Custer City, SD June 21, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014 Happy 1st day of summer! The official summer solstice. We got up early today so we could drive the Wildlife Loop through Custer State Park before it got busy with traffic. After all, today is Saturday and the locals are out to enjoy the weekend. Bob, Auggie, and I left the campground at 9:15. We decided to drive the loop clockwise. We entered the park and began our adventure.

We passed Stockade and Legion Lakes and continued on through the part of the park we hadn’t been through before. We passed the cabins and amphitheater at Grace Coolidge Campground. It was busy with people as there was a run going on.

Next we saw the State Game Lodge area. Very impressive!

Then we made the turnoff for Wildlife Loop Road.

We immediately spied two antelope and a little further around the bend we spied a herd of 10 female antelope with one protective buck grazing in the field. That was quite a group!

Just past the airport, are the Buffalo Corrals. This is where they hold the buffalo after the big roundup on Sept. 26 this year. Once a year the local coyboys and girls help roundup the herd of 1,300 buffalo to vaccinate and brand the calves, and to sort for the selling of some buffalo. Visitors are invited to watch. I think that would be a cool thing to see! 

About halfway around the loop, a group of cars were stopped. That always means something and sure enough, it was a herd of 6 wild burros. I brought along some crackers for just this encounter.

Auggie could smell them and wanted to get a closer look.

I got out to get up close and personal with the burros and share my crackers. Other people shared their carrots. Back in the truck, one friendly burro poked his head in my window. He was a cutie!

After about 10 minutes, we moved around the corner to find another larger herd of 8 burros and more interested observers.

I got out again when I spotted a cute fuzzy baby burro.

I’m so glad we ran into these fun little guys. The last time we were here we had some fun with them and I was hoping they would still be around. Still….we were looking for the buffalo. We passed another prairie dog town and still NO buffalo. Where were they hiding today? We were almost out of the park boundary where we finally saw ONE…, TWO! This one was grazing and the other one was resting in the grass, hardly noticeable. Where was the rest of the herd?

Near the end of the Wildlife Loop Road, we stopped to check out the view.

We paused to wait for these trail riders cross the road. They looked like they were having a great time!

To the south, we saw this thunderhead forming. There may be some rain in our future.

We stopped at the Heddy Draw picnic area to check out the Mt. Coolidge Firetower and Lookout.

Bob wouldn’t make the narrow, winding drive to the top, so we decided to take the short walk to the Observation area.

It was clear enough today to see the Badlands far off in the distance.

Auggie enjoyed the walk, checking out what lay between the rocks.

From the top to the north, we saw Legion Lake in the distance. It was quite a view in all directions!

We ate our picnic lunch in the shade of the pine forest. Total wildlife sightings today= 14 antelope, 15 burros, 1 fawn, 2 buffalo, and a bunch of prairie dogs. Not bad for a 3 hour drive. On our drive back, we counted 11 private campgrounds between the park and where we were staying. That doesn’t include the 6 campgrounds in the park itself. If you can’t find a place to camp in this area, you aren’t looking hard enough. There is something for everyone, including Flintstones Bedrock City, theme park and camping resort. Yabba dabba doo! We got back to the campground around 1:00 and noticed this huge 5th wheel toy hauler RV. The “toy” happens to be a Harley Davidson motorcycle which is carried enclosed in the back of the trailer. Once the toy is out, the area converts to a covered patio. Very expensive!

Auggie found a shady spot to relax and Bob found the sofa.

These clouds started blowing in as we looked up the hill from our campsite. Rain maybe?

It was a beautiful day–picture perfect! The campground is so nice and peaceful in the afternoon when everyone is gone. We made some phone calls up near the office and watched the campers file in. They were backed up waiting to get a spot. It started to look like rain. If we’re lucky, we might be able to have a campfire tonight. I even bought the makings for s’mores. After dinner, Auggie and I sat outside and watched the black storm clouds approach. We saw amazing bolts of lightning streak across the sky. When the drops started to fall, we joined Bob inside to watch a movie. The rain came down steady, but not really hard. We were hoping it would, to wash all the yellow dust off of everything. It stopped before we went to bed and things cooled off quite a bit, but there was no campfire tonight.

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