We slept in late (well for us a least) and didn’t get out the door until 8:00 am. We set out for the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park, SD. No sooner did we drive a few miles when we ran into hundreds of buffalo. They were in the road and in no hurry to move. We were near the South entrance to the park. The younger buffalo were checking out some of the doors of the ranger station.
There were numerous calves everywhere. The heard is more productive than the park can support so the cull the it every fall in a huge round-up. Animals are selected for slaughter and wind up on the menus of many of restaurants in the area.
The park is alive with life. Everywhere you go you see Long Horned Sheep, Prong Horn Deer, Prairie Dogs, Wild Horses, and lot of birds. The place is just teaming with life. We spent more time outside of the car taking photographs than driving.
In the afternoon we attended some ranger programs. The kids particularly liked mining for gold. We went to a local creek where they issued the children pans and showed them how to sift for gold.
The needles highway is perhaps the most spectacular part of the park. It is a narrow winding road that cuts through the mountain with several very narrow tunnels and leads to some amazing rock formations that jut out of the ground like needles (hence the name I suppose).
It rained again that night (I thought this was a desert people!). Fortunately for us our travel trailer was water tight and we experienced no leaks. This is one time when the travel trailer trumps tent camping. We sat dry and protected from the storm and could read and play games. It’s great family time.
The next day we left for Thermopolis in Wyoming, famous for their mineral hot springs. Along the way we stopped in Dead Wood, home of Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickock and other notable Western figures. It apparently hit bottom in the 1980’s and was a dying town. Some one got the idea to introduce gambling shortly afterwards and the downtown has made an amazing comeback. Restored and new structures are carefully monitored to maintain the old West feel of the town. There are numerous hotels, casinos and specialty stores. Definitely touristy but when compared to the 1980 pictures, a vast and welcome improvement.
The Adams Museum in Dead Wood is well worth the visit. It’s free but they accept donations. It’s rated as one of the 10 best Western museums in the United States. I’m not sure what that means but it is a very pleasant and thoughtfully presented collection. Among the many artifacts is the first train that was used in the area. It’s quaintly small, almost child sized. It could not have pulled more than a dozen cars.
From Dead Wood we crossed the mountains. Again I wished for 8 cylinders. The Trailblazer has the muscle, but it takes a lot of RPM’s to get the job done. Something I’ll remember for the future.
The hot springs are very comfy by the way. They percolate out of the ground at 130 degrees and then is cooled in graduated pools. One pool was 117 degrees. The other two were 104 and 97 respectively. Personally, 97 was plenty hot for me.
Access to the Internet is sporadic here in the mountains. I try to write everyday but it can be several days before I find a Wi-Fi hot spot. Typically, the information centers, sprinkled near the major tourist attractions, are the only places I’ve found to be reliable.