Short, Short Trailer, Long, Long Trip: Custer State Park and Black Hills, South Dakota 2016_09_22

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Needles Eye Tunnel

Our adventure is always a work in progress. We have made it home, but I have a bit of catching up to do on our blog, because when you are very busy having fun…it’s difficult to keep up!

Hopefully over the next couple of weeks, I’ll have regular entries of all the exciting places and adventures we had on our Short, Short Trailer Trip. Stay tuned…we will made some unexpected turns along the way!

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Custer State Park, Wildlife Loop Road

We left Badlands National Park and did a little provisioning in Rapid City on our way to Custer State Park, Custer, South Dakota.

I know I say this too often, but we loved this park and the surrounding area. We spent four days exploring and didn’t even make a dent in it. We have elevated this place to a high return priority for both of us.

Without reservations, we arrived on a Friday night. Which meant we had to move camp sites in order to stay several days. The park made no site assignments. You are required to use their on-line reservation system or call center, even on the day of arrival. Most places we have been, close their online reservation within a day or two of the current day.  It was a small hurdle to jump over in exchange for an excellent and beautiful facility.

The wildlife at and around the campsite included turkeys (too early for Thanksgiving,) deer, rabbits, and beautiful birds.

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Stockade North (top left) Stockade South (bottom right)

We spent one night at the Stockade North campground on site #15. We relocated early Saturday morning to Stockade South campground site #16 for the remainder of our stay. It was a rainy night and morning, but fortunately it cleared and we were able to get on the motorcycle and go exploring.

The Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway is 70 miles of beautiful, mountainous, curvy, switchback, tunnel filled roads, through Custer State park, the Black Hills and to Mt. Rushmore. We only managed two sections of this byway, but these roads were made for motorcycling.

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On our First day we rode the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop Road and Needles Highway. The Wildlife Loop is 18 miles through the East side of the park. We saw donkeys, goats, prairie dogs, and a couple of prong horn sheep. We had our fill of bison back at Badlands, so we didn’t feel too bad about missing them here. The rangers had already held the round-up and moved them to an area for vaccinating, and sorting in preparation of the coming quota hunt.

Needles Highway, was 14 miles of awesome, turns, tunnels and views.

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Custer State Park Wildlife Loop Road

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Custer State Park Wildlife Loop road

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Custer State Park Wildlife Loop, Long horn sheep and horses

From the Wildlife Loop Road, we headed onto Needles Highway, with the most amazing tunnels!

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Needles Highway

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Iron Creek Tunnel

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Iron Creek Tunnel

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Needles Eye Tunnel

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I want to do that tunnel again!!!

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Needles Eye Tunnel, round two

We circled back through the small town of Custer and made it home before the rain moved in on us again.

Sunday we chose the Iron Mountain Road, which also had amazing tunnels, to take us to Mt. Rushmore, Hill City and Crazy Horse Monument.

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CC Gideon Tunnel

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CC Gideon Tunnel, spectacular view of Mt. Rushmore as you exit.

From Iron Mountain Road, we headed to Mt. Rushmore. It was a crazy busy day in the park on Sunday, so we opted for a few pics and to head on, and see what else we could find. We know we will be back to do the tour.

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Views of Mt. Rushmore from Iron Mountain Road

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Views of Mt. Rushmore from Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway

Hill City is what we found next…and it was time for some lunch.

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Bumpin Buffalo, Hill City, SD. Bison Burgers were fabulous!

 

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Hill City Harley Davidson didn’t wait for us! Closed for the Season. What’s up with that????

We were just going to drive by Crazy Horse too, but the weather was looking a bit grey and we decided to stroll around and check it out. Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski was asked by Henry Standing Bear to carve a memorial honoring North American Indians. Work began on the mountain in 1947 and is continued today by Ziolkowski’s children. The museum has excellent chronology of the work to date and models of what the final carving will look like. The museum is also filled with Indian art and historical information, which we found interesting. Although this was definitely a worthwhile visit, there seems to be a bit of controversy on the internet, with various opinion on the authenticity of the depiction. There is always two sides to the story.

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Crazy Horse, a work in progress

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Indian art at Crazy Horse Memorial Museum

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Crazy Horse Memorial, a work in progress

We enjoyed our time in Custer, South Dakota and we only had one other necessary stop to make, as long as we were this close…Sturgis!

