It wasn’t too bad a drive to Legion Lake. We passed Wall SD, the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands and the Badlands National Park, getting to Custer State Park about 3 PM. Legion Lake is a very nice campground with 50 amp electricity and a common faucet to fill out water tank and very clean restrooms. It’s so good to see Sally and Mike, Murray and Shelle, Dave and Teresa and Bill and Elysa. Let the happy hours commence. A few days later, Gene and Bonnie arrived. Our only disappointment is that there is an absolute fire ban because everything is so dry. You can’t even smoke outside in the state park.
One afternoon on a drive back from town we saw a plume of smoke rising from the hills near the highway right around the corner from Custer’s Gulch RV Park where we moving to for the HitchHiker Rally in a few days. And we say a helicopter dumping water on the smoke and fire trucks at the scene. Dave, who had been making arrangements with the campground for the rally, called over there and was told that the campground was under a pre-evacuation order. The means the next time the police come everyone will leave immediately. Fortunately it didn’t come to that. The fire was extinguished and all was well. We heard some kids smoking in the woods started it.
It was rather windy the first few days we were there so Richard’s boat launch was delayed. So we played golf at Rocky Knolls, a long nine-hole course with narrow fairways and lots of ups and downs. At 4721 feet elevation it sometimes made us flatlanders winded to walk it. But we did several times.
Finally Labor Day the boat was launched in Legion Lake. While Richard fished, I grocery shopped in Custer. One day some of us drove to Center Lake to fish. The boys also fished at Bismarck Lake.
One evening several us drove the 18-mile-long Wildlife Loop Road through the open grasslands and pine-speckled hills that much of the park’s wildlife call home. At first it didn’t look promising. There was a prairie dog village with some of them poking about, some wild turkey, a glimpse of a deer and one roaming old buffalo. But then we hit the jackpot. A large herd of buffalo were meandering toward the corrals in the south part of the park. We stopped of course. Sometimes we could almost reach out and touch them. Finally Richard and I decided to leave and we saw deer and antelope, more wild turkeys and more buffalo.
We also drove the Iron Mountain Road, a winding road that runs between Mount Rushmore National Memorial and US 16A in Custer State Park. The road is famous for its scenic, one-lane tunnels aligned to frame the faces on Mount Rushmore, its “pigtail bridges", and its sections of divided highway but with single (and narrow) lanes on each roadway.
The bridges were designed by C. C. Gideon in 1932 who was working with Governor Peter Norbeck to create a very scenic, slow-speed road for tourists to see the natural beauty of the Black Hills. We stopped in Keystone and toured the Borglum Historical Center. The museum depicts the world of Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, from the blasting of the stone to the grandeur of the "Seated Lincoln." On the tour we saw the artist, his family and the famous people who were his friends. We stood alongside the full-sized eye of Lincoln, an exact replica of the eye on the mountain. We watched the film, narrated by Senator Tom Daschle, of Borglum climbing to the top of the monument on the cable car. We discovered what motivated Gutzon Borglum and why he began at age 60 what men half his age wouldn't attempt. It was a very good film and museum.