Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Relocation Road Trip : South Dakota to Wyoming : Day Four

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Today is or big Mount Rushmore day and it is rainy! Our breakfast was included with hotel. Comfort Inn breakfasts were just like Hampton (Do they use the same supplier?). 
Rushmore is located in the Black Hills on the scenic Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. I didn't want to just go see a big rock carving so, I planned a route that would take us on a scenic hot points tour.  

Farms in the park
Custer is in the park so it was easy to start out tour immediately. We started at from the south and were going to exit to the west for our destination in Buffalo, WY.  
In the parks, you can not plan your day on a tight schedule! The roads are very narrow, steep cliff-lined and sharp turns (I don't know how the tour busses and RV's do it). From Custer we headed north on 89 (longhorns and farms) to 87 which was about a 30 minute drive. 

Head southeast on 87 on the Needles Highway through the Eye and Tunnel down to ALT 16.

Sharp, craggy spires of granite, towering into the clouds above narrow, winding roads, on this misty, foggy day give an ethereal  atmosphere to this majestic place.

This section took about 40 minutes to drive.

We headed east on ALT 16 to drive the top portion of the Wildlife Loop and visited the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center. The center has many great exhibits and area information. 

 Continue north on 16A to leave Custer State park and enter into the Black Hills National Forest

 Bison, antelope, and deer are among some of the wildlife we observed.

We stopped at the Peter Norbeck overlook and had to use our imagination for a view this day. 

What we did see was amazing.

A foggy day makes you look a little coser and appreciate the smaller beauty at your feet. This is where we discovered a chipmunk infested rock outcrop and enjoyed seing the little critters scuffle about amongst the rocks.

Drive through the tunnels and pigtail bridges. Stop to read the history of the bridges and gain a better appreciation for the trails and amazing architecture of the bridges.

 Finally,  after an hour drive... Mount Rushmore

What a view... BOO! Ugh. So depressing. I can't believe THIS was our big reason for the detour and it is all covered up by the clouds. Well, I was wrong! Mt. Rushmore is so much more than just a rock sculpture. There is a fabulous museum at the back of the amphitheater that faces the sculpture.
We decided to visit the exhibits (allow yourself about an hour or more for the museum - it's great!). We watched a short film and when we came out the clouds had shifted for a view! YEAH!

As the clouds started to obstruct the view once more, we took the path to the boardwalk that takes you on a loop up to the base of the sculpture. What an amazing boardwalk. It has some exhibits along the way and is wide and well-kept. The walk is moderate to difficult with many stairs and some rock steps.

mountain goat and her kid
In the park we saw marmots and mountain goats. The wildlife roam freely in the park. These goats are apparently used to all the people traffic in the park and are not a bit shy.

Washington 42nd State Admitted to the Union 1889
  The promenade of states is pretty cool. It gives a chance to walk towards the sculpture and reflect on this wonderful land we call the USA, the sacrifices that have been made by all peoples over the course of our checkered history and the treasure we hold today.

 From Mt Rushmore we continued west on 244 past 87 onto16 south to the Crazy Horse Memorial (this drive is about 20 min).

 It was pretty cool to see a monument in the making. by the time it is finished, Sabrina (my daughter) may be taking her kids to see the finished product. 

Although the crazy Horse Memorial is in its infancy, there are still many exhibits to occupy your time. The Museum in massive. Plan about 2 hours for a visit here. At the time we visited, there were several Native American vendors with their crafts for sale.

We didn't ever get a clear view this day. The photo here is the best I could get.

 From the memorial, we continued south on 16 back to Custer. We drove west on 16 through Moorcroft, WY and followed I-90 to Buffalo.

 We got some beautiful, partly sunny weather in Wyoming along with the beautiful landscape in this part of the state.

 Then we saw the storm-clouds and got to drive through some heavy rain on I-90.

We had dinner at the Virginian in the historic Occidental Hotel, Buffalo, WY. How fun was it? Very. We were the only ones in our dining room & you could hear the footsteps and wood creaking above from the hotel guests. The decor and architecture of this place is amazing. 
The food was good. I enjoyed a grilled romaine salad in which the romaine bunch had been sliced in half lengthwise, grilled and dressed with a Caesar-type dressing, Parmesan and pine-nuts. My bison steak was cooked to order and was good. I would recommend this place for good food and exceptional ambiance. The food would need to be exceptional for me to highly recommend it due to the prices.

 We stayed in Buffalo at the Hampton. 
(We had picnic lunch in the Mt Rushmore parking lot in our car)

Day 4 mileage was about 255 miles
Expenses were about $ 335 (125 dinner, 10 coffee, 57 gas, 128 hotel, various park fees 15)

 Our tour was designed for one day. We would love to be able to spend longer. It would be very easy to spend a week on the Norbeck Byway alone, not to include the rest of massive Black Hills and Badlands regions. We hope to someday return and explore this region more.

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