Thursday, September 29, 2016

GTT Days 53-55

September 22 - Custer State Park, South Dakota, Game Lodge campground, Day 1.
It was back to the usual early morning rising today, though not with quite as long a drive ahead of us. We saw lots of pronghorns and some farmed bison on the way to Rapid City. We had to stop first at yet another NAPA Auto Parts (4th one?) to pick up a set of chains for the van. We may not need them but since our tires are getting pretty worn down, they just might be useful if winter shows up before we get home. Plus a few groceries were in order as well. Then it was on up into the Black Hills on the road toward Mt. Rushmore. The weather wasn't fabulous with fog in the high places so it's a good thing we saw the famous mountain before because we only caught a tiny glimpse. Instead we headed down the very fun Iron Mountain Highway with the pigtail twists and tiny one-lane tunnels. I didn't get any photos for you because I was too busy recording videos with Thom's iPhone for him!
We had reserved a campsite online which is the only way to do it apparently, unless you phone a reservation in. Dumb system but at least you know you have a spot. The campground is small but very nice and the cottonwoods and aspens were showing their full golden leaves in honour of autumn. After we checked out the new visitors centre across the way and watched their film about the park we got settled in. The paved Creekside Trail was a tempting walk too:
We saw turkeys and deer:
The place was lousy with them! Can you spot the turkey to the above-left of the gambolling deer? I kind of thought that Custer would be a bit Disneyland-ish if you read all the blurbs but it was actually very nice. No wifi anywhere though. Boo.
September 23 - Custer State Park, SD, Day 2.
It was raining and foggy the next morning, our second day in Custer. We decided to take the Wildlife Loop Road that began very close to our campground. The trees colours were even more intense though some of the views were obscured by the misty rain and fog:
We didn't see a lot of wildlife but the loop road was very scenic. Next weekend is their annual buffalo roundup so we were surprised not to see any bison at all. But we did run across these characters hogging the road:
The donkeys are feral but very spoiled. This one decided that our van looked good enough to eat:
Thom caught this shot while it was licking the door! Yuck. We probably should have held off our drive because it cleared up later in the afternoon and got quite hot for awhile. Unfortunately later in the evening it clouded over again and began a thunder and lightning storm that went on all evening. We acquired this young Two-Prong neighbour who hung out for quite awhile beside us:
He looked kind of interesting through the rain-soaked window.
September 24 - Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site, Wyoming.
Today is going to be a very tough one to write up since it feels like we stuffed at least 3 days into one! We started at our usual early hour and drove up the Needles Scenic Highway. Our first encounter (besides the inevitable turkeys) was a lone female bison in the woods. I tried to take a photo but she flipped around and growled at us so we were forced to keep moving before she decided to butt heads with our van! Too close. Sorry, hon'. The road was nothing short of amazing in the morning sunshine:
There we are! Twisting and turning and going through a couple of very tight tunnels:
Nearly hit the side mirrors on that one. And this one I ran out ahead:
Tight, no? Right after this tunnel is the iconic Eye of the Needle:
So huge it's nearly impossible to capture. Then it was down and down and around some more and north to Lead (like the mineral they mine there) and then through yet another gorgeous scenic byway, the Spearfish Canyon. I sadly just watched the amazing scenery go by and didn't take any photos but the light and the golden and rust turning trees were spectacular!
Once we got to Spearfish we ended up on the I-90 heading ever west. The weather deteriorated again and became rainy and windy making it not much fun to drive in. Kind of a let-down after so much beautiful scenery. But that's not all! After Buffalo, Wyoming, we headed up into the Bighorn Mountains on what was supposed to be another scenic byway. This is what we got:
Almost the whole way through to Ten Sleep (love that town's name). It snowed enough to call out the ploughs but at the worst it was only about 4" deep. Hah. And the main road was clear. Just reminding us that winter is coming, right? No need to try out the new chains yet though.
And that's not all! We headed north from Ten Sleep and into the sagebrush and farmland to our final destination. It took us all day but we were surprised to find a lovely little campground as well as a fabulous stone cliff with petroglyphs and pictographs, layered on each other:
You know how much I love petroglyphs! A whole wall full:
We didn't get much time to explore though since it kept raining on us and we needed to make dinner before we fainted. And of course it got dark. Looonnng day.   Update: I finally have wifi in Idaho but you are going to have wait until I get home for the rest of the story! The suspense is killing me. Heh.  

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