Custer City, SD June 24, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 It was a chilly night which made it great to have a campfire….and we did. We saved a little wood for tonight, our last night in Custer. Sometime during the night our propane tank emptied out and we were without heat. About 6 AM I noticed that it was REALLY cold. I brought Auggie into bed with us because his little ears were cold. We stayed snuggled up until Bob went out and flipped the switch for the 2nd propane tank. We were good to go. We sat bundled up until the heat warmed everything up. It was as cold inside as it was outside…about 48 degrees. Around 10:00, things had warmed up enough with the sun that we could venture out. We packed a lunch and drove into the park. On the way in, we spotted 5 white-tailed deer, plus one this morning near the campground. We could see it from the camper window. We stopped at Legion Lake to hike the loop trail around the lake.

 
 
The lake area was already busy with visitors hiking, fishing, and boating on the lake.

 
 
It was an easy hike and we had fun along the way.

 
 
 
 
The lake was clear as we walked across the bridge on top of the dam.

 
 
We took a leisurely pace while seeing a beautiful, blue butterfly sunning himself in the grass.

 
 
The chipmunks here are tiny creatures that dart in and out of the rocks. This one saw us coming and ran into his hole, only to pop out a few seconds later to see where we were. Can you find him?

 
 
Bob tried his best to blend in with his surroundings. Can you find him?

 
 
The lake looked so blue and serene today. We stopped to rest on a bench near the shore and had this view.

 
 
We were done hiking in less than an hour and stopped in the gift shop for a souvenir t-shirt. Our next adventure was to drive Iron Mountain Road. It is a “must see” drive between Mount Rushmore and the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center. If you drive this road you must do it in a counter-clockwise direction starting in the south. Along the highway, you will find wildfire exhibits, 3 pigtail bridges, Black Hills scenery and wildlife, lots of switchbacks, interesting road patterns, and best of all 3 tunnels that frame Mt. Rushmore. That’s the best part of all. Peter Norbeck designed the tunnels that way. The best way to see that, is traveling from the south to the north. The road actually begins at the park’s eastern entrance at Highway 36 and then travel north from there. There are many of these signs to warn you of what’s to come.

 
 
We first spotted this group of antelope on the ridge. 

 
 
It wasn’t long before we got our first glimpse of Mount Rushmore looming high above.

 
 
Bob noticed it first, but it wouldn’t be our last view of this iconic monument. We reached our first tunnel and waited for 3 antique cars to pass through before we could. 

 
 
Through that tunnel was our first framed view of Mount Rushmore.

 
 
We stopped at the Norbeck Overlook and walked to the viewing area to see all of Mount Rushmore from a distance. Everywhere you turn you can get a view of Mt. Rushmore.

 
 
There was a very cool hole in the rocks that I checked out at the Overlook.

 
 
We also climbed to the very top of the rock formation there.

 
 
The view was amazing! We could see across the valley to the other ridge where the Cathedral Spires (left), the Little Devil’s Tower (middle), and Harney Peak (right) stood.

 
 
High on the top of Harney Peak, we could see a fire observation tower far above the forest below.

 
 
This picture shows what the road looked like on our GPS in the truck. The red arrow shows where we were.

 
 
We decided to eat our lunch there before heading down the mountain. The road continued to wind down the hillside and it wasn’t long before we came upon tunnel #2. It was hard to see from this angle if another car was coming through from the other side. We beeped and waited before entering.

 
 
The next tunnel came up quickly after that.

 
 
We could see from our side that Mount Rushmore was visible and perfectly framed.

 
 
Our next encounter was with a pigtail bridge (corkscrew). There were two more like it and all of them were very unique.

 
 
As we drove north towards the Mount Rushmore Memorial itself, we came around a turn and a family of mountain goats (male, female, and 2 young ones) darted out from the rocks trying to cross the road. I was so surprised and worried that they would get hit by another car that I never grabbed my camera in time to get a picture. Oh well….they all quickly turned around and ran back into the woods for shelter. At least I finally had my mountain goat sighting! What good fortune for us as well as the goats. We passed Mount Rushmore and saw the right profile of George Washington again.

 
 
 
 
It’s always thrilling and I never get tired of seeing it. From there, it was a straight shot home via the major highway. It rained a little as we neared town and back at the campground we definitely had had some rain. I must say that I have been on some very scenic highways in my time, but this one is definitely one of the best. If you ever come this way, you won’t want to miss it. Neither Bob nor I had ever been on this highway before. This was a highlight of our stay here, but you must remember to drive it in the direction we did to be able to frame Mt. Rushmore in the tunnels. Back at the campsite, we made some preparations for leaving tomorrow…another quick load of wash (very cheap), drying out our wood for tonight’s campfire (pray it doesn’t rain), and getting a refill of our propane tank (conveniently located at the campground). We put away any unnecessary items to make packing up tomorrow a little easier and quicker. Dark storm clouds drifted by all afternoon and we heard claps of thunder, but no rain fell. Auggie and I hung outside while Bob caught up on some emails. We had dinner and a campfire after Auggie’s evening walk. We even found some roasting sticks to have s’mores! It was a beautiful night!

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