SW 81st Place Rd

Dunnellon, FL 34432-2463

Site #2

(352) 465-8555

$73.30

Estimate: 212 miles, 3- 1/2 hrs.

Actual: 212 miles

Loved this campground, and I don’t know how we’ve never done this one. We unloaded the kayaks and did a relaxing three hours up to the spring head and back. Took some time to splash in the cool water and got back to the camper just as the afternoon storms blew through. Did I mention I’m not missing everyday rain showers!

We only used our kayaks, they also had tube rentals and a shuttle service, which was probably a nice float downstream from park.

After the afternoon showers, we rode bicycles through the park and down to the tube drop off area, which was a nice paved road with no traffic because it’s only for the shuttles.

-Day 3, 4: June 20, 21 High Falls SP, GA

76 High Falls Park Dr

Jackson, GA 30233

Site #1 (very nice site)

(800) 864-7275

$70 add $5 for your vehicle

Estimate 320 miles, 4-1/2 hrs.

Actual: 331 miles

This was a quiet and peaceful park just off of I75. Temps were nice in the shade. Not a lot to do, a couple of hiking trails, and other activities on the lake above the dam. We hiked along the Towaliga River to the abandoned hydro plant (that might have brought back work memories for someone), and on our second day we took a motorcycle ride into Jackson for some lunch at Zaxby’s. Definitely felt strange to not be pushing by traveling everyday.

-Day 5, 6: June 22, 23 CEDARS OF LEBANON STATE PARK, TN

328 Cedar Forest Rd

Lebanon, TN 37090

$62.13

Estimate: 291 miles, 4-1/2 hrs.

Actual: 306 miles

Area 3, campsite #105, new area all paved sites. This site was quite elevated, plenty of mud around sites

The mud aside (lots of rain and new grass hasn’t come up yet), this was one of our favorite stops. Early morning hike down by the butterfly garden yielded a deer encounter as well as lots of birds, a turkey, rabbits and of course butterflies.

The road that bisects the park was great for our road bicycles and we took a ten mile ride on a cool afternoon.

Our only issue with this park was the Atlanta traffic (we planned to miss rush hour and got stuck by an accident) and again in the area where you pass back and forth between TN and Ga a few times (no accidents, just stop and go traffic).

We found out too late that there was a cave on site, so we have a reason to return and explore some more.

-Day 7, 8: June 24, 25 Robertsville SP, MO

902 State Park Rd

Robertsville, MO 63072

(636) 257-3788

$46.50

Estimate:386 miles, 6 hrs.

Actual: 389

Campsite #026, community h2o next to site otherwise sites do not have individual h2o

All sites are gravel and mostly sloped, was able to barely push MC up into site.

We had a little bit of trouble with the motorcycle trailer at this campground, but not enough to make us reconsider towing it with us. At each site, we have to unhook it and push it into place before we backup the camper. The slope into the site was a bit steep and we couldn’t place the trailer behind and hook it up before pulling out, so we had a little extra maneuvering.

I took and early morning bicycle ride down the the Meramec River, and had to walk the bike back a good bit of the way! Florida girls and steep hills…gonna need to figure out the gears and get the thighs in better shape!

Our walk to the nearby cemetery was cool, many very old stones from late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Unfortunately the take away was a load of ticks on the dog…and chiggers for the people! Lessons to learn.

We also hiked the 2.6 Lost Hill Trail which would around the creek and highest part of the park.

-Day 9, 10: June 26, 27 Weston Bend SP, MO

Weston Bend State Park

16600 State Route 45 N

Weston, MO 64098

Access Road West Bend Street Park

$50.50 only stayed one night (too late to get refund).

Estimate: 264 miles, 4-1/2 hrs.

Actual: 274.5 miles

816-640-5443

Campsite #005, no h2o at site, most other sites are more shaded. Site is also next to camp host but nicely spaced. All sites are paved and mostly level.

We got here’s bit late and decided to move closer so we could enjoy more time at Palisades in South Dakota. We rode our bicycles around the camp area, out to the dog park (which was quite nice, but we didn’t use). Again some steel hills and bike walking for Florida girls!

Day 10 June 27 Stone State Park Iowa

Stone State Park

5001 Talbot Road

Sioux City  IA  51103

Estimate: 267 miles, 4 hrs

$16

Campsite #

From Interstate 29, take exit 151, which is Hwy. 12 north. Go north on Hwy. 12 approximately 4 miles to the park entrance.

Okay, so here was our first camping fail. We arrived at this cute park, with the smallest campsites ever! Bring you cute little pull behind or pop-up, not your 30′ fifth wheel to this park. The huge mud hole created by the camper that got stuck the day before was a big clue. We we fortunate to get turned around and be able to get out without unhitching anything. We re-grouped and called Palisades State Park to see if they had anything for tonight. We were blessed by adding an additional night and they switched our campsite to one right on the creek.

18325 mile change to palisades sp

-Day 11: June 28 Palisades State Park, SD

25495 485th Ave

Garretson, SD 57030

(605) 594-3824

$29.97 actual 64.22 (add extra day and $12 for your car).

365 miles, 5-1/2 hrs.

Actual: 379

Campsite #31E actual 35E

We hiked every muddy trail in the park. The cap host, Merl told us they have had over ten inches of rain in the past week.

This is a fabulous park, the river, which we didn’t swim or kayak in had people doing both. The Sioux Quartzite formation are beautiful and I’m sure the trails would be less muddy in a week or so.

And here is our BIG CHANGE! We couldn’t get into the area we wanted to Sage Creek Campground. They changed the length restrictions and we are too big. We really don’t care for the parking lot they call the other campground. We considered some local private campgrounds, but in the end just decided to make our final stretch all the way to Custer. Since we aren’t there yet, I’ll share pics of the site on the next blog.

I must say this is the first long distance trip for us in many years where we didn’t wear ourselves out to get to our destination…we may just be figuring this thing out.

Thanks for sharing our trip with us, we are so glad to have you join us.

Day 12, 13 June 29, 30 Badlands (cancelled)

Day 14 July 1 Custer SP, SD (BECOMES DAY 12 and final day of travel).

13329 U.S. Highway 16A

Custer, SD 57730

(605) 255-4515

$- work camp

Estimate:104 miles, 2 hrs.

Approximate actual: 432

Total trip miles: 2323.5

Last day to Custer State Park:

No More Toys! No, No, No!

It’s definitely to warm for the blanket!

They brought the shed! No, Russ…you cannot get a shed.

Dignity of Earth and Sky. South Dakota rest stop art just before crossing the Missouri River for the last time.

Definitely too hot for a blanket today.

Our last crossing of the Missouri River.

This was fire truck #5 out of we lost count….but awesomely interesting way to pass the miles.

Wind turbine blades, these are unbelievable in size.

Leave some mud for someone else!