2015 Montana, Calgary Stampede, Icefield Parkway travel blog

Custer State Park, SD - Game Lodge Campground - site 24E

Custer State Park, SD - Game Lodge Campground - site 24E, another...

Custer State Park, SD - Game Lodge Campground - site 24E, and...

Wall to Custer State Park, SD 0 - our route - 81...

Wall to Custer State Park, SD 1 - the eastbound side of...

Wall to Custer State Park, SD 2 - a rest area just...

Wall to Custer State Park, SD 3 - we have seen many...

Wall to Custer State Park, SD 4 - getting into Black Hills...

Wall to Custer State Park, SD 5 - off the main road...

Wildlife Loop 1

Wildlife Loop 2

Wildlife Loop 3

Wildlife Loop 4

Wildlife Loop 5

Wildlife Loop 6

Wildlife Loop 7

Wildlife Loop 8

Wildlife Loop 9

Wildlife Loop 10

Wildlife Loop 11

Wildlife Loop 12

Wildlife Loop 13

Wildlife Loop 14 - They heard the Dinner Bell - here they...

Wildlife Loop 15

Wildlife Loop 16

Wildlife Loop 17 - a Magpie

Wildlife Loop 18 - and more prairie dogs

Iron Mountain Road 1

Iron Mountain Road 2 - as we were atop one hill, you...

Iron Mountain Road 3 - Tunnel 1

Iron Mountain Road 4 - you could see Mount Rushmore as you...

Iron Mountain Road 5 - Tunnel 2 from which you could also...

Iron Mountain Road 6

Iron Mountain Road 7 - Tunnel 3

Iron Mountain Road 8 - the hills are covered with dark green...

Iron Mountain Road 9 - as we leave the Iron Mountain Road...

Iron Mountain Road 10

Iron Mountain Road 11- the profile of George Washington

Needles Hwy 1 - heading into Custer, SD

Needles Hwy 2 - downtown Custer

Needles Hwy 3

Needles Hwy 4

Needles Hwy 5

Needles Hwy 6

Needles Hwy 7

Needles Hwy 8

Needles Hwy 9 - this ranch had herds of longhorns and buffalo

Needles Hwy 10 - Sylvan Lake

Needles Hwy 11

Needles Hwy 12 - a rarely seen Marmot near the lake

Needles Hwy 13 - some mule deer along our trail

Needles Hwy 14 - Tunnel 1

Needles Hwy 15 - some of the spires that give the highway...

Needles Hwy 16

Mammoth Site 1 - a few elk about a half-mile away on...

Mammoth Site 2

Mammoth Site 3 - the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, SD

Mammoth Site 4 - one of the best preserved and intact mammoths...

Mammoth Site 5 - two heads along with many other parts -...

Mammoth Site 6

Mammoth Site 7

Mammoth Site 8 - a portion of the lab used to work...

Mammoth Site 9 - a 6.2 mile gravel shortcut from the highway...

Our trip from Wall to Custer State Park, SD was a short 81 miles to the outskirts of Rapid city and then on to the park. We did stop near Rapid City and give the Mothership a drink - diesel is still a little over 2.50/gallon - much better than the last few years!!

We are staying at the Game Lodge Campground inside Custer State park. The sites are huge but only have 50 amp electric - no water or sewer. We made sure we filled the fresh water tank before departing Sleepy Hollow so we are set for the six days we will be here. We had a clear shot to the satellite and very strong Verizon reception.

Shortly after getting set up we headed for the wildlife loop which covers a good bit of the park. It was much as we had experienced on our way back from Alaska in 2009. The only difference was that the Pronghorn Antelope were less in evidence though there were still some here. Maybe it is still too early in their migration from farther south?

Tuesday we headed for some mountain driving. First was the Iron Mountain Road just outside the park. They are repaving almost the whole length of it but it was still usable and was a great ride. It has three very small tunnels on it as well as playing peek-a-boo with Mount Rushmore as you round the curves or exit tunnels.

Next we drove the Needles Highway but had to take a detour through Custer, SD as the regular road to the highway was closed. We were able to hike a little around Sylvan Lake, seeing a little wildlife and enjoying the beautiful lake. From there we were able to access the Needles Highway and partake of its uniqueness. It also has a few tunnels which are actually smaller than those on the Iron Mountain Road as well as some very good scenery involving the spires that give the road its name.

Wednesday was spent relaxing in the Mothership and listening to the constant patter of rain on its roof for the whole day. Thursday, it was still drizzling but we decided to give it a try as we wanted to visit the Wind Cave National Park and the Mammoth Site. We knew that there were none of the cave tours that Doris would be able to handle but we wanted to visit our country's sixth national park. They did have a good movie and some good exhibits without ever setting foot in its dank darkness.

We then went a little farther south to Hot Springs to visit the mammoths. They have done a remarkable job here of digging down into an old sinkhole that contains many mammoths and other animals that died in that one small area over a several hundred year period about 26,000 years ago.

We also decided this morning that we would go on to Buffalo, WY tomorrow (Friday) rather than wait until Sunday as scheduled due to the approaching storm. We knew that this area was expecting some snow on Friday night and Saturday but the forecast has changed and they now expect it to be very heavy snow on Saturday continuing on through Sunday when we originally planned to depart. Our site is reserved for Sunday so we have to be out Sunday and didn't want to travel in those conditions. Leaving a couple of days early seemed appropriate and we had seen everything we wanted to here as well.

We will now leave for Buffalo tomorrow and stay there five nights before going on to Montana.

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