Archive for the ‘2009/09/18 South Dakota’ Category

The Badlands NP

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

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We left Hill City early and stopped in Rapid City to get 8, yes 8, new tires.  We have done a LOT of miles and both the trailer and rear truck tires were in need of some new tread.  Although a pricey stop, it was quite convenient. We used a loner car to grab some lunch and run a few errands. We were back on the road 2 hours later. The trip to the Badlands was quick and a good test of both the weld and of the new tires.  We were set up and touring the park by 3 o’clock.  In just the first few stops we knew we made a good choice of coming here.  We used the afternoon to take a few short hikes to the Cliff Shelf, Notch, Window, and Door trails.  

20090924-031xSince we only had a day and a half, we had to make the most of our time. The next day we were out on the trail by 9:30, taking in the views from the Castle and Medicine Root trail. The harsh terrain of the Badlands was quite interesting and made for a great morning trek.  After 8 miles we were ready for some auto touring, the plan for the rest of our day.  Badlands Park is extremely colorful and as the sky and lighting changes so do the views.  We found photo opportunites at every turn.  Of course, anyone who has traveled in South Dakota, has been bombarded with Wall Drug signage.  Yes, we had to make a brief stop in Wall to say we were there. What a tourist trap! We only stayed for a few minutes and took advantage of the “free water”.

Tomorrow, we are off to Minneapolis to see the Viking’s home opener on Sunday.

Black Hills NF and Custer SP South Dakota

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
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The ride to South Dakota from the Rockies was relatively uneventful and long. We saw lots of “nothing” between the brief sightings of pronghorn and cattle.  After eight hours on the road, we arrived at Crooked Creek campground, just outside of Hill City SD.  As we were pulling into our site, we heard a loud and unfriendly noise. 

Bob the welder to the rescue

Bob the welder to the rescue

At first we couldn’t identify it, but as we tried to put the chocks between the back tires of the RV, we noticed there was no room between the tires on the trailer’s driver side… Chris inspected the rig and found that the bracket that held the leaf spring to the frame of the trailer had broken off.  What timing… at least we were off the road. We were lucky enough to find Bob, a local welder and real nice guy.  He came by on Friday morning and reattached our bracket, making it stronger than ever. Chris was then able to reattach the leaf spring. 

On The Needles Highway

On The Needles Highway

We didn’t let our mechanical setback stop us from enjoying our surroundings.  The first day we set out on the motorcycles to see Mt. Rushmore, drive through the Black Hills and Custer State Park. The Iron Mountain Road and the Needles Highway didn’t disappoint. The pigtail turns on Iron Mountain and the rock tunnels that opened to view Mt. Rushmore made for a fun drive. From there we hit the Needles Highway, which is named for the granite spires that are a common sight along the route. We had a blast negotiating the hairpin turns and checking out the views. 

Cathedral Spires

Cathedral Spires

We even stopped for a short hike to Cathedral Spires to get a closer look at the rock formations. On the way home we happened by Sylvan Lake which was “tres” cool.  We will be stopping there to spend more time another day.

Inside Wind Cave

Inside Wind Cave

There are several notable caves nearby. Wind Cave, the fourth longest cave in the world was established as a National Park in 1903, and is known more for its unusual boxwork formations than its length.  Jewel Cave, a National Monument in the same county, is the second longest cave in the world and known for its calcite crystals (jewels).   We took tours of both caves with Jewel Cave being much more interesting but difficult to translate into a good photo.

Devils Tower

Devils Tower

As we were so close to Devils Tower (relatively), we had to see it up close.  Most of us old people will remember it as the “mashed potato” mountain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind with Richard Dryfuss from 1977 (wasn’t that yesterday?). We decided to take a long motorcycle loop incorporating a trip to Deadwood and Lead, both historic gambling and mining towns.  We also passed through Spearfish.  Although the ride was long (over 270 miles roundtrip), and our butts were quite sore upon our return, it was worth it.  Devils Tower was an impressive example of geologic architecture (Kim is proud of coining that term).

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

After spending one morning touring Jewel Cave, we made it back to Sylvan Lake for an afternoon walk.  The rocks, sky and water made for an enjoyable lakeside saunter.

Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore

Of course we had to bite the bullet and pay the $10 to park and see Mt. Rushmore up close.  The visitor center has a lot of interesting information and history.  We got lucky for a brief moment when the clouds parted and the blue skies lit up the mountain. 

View from Harney Peak Fire Tower

View from Harney Peak Fire Tower

All week long we were looking forward to hiking to Harney Peak, the tallest point east of the Rockies and west of the Pyrenees mountain chain in Europe.  The 7 mile roundtrip was well worth it.  We were pleasantly surprised by the really cool stone firetower at the top. This was a great way to end our stay in the Black Hills area.

Another interesting tourist attraction we managed to hit twice, was the Alpine Inn.  This restaurant and Inn has been in business, on and off, since the late 1800’s when tin, mining, and milling were the popular activities in the area.  The existing restaurant is known for their great desserts and unique dinner menu.  The only thing you can order for dinner is a filet mignon, either 6 oz or 9 oz. Good thing we are not vegetarians, yum! 

This area had so much to offer and we look forward to stopping back in the future.