Wildlife and Wilder highways

LOCATION:  Wind Cave National Park in SW South Dakota
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Elk Mountain Campground, inside Wind Cave
WEATHER:  Perfect!  Sunny.  Clear skies.  High 75

We started the day with a hike near the campground on a nature trail.  The second hike was a steep climb up to the park’s fire tower, the highest point in the park.

Then, we started our scenic highway trips around Custer State Park. 

We saw quite a bit of wildlife again today:  lots and lots of prairie dogs, several bison, another coyote and deer.

The highlight was a small herd of big-horned sheep…

We stopped for a picnic lunch at the visitor center.  Lovely fall colors…

Hike #3 was around this beautiful lake…

Then, our scenic highway adventures began.  First was Iron Mountain Road.  It is a 14-mile “road” that includes 360 curves (we counted them!), 32 switchbacks and two tunnels.  At several points, I had to stop to allow oncoming cars to pass.  I had to put our side mirrors in to avoid hitting others’.  We barely squeezed through some…

If that weren’t enough, we then drove Needles Highway.  I think the two highways vie for the scariest stats – 17 miles with 314 curves, 3 tunnels, 3 pigtails (when the road does a corkscrew and turns over itself on a bridge), and views of 4 Presidents!

We saw Mount Rushmore from afar, on a peak along Needles…

Finally, we actually drove right by the monument

We did hike #4 around another pristine lake.  At points, it was a bit rocky.

To celebrate the fact that we survived both highways and that we hiked a total of 6 miles, we stopped at Mount Rushmore Brewery at the end of the day.  It is in the town of Custer, a very touristy place, but the brewery was nice.

DINNER:  Back at the campsite, George built another great fire.  We grilled hamburgers.  I baked some TakeNBake buns in the oven.  (These are great for traveling as I can keep them in the freezer and pull them out when we need them.)  The meat was from one of the Harvest Host farms where we stayed a few weeks ago.  Excellent.  One side was fried potatoes.  A few days ago when we had electricity, I baked some potatoes in the microwave and wrapped them in aluminum foil.  Tonight, I thickly sliced them and  lightly cooked them in a little oil on a skillet over the campfire.  They are so much easier to saute when they have already been baked.  Another side was cucumbers and tomatoes with a pesto dressing. 

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