Somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota...

Trip Start May 09, 2009
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Trip End May 27, 2010


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Where I stayed
Spokane Creek Campground

Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Monday, June 1, 2009

"Now somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota, there lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon…"

That song played in my head the whole time we were in the Black Hills and is back now that I am writing about it (they call this phenomenon an “ear worm” – I call it annoying!!).

Well, we didn't see a “showdown in the local saloon” (see – can’t get rid of it!), but we saw great scenery and wildlife – most of it from our car, since the good weather in the Badlands didn’t extend into the Black Hills.  (I am writing this on 6/20 and we have had only two good days of weather in over four weeks!!)   We’d been here together five years ago when we headed out to Yellowstone, but that was in fall and our memories being more short-term these days, it had that déjà-vu feeling without precise recall.

We spent our first full day in Custer State Park, in the southern end of the Black Hills area.  One of the best state parks we’ve been to – on par with a National Park.  Saw lots of wildlife – bison, mule deer, pronghorn antelopes and more prairie dogs. 

We also drove along the Needles Highway.  This scenic highway has “pigtail” curves in the road (fortunately, we were doing this without the trailer) as you get higher and higher in altitude.  CCC crews in the 30s created the highway and blasted rock archways that framed Mt. Rushmore as you went through.  Beautiful pine forests and valley vistas greeted us around many curves – fantastic even in the rain!

A visit to the Black Hills isn’t complete without a visit to its major tourist attraction – Mt. Rushmore.  We are all familiar with it from schoolbooks and Hollywood movies, but that doesn’t come close to seeing it in person.  This time we went in the evening when they have a ranger-led talk and lighting ceremony.  With our weather luck, it started raining at the end of the evening ceremony, but not enough to obscure the lighted images of Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt and Lincoln.  The glow of the light on the Presidents’ carved faces could be seen as we rounded bends on the road back to our campsite.  Priceless…
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