Thursday, September 30, 2021

Yellowstone Trip Day 5

 Saturday Sept. 11

I started out my day by leaving at 7:30 for Mount Rushmore which was only 10 minutes away from my campsite. Mount Rushmore opens at five in the morning which I did not know, but even at 8 o’clock am it was still empty, which was very nice. Seeing the monument is quite impressive in person. I don't think I ever actually grasped the size or enormity of the task of carving it until I actually saw it. I have to say when you round the curve in the road and first see it, that you stare and go "Wow."

The parking garage is quite large and I found a parking spot immediately so early in the morning. Be aware that you do have to pay for parking. There's plenty to see so I walked around taking pictures until 9 o’clock when the gift shops opened and bought myself a T-shirt and a sweatshirt. There was also time to get in a geocache while I was there. Bonus!!

After that I headed down and drove beautiful Iron Mountain Road (16A) It's a 17 mile scenic drive with loads of switchbacks, tunnels and curves. You will pass through several tunnels that frame Mt. Rushmore and if you're curious about tunnel size, I found this on the Internet:

Doane Robinson Tunnel, 12' 0" wide by 11' 4" high;
C.C. Gideon Tunnel, 11' 6" wide by 10' 9" high;
Scovel Johnson Tunnel, 10' 9" wide by 11' 0" high.

Take your time and enjoy the views. They are spectacular. If you join Iron Mountain Road when you leave Mount Rushmore, the drive will take you to Custer State Park. The park encompasses 71,000 acres and I planned on doing the wildlife loop but half of it was closed because they’re re-paving it. I was a little annoyed that they still charged $20 to go on the 9 miles of wildlife route route that was still open and they didn't tell me about it until after I had paid my entrance fee. I was very disappointed because I only saw one bison and three prong horn sheep on my drive and I was hoping to see much more than that even though the drive was beautiful.

After that I headed over to 14 mile long Needles Highway (Hwy 87) which was the high point of my day. Oh my goodness - it was just so pretty! The road gets its name from the needle like granite formations you'll see along the way. You will experience stunning meadows, forests and mountains and if your vehicle is small enough you can drive through the tunnels. The road is closed during the winter months. This website states:

Needles Eye Tunnel (Near Needle's Eye), 8' 9" wide by 9’8" high;

Iron Creek Tunnel, 8' 9" wide by 10’10” high.

Do check your vehicle height and width before you go. (don't forget to add in the height of your rooftop cargo carrier) Turning around once you get to a tunnel you can't pass through will be nearly impossible. The entire drive was gorgeous and I liked driving through the tunnels. I kept wanting to pull over to take pictures. It was a gorgeous day and I was envious of the multiple motorcycles I saw making the drive. It was a perfect day for that!

Once I finished the drive I headed over to nearby Sylvan Lake. I had forgotten that it was Saturday and it was extremely crowded. I got the last parking space at the very back end of the farthest parking lot. It was quite a hike just to get over to the lake. Lots of people were having a great time swimming canoeing, paddle boarding and climbing the rocks. I grabbed my hiking stick and my backpack and went for a really nice walk, and ended up climbing to the top of the rocks and just sitting there enjoying the view.

By the time I got back I was starving so I headed over to Custer South Dakota. I had heard that Black Hills Burger and Bun had some of the best hamburgers in the state and I’ll tell you what - they did not disappoint! The restaurant was super crowded and I ended up being seated at a small 3 person counter with a stool. Not ideal, but I was hungry. The cheese burger was huge and extremely juicy. I got coleslaw on the side and I was only able to eat half of the burger so I put the rest in my cooler to eat later on.

I stopped at the candy store next-door on my way out because I saw a sign advertising Taffy Apples. I love a good taffy apple so I bought the largest taffy apple I’ve ever seen. It was $ 10.00 and coated thick with rich caramel, sprinkled with an abundance of nuts and drizzled with white and milk chocolate. I ended up cutting slices off of it and it lasted me for 5 different snacks. I felt it was a real treat and worth the ten bucks.

By 3:30 I pulled into my Custer/Mt. Rushmore/Black Hills KOA campsite. When I was unloading my stuff I realized that I had forgotten to plug in my Set Power cooler that morning so most of my food was semi-defrosted. Unfortunately I didn't get a site with electric so I had to leave my car run for a while to get my cooler frozen up again. I decided to take advantage of my time at the campsite and went up to the laundry room and threw in a load of clothes. I plugged my Jackery into my Jackery solar panels for awhile but the sun disappeared behind some clouds so I ended up taking the Jackery into the laundry room with me and topped off the power with their electric while I was there. Then I sat and ate some more of the taffy Apple which was absolutely delicious.

Dinner was quick and easy - instant soup, cheese, crackers and sausage and another slice of taffy apple for desert! The people who work at this KOA campground were extremely friendly. I have found so far that everybody at the campgrounds has been very nice and goes out of their way to help you.

I use the JetBoil Sumo cooking system and I love it!

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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Yellowstone Trip Day 4 Afternoon

 Friday Sept. 10 Afternoon

If you missed the Morning post for Day 4 of my trip, please click here to read it first.

The next stop for the day was at Wall Drug which is the requisite stop if you’re on 90. They have over 2 million people visit each year and there is a lot of cute little shops and stores you can visit. It was quite crowded even though I had gotten there before noon. Several of the stores outside the main complex were already closed for the season. I just breezed quickly in and out of the shops, got myself a bumper sticker and I was on my way.   

In less than an hour I arrived at Rapid City where I spied the Cabela store off the expressway. I pulled over to buy myself a new chair for my campsite. The canvas chair I had was so uncomfortable to sit and read in for any length of time. So at Cabela's I bought myself a darling little canvas rocking chair that is so comfortable and well worth the $69 it cost me.  

The next stop was a park in the middle of Rapid City where they had a large section of the Berlin Wall. I just happened to see a sign about it so I decided to go check it out. That was extremely interesting and it was a nice place to walk around. It was also a geocache site so I was able to snap a photo and grab a cache!

After that I went over to see the Dinosaur Park which was fun to walk around and I did a couple of geocaches and an Adventurelab there.   The park is free and they have a nice visitor center and store. Kids will love this place with the tall dinosaur statues but I think adults would enjoy it too, if not for the dinosaurs, then for the sweeping views from the top level of the park. Be ready to walk up a bunch of steps though to reach the top.

My campsite for the night was a little south of Rapid City at Rushmore Shadows Campground. Oh my goodness - what a beautiful campground! This was one of my favorite places to stay on the entire trip. I loved all the pine trees and down the hill from my tent you could see the covered wagons that they rent out. How fun would that be?? It felt just like being out in the old west and I was waiting for the cowboys and Indians to show up. I was wishing I had brought my bathing suit along because their pool was still open and it was in the 90s. A dip would have felt wonderful. Instead I went and took a shower and then sat around in my new rocking chair and read a book until it was time to fix myself some bratwurst for dinner. It was a beautiful evening and I sat outside until after dark just enjoying the fresh air....

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