DAY 77 to DAY 80, Wednesday, July 1 to Saturday, July 4, 2009
Rapid City, South Dakota to Mithell, SD
Who knew there was so much to do in the Black Hills of South Dakota? This is a big recreational area with all kinds of "touristy" attractions as well. We got to Rapid City, SD, Tuesday evening after visiting Devils Tower in Wyoming on the way. We stayed at the Rapid City KOA, arriving in the driving rain. In fact, it seems it's been raining almost every day.
Wednesday we visited Wind Cave National Park, 60 miles SW of Rapid City, passing through a quaint, touristy town, Hot Springs, SD. We took the Fairgrounds Tour at Wind Cave, 1 ½ hours, ½ mile walk in the cool caves. These caves differ from what we know in VA, Luray, for example—no stalagmites and stalactites. Instead there are formations called lacy "boxwork" on the ceilings
and popcorn, for example
. The cave system is 135 miles on three levels in a one-square mile area. Lunch in the picnic grounds was relaxing, and then we hiked the Wind Cave Canyon Trail looking for birds, but they were smart enough to stay out of the afternoon sunshine. We cut our hike short due to threatening thunderstorms.
Afterwards, we traveled through the amazing Custer State Park. Mike had been on this route before, but Linda was very surprised at the scenery: the Needles rock formations
, the narrow 8’4” tunnel (scary), gorgeous Sylvan Lake (like a postcard). Lots to see and so little time! This would be a great place to spend 3-4 days to boat, hike, and see wildlife.
Thursday we made it to Mt. Rushmore
, hot and crowded with a plethora of kids. We have been spoiled by our earlier touring without the family vacation crowds. (Time to go home again.) We took a ranger tour, watched the movies, and saw the exhibits; then we were glad to go. Leaving Rushmore, a torrential rain started and continued with 20 minutes of dime-sized hail. Our picnic lunch was served in the car as we waited out the storms. That evening we spoiled ourselves with a Chuckwagon Dinner and Cowboy Song Show at the Circle B Ranch . . . yes, touristy but quite a tradition out west
. The Circle B has been doing the shows 35 years.
Friday was our last day in the Black Hills area, and we spent it at the amazing Badlands National Park. This is as close to the moon on earth as you can get.
We challenged ourselves with the Notch Trail, a moderate-strenuous, rugged walk to the rim of “The Wall” to look at the view of the valley. With its ladder and cliff edges, it is not for wimps.
We survived it with only slight injury. That trail will find a place in our list of greatest memories, along with Angel’s Landing in Zion, Navaho Trail in Bryce, and Fiery Furnace in Arches. Travel these trails when you are younger than us! The weather tonight was rainy, chilly, and cloudy. At the last minute, the decision was made to have the fireworks at Mt. Rushmore, but we were glad we had chosen to skip it and avoid the long wait with the crowds in the nasty weather.
On Saturday toward the east side of South Dakota. The states out here are so much bigger. Saturday, July 4, was non-eventful, a whole day driving across the Great Plains.