Part 9: Hot Springs, SD to Badlands, SD


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The Trip

We left Hot Springs and traveled north to see Mount Rushmore and from there, to the east to the Badlands.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

From Wind Cave, we traveled to Custer State Park and found a site near a lake.  We had a good, quiet night despite the large number of folks in the campground.  Next morning, we rolled out to do the so-called "Wildlife Loop Road" and then on to Mt. Rushmore.

The loop road had nice views of the surrounding Black Hills.  This area frequently has natural, lightning-caused fires and the impact can be seen in the photo above.

We passed a road that led to a set of radio towers and a lookout at the top of the mountain, so we took it.  The radio towers provided the cell service for the area and due to the high winds, the support guy wires were extensive.

The peak provided a nice view of the Pinnacle area of the Black Hills.

From the lookout structure, a portion of the infrastructure was visible.  Mt. Rushmore is just to the left of the center tower.

A crop-of-a-zoom provide the view above.  Rushmore is an imposing structure.

More to the west, we also had a view of the Chief Crazy Horse carving.  This is still a work in progress.

Back on the Wildlife Loop road, we spotted this buffalo next to the road.  He did not care a whit about the passing cars.

He did lift his head to check out the noise of the 1017's diesel engine.

Further down the road, we spotted these mountain goats.  I did not know that goats could have multiple offspring at once, but that is clearly the case here.

Another goat close to the road.

Further, we spotted this Pronghorn antelope.  Clearly a male.

This mule caused us to laugh out loud.  He worked the line of cars like a Tijuana street vendor, moving from car to car seeking hand-outs.  He stuck his snout into each car and usually got what he sought.  His efforts with us earned him a few raw almonds.  Generally, it is not good form to feed wildlife, but this fellow is far from wild.  He worked with mechanical precision earning, I am sure, chips, Cheetos and candy.

His buddies were clearly trained at the same school.  There were plenty of these mules and they knew the drill and worked the crowd like pros.  The one just left of center is clearly pregnant.

The loop road passed nice meadows with great views of the massing clouds.  Later in the day, we would get a strong thunderstorm that knocked down power lines.

There were nice stands of flowers in the meadows.

This was a very large dandelion, perhaps 3 inches in diameter.

Further on, we passed a reasonable herd of buffalo.

This large bull had no interest in the herd and was off in a field by himself.

The meadows had nice flowers and were thick in deep grass.

The road to Rushmore from the south was steep, twisty and passed through a number of small, one-lane tunnels.  We fit, but were scraping our 2M antenna on the roof.

The high point on the south road provided another view of the monument and the tourist facilities at the base of the mountain.  To our dismay, we discovered that the base area, while "administered" my the National Park Service is not really NPS.  They charged for parking and our annual pass got us nothing.  You can get in the monument for free, but they charge for parking. And, there is no other parking. The claim was that the parking was run by a private concern.  I think this is yet another scam to hoodwink the taxpayer -- charge for an access card and then charge again claiming that the pass is not valid.  And this is, of course, above and beyond the stream of tax-supported funds that are pointed at the NPS.  Spend without bound and then ask for more.  No wonder the government is broke.

Another narrow tunnel followed by a spiral switchback.  The exit of the tunnel is a bridge and the road turns to the right and goes under the bridge.

Another view of the spiral switchback.

The exit of this tunnel provided a view of the monument.

The weather turned sour while we were there.  It rained on us, then hailed.  But, soon the clouds cleared enough to get reasonable lighting.  The planning and construction of the monument took about 17 years and the primary sculptor, Lincoln Borglum, died very near the completion.

An impressive work.

A very detailed depiction of the presidents.

NPS has built a large amphitheater to provide shows about the monument.

We left Rushmore and headed east.  We passed this fellow on the way to Hermosa, SD.  This does not look like he had fun.

We had a large thunderstorm while fueling in Hermosa.  The high winds blew down power lines and blocked our access on the road east.  We bypassed the downed lines and headed east.  After about 10 miles, we turned northeast and hit the dirt on a county road.  On our way to the Badlands, we passed massive hay operations.  The storm that had hit the area was in front of us and we were chasing it east.

We passed a section of road with a hand painted sign that said "Danger, horses on roadway".  Why they were on the roadway I am not sure, but we did encounter them.  They were quite skittish and bolted as we came close.

Further east, we encountered our view of the badlands.

The rear lighting and the dark horizon accented the badlands area.

We passed a sign for the Sage Creek camp area and we took the road.  Given that it is a national park area, we had to camp in organized areas.  Since it was late in the day, we took the first camp area that we passed.  Above is a view from the door of the camper toward the hills.

Sage Creek is a bare-bones camp.  There are pit toilets, but no services, no water.  But, oddly, despite our seemingly remote location, there was cell service.  Our cell phone modem gives us internet connections when we have service, thus this update.  Above, fellow campers ponder life.

Mt. Rushmore is impressive.  Pay parking notwithstanding, it is worth a visit.  Keystone, the nearest city, is a true tourist trap, but other than that a nice place.  Later today, we will visit the badlands.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2011, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.