Absolutely quiet, compared to what August was like, for this very small town. I’m not sure I could even imagine this place packed out with almost 450,000 attendees for 2016! Maybe one day we will get to see it in person, but for now, being able to cruise through town and browse the HD shop and be on our way to Yellowstone…with no traffic jams…was good enough for us.

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Sturgis, South Dakota

We snapped a few pics along the way, just in case we need a truck, camper, or ATV…we can remember which ones we liked best!

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Thanks for sharing our adventure with us. Next stop is Yellowstone, we hope you can join us.

Short, Short Trailer, Long, Long Trip: Badlands National Park 2016_09_19

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We made it to South Dakota!!! Where we purchased our National Park Annual Pass, as we entered Badlands National Park. This is where we wanted to be, and wow, what a change for this Florida girl. Mountains, valleys, hills, rocks, dried up rivers…I should have paid more attention in Geology 101. All of this is beautiful and as unlike Florida as you can get (if you don’t count snow!)

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And it is soooooo BIG.

My camera will not do justice to the bigness of this place.

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We set up camp for our first two nights down at the Sage Creek Campground. We had been advised that riding the motorcycle from this campground would not be an issue. Then we turned onto this!

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We weren’t sure the van and trailer would make it to the campground on this washboard road, and we were more than sure taking the bike out of here was not an options. We decided to stay at least one or two nights and then move to another campground inside the park, when we were finished hiking and were ready to ride the bike. We loosely set up camp, because there are no designated campsites in Sage Creek Campground, just find a spot and set up. The pic on the left is our second campground, the right is Sage Creek.

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Sage Creek Campground on right. Cedar Creek Campground (left)

Russ and Nyah climbed to the top to watch the sunset.

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Bright and early in the morning, the locals came out. Nyah wanted to play with the buffalo, but we wouldn’t let her.

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Buffalo over by the out-house…I want to play with one!

Goofing around and resting up, from our long drive north.img_3800

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Be careful how high you stack your cairn, or it might not last!

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Puppy love

We needed ice, so we took a ride on the “back road” to Wall. Wall is quite a small town, way out in the middle of nowhere.  I can’t actually remember exactly where I saw my first Wall Drug sign, because I didn’t pay any attention to it, or the one after that or after that! But eventually it clicked, and I realized that an advertising blitz was on. I had to bust out google to figure it out. In 1931 Ted and Dorothy Hustead needed more business for their small town drug store. They came up with the idea of reaching out to the travelers on the local roads who were out visiting the Badlands and other natural wonders. Tourist who were hot and thirsty. They made road signs to attract them into town by offering free ice-water. And it worked, then and now! Read their story here.

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Being silly at Wall Drugs, Wall, SD

While down in the valley, we hiked around Sage Creek. Which actually had some water in it. Very muddy water.

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Sage Creek, Badlands N.P.

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We hiked around the rim of Sage Creek.

 

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The landscape was beautiful and my hiking buddies made for a few good shots too.

 

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A few flowers remained into the fall.

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Tree balance.

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Sprinkles of fall.

Badlands was full of Buffalo. Not only did they invade the campground in the morning, we found this one on our hike. Yikes, did that big boy just stand up when we came over the berm? Yes! Oh, please stay over there…we will pass quickly. They are much larger when you are not in a car.

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Stay, nice buffalo, stay…

I wonder what the entrance fee is? Do they do annual passes or pay daily?

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We also saw big horn sheep.

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These prairy dogs where fun to watch. I’m pretty sure their numbers were right up there with the buffalo.

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After two days down by Sage Creek we moved up to Cedar Creek Campground. Sage Creek was free camping, with no facilities, only pit toilets. Cedar Creek Campground had water and pay showers along with “real” flushing toilets, but no electricity. The main reason we wanted this campground was the paved roads, so we could get the motorcycle out, and go riding through the park. The weather was perfect for riding.

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We are well underway into our Short, Short Trailer adventure. I’m trying to get all the pics and adventures posted, but I am so busy having fun, I can’t keep up! Thanks for following along with us, there’s more to come. Up next Sturges and points on our way out of South Dakota.