Black Hills country

Trip Start Jan 06, 2011
Trip End May 24, 2011

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Saturday, March 19, 2011

Our first exposure to South Dakota was when we first stepped foot (or rolled tire) through the southwest corner of the state, right in the heart of the Black Hills. I have to admit, we weren't expecting to be very impressed. We had just come through Wyoming which, at least right along the south border on the only main highway in the state, is quite boring (Forgive us, local Wyomingans, we've not been any further north which I can imagine is more worthy of praise).
We had heard bad things about South Dakota. About how barren it is, how the Badlands live up to their name, etc. But I don't think any critics have anything bad to say about the Black Hills.

Driving through the National Forest proved to be one of the most strikingly interesting drives in recent months (easy to beat Iowa, yes, but still...)
The blanket of tall pine forests is broken up by intermittant rock formations. Some formations are downright spires sticking straight up above the treeline as if vying for more attention.

We made our home in Custer. It is a cute little town that found is fame back in day by accomodating the rush of gold miners to the area. Now, it still attracts a good number of tourists. We were visiting in the off-season, however, so we had the town to ourselves.

We dined at the local Buglin' Bull restaurant that night, and browsed a few of the shops (those few that were open, anyway), including "A Walk in the Woods", where Kelsey found two scarves she liked.
The store owner recommended that when we were heading out of town, we should eat at the Alpine Inn in nearby Hill City. We did just that.
We weren't the only ones with that plan, however. The restaurant was packed for brunch. Three full tables of Red Hat Society women filled the room with a constant din of chatter and laughter.

With our tummies full, and our eyes still seeing everything in red and purple, we drove a route that seems only natural for visiting the Black Hills.

We swung by the Crazy Horse Memorial, the largest memorial-in-progress. Seems like it's been "in-progress" for a long while. Maybe it just wants to keep its title longer. I snapped a few shots from the parking lot, and moved on.

Black Hills is most notable for Mount Rushmore, so we of course couldn't leave without spending some time there.

We took lots of pictures (attached) of our visit, and we learned quite a bit about the memorial. The craftsmanship really is impressive.

By the way, Mount Rushmore was the name of the mountain (actually, it's more of a rock formation than a mountain--it's drops again right behind the faces) before it was carved. Mr. Rushmore, a lawyer, was traveling through with a guide many many years ago, and he asked the guide, "So, what's the name of that mountain?" The guide was like, "Uh... I don't know. I don't think it has a name. I guess it's Mount Rushmore now, Mr. Rushmore."

Just in case it actually does work that way, you can look at the picture of the memorial and, see that tree right under Lincoln's beard? That's the Mike Domeny Tree. I named it.

But nothing can rival the natural beauty of the surrounding area. We enjoyed some of the local wildlife as we drove through the National Forest. We spotted several mountain bluebirds (stark blue), dozens of pheasants (they're kinda silly), and even a couple bald eagles (just as majestic as you'd think).

So South Dakota isn't too bad so far! (famous last words?)
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