We woke with the sun and enjoyed a quick cereal breakfast before packing up our campsite and heading out. Traveling across the entire state with hopes of stopping along the way, we left not too long after breakfast. This was the view during the first half of our drive:
|Driving through South Dakota|
Though I planned to keep this stop fairly quick, we decided to explore the site, spending more than an hour walking around the grounds and taking pictures like good tourists. There were a few pieces of old Wells Fargo stuff, including this old wagon and some signage in town buildings.
Some buildings are totally open to walk through and others are preserved. My guess is it's based on what is real from the late 19th century and what is staged for fun.
We considered stopping at Wall Drug since there are so many signs screaming at us, "stop at Wall Drug!" but figuring it's probably a lot like South of the Border, we focused on getting to Mount Rushmore before dinnertime. If we'd had a little more time, I might have driven through the Badlands loop, but we were able to get a sense of the Badlands from Highway 80. We'll plan a drive through next time we visit western South Dakota.
Driving into Custer State Park was beautiful. Observing the elevation climb, the beautiful trees, the green, the craggy hills, and the sounds of birds and crickets, and the fresh air is worth the drive. Our campsite was somewhat isolated off the main road by a large, "raging" stream, surrounded by tall trees and gorgeous views. We pitched by the water, set up our space and immediately drove back up to Mount Rushmore, a 30 minute drive along winding mountain roads.
|Campsite at Custer State Park|
Penny was most excited for Mount Rushmore out of all our trip plans. She took many photos and ran up and down the amphitheater stairs. For dinner, we ate at the Mount Rushmore visitor cafe, which for a cafeteria, offered plenty of variety and decent quality.
|Taking pictures at Mount Rushmore|
As rain set in around 8pm, we took a longer drive home, encountering hundreds of bison along our path. We spent quite a bit of time stopped to let them pass, such majestic creatures.
|Bison grazing near our car|
|Bison roaming through Custer State Park|
Late into the night, a storm blew in and raged with thunder and lightening and pouring rain. Miss P slept through everything but I was pretty darn scared of either being washed away or struck by lightening. Thunder shook the ground, but we made it through without even a leak.
Breakfast was a simple buffet at a nearby lodge at the park, where we learned there had been some pretty bad hail overnight. I was grateful for those giant trees!
We lingered in the morning, looping around a driving path for viewing animals, though we saw none that morning. Close to 11am, we packed up and headed on our way to Wyoming, planning our halfway point as lunch. I didn't want to leave. Of all the stops on our trip, Custer was our favorite and we're even exploring the idea of buying some land to build a small vacation cottage in the future.