5/5/2019 to 5/7/2019
Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Devils Tower, Deadwood, Jewel Cave, and Crazy Horse
Sunday 5/05/2019 The weather in South Dakota has been anything but nice. We decided that today's expedition would be to Mount Rushmore as today was going to be the best day out of the four we'll be here. It was only in the low 40's and partly cloudy but at least there was no rain predicted. Mount Rushmore was approximately 35 miles from our campsite. We arrived at the entrance gate around 9:30 and were greeted by a mountain goat leisurely grazing right at the entrance. Even though it was a cold morning there were plenty of visitors to the monument. We parked in the parking deck and it's only a short walk to the visitor's center and museum. From here you get a great view of Rushmore. We strolled around the museum some, watched a short movie and then went on a short walk to take a closer look. Only part of the Presidential Trail was open because they had eight inches of snow last week and the park ranger said there was still some remaining snow on part of the trail. After our walk, we just took a few more photos and then walked back to the truck to take a two-hour drive to The Badlands National Park.
Saturday 5/01/2019 It was a long ride to The Badlands National Park and again it was mostly farmland. We made a short stop at the visitor's center then took a 27-mile long ride on the loop road. The weather was very cold but only sprinkled most of the day so we were able to get out of the truck and take photos at several viewpoints. They had a few short walkways into parts of the park and we enjoyed strolling on those. It's a beautiful area and parts of it reminded us of a smaller Grand Canyon. We also drive through part of the Black Hills National Forest so we stopped to take a picture at the sign.
Monday 5/06/2019 Today's weather was terrible. It was a freezing rain with a dense fog that lasted the entire day. First thing I did was run into town to see if I could get the tire fixed that went flat on our way here. The campground attendant recommended a shop called Leo's which was only a mile away. The owner of the shop was very nice and took a look at the tire right away. Of course, it couldn't be fixed and I needed to buy a new tire. Luckily he had the right size in stock. I drove back to the trailer, took the spare off and had him swap the wheels so I could use the new one as the spare.
By 11:00 am we were on our way to The Devil's Tower which Wikipedia describes as follows: laccolithic butte composed of igneous rock in the Bear Lodge Mountains (part of the Black Hills) near Hulett and Sundance in Crook County, Wyoming. I just remember it from the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Richard Dreyfuss is obsessively creating a model of Devil's Tower from mashed potatoes. Can't remember why though. The tower is 110 miles and a two-hour drive from our campground and the weather never improved. We were happy that we were able to see the tower because the fog had been clearing up off and on. We happened to arrive at a semi-clear hour. A paved trail begins at the visitor's center and continues around the base of the tower. The walk was 1.3 miles and took us about 45 minutes to finish with several stops for photos.
We continued driving to an old gold mining town called Deadwood. Deadwood is about an hour drive from Devils Tower and at this time of the year, was completely "dead". There were only a few people walking around and most of the restaurants were closed. We found a steakhouse called Maverick's located inside one of the town's casinos and stopped there for dinner. I planned to visit The Adams Museum which contained the history of Deadwood but they pulled the closed curtain down on me just as I went to open the door. 🙁
We left Deadwood and began driving back to the trailer passing another sign for a town called Lead. They were also an old mining town. We didn't stop because we still had a ninety-minute drive back. The entire day was very cold and the fog never let up making for a pretty long, miserable drive.
Tuesday 5/07/2019 Today the temperature was once again in the mid-thirties, rainy and foggy. We noticed advertisements for two caves in the area and decided today would be a great day to visit them. The caves are named Jewel Cave and Wind Cave. Jewel Cave was closer to the campground so we went there first. Jewel Cave was discovered in 1900 by two brothers Frank and Albert Michaud. The brothers tried to capitalize on their discovery, widening the opening, building walkways inside and opening it to tourists. Although their venture was unsuccessful, news of the discovery eventually reached Washington. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Jewel Cave a National Monument on February 7, 1908. We've visited a lot of caves and weren't overly impressed by this one. There weren't a lot of stalagmites or stalactites to see or many other interesting formations. There were a few special places that the guide pointed out but It was nothing different than we've seen before. The tour lasted an hour and twenty minutes and had 723 stair steps. Since this tour was a little underwhelming, we decided not to spend the time or money to see the Wind Cave.
Next on our itinerary was The Crazy Horse Memorial. The Native Americans wanted to honor one of their heroes similar to how we honored our presidents on Mount Rushmore. It's on privately owned land and has been under construction for over 70 years. Only his face has been carved out and no one seems to know when it will be completed. It will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The memorial is a non-profit undertaking and does not accept federal or state funding. The Memorial Foundation finances the project by charging fees for its visitor center, earning revenue from its gift shops and receiving contributions. Normal admission is $12.00 a person but because it was so foggy and we couldn't even glimpse the monument they only charged us $6.00 a person. We spent some time walking around the beautiful, wood-paneled museum which is full of Native American history.
Visiting Jewel Cave and Crazy Horse only took part of the day. We were done around 12:30 and headed back to the trailer. It was still very cold and rainy so we just stayed inside and kept warm. Tomorrow we are headed a little further south to Cheyenne, Wyoming.
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