Wednesday, September 21, 2016

So Far, My Heart Belongs to South Dakota!

Scenery form Iron Mountain Road in Custer State Park at dusk....spectacular!

I think South Dakota is my new favorite state.  I had no expectations for what we would see and of course, that’s always when I am the most surprised and, in this case, completely awed, by what we found.  In fact at one point we were watching a Kevin Costner movie about Custer State Park (in IMAX at the visitor’s center)
The spires of the Black Hills...awesome
in which he narrated about all the amazing features of the park including the annual buffalo roundup which occurs the last week of September, and you could see the buffalo, hear the stampeding herd (great sound system) as it make it’s way across the plains and I not only got shivers, but felt like I could cry.  And that was just a movie. 

This scenery is otherwordly
Seeing herds of buffalo right outside your car window (check out my brief video of the Buffalos in Custer State Park with our dog panting in the background! ), stopping by the side of the road on a misty morning to look up into the hill, again, right by the car and see a majestic elk buck with huge black horns and other elk just carrying on minding their business is just so awesome.   We saw flocks of turkeys eating seeds and whatever insects they find on the grassy fields, as we drove through the park.  The prairie dogs and the vast areas they mine for their homes are just hard to imagine until you see it in person and then watching them stand on alert and chirp away at anything that startles them (and it is not humans in the park!).  

Giant brown and white buck with a few others as we left park
 I feel like I could do a commercial for the Black Hills.  Not only is the wildlife spectacular to watch but the rock formations on Iron Mountain Road with the granite tunnels are not to be believed until you are there.  We had gone from Mount Rushmore (and what a wow that is!) on the drive back through Custer State Park and who knew what amazing sights we would see there.  Driving on the narrow roads and one-lane tunnels, I felt like we were on a different planet.  What a great scene for a scifi movie I thought as we rounded each hair-pin turn and drove through hollowed-out rocks to unexpected and wide open, beautiful scenery that I had never even imagined before.  I just wondered what forces of nature carved out those rocks, round and tall often with little rocks teetering up top, looking as if the slightest breath of wind would make it tumble off it’s giant spire and hurl down towards the ground and us.  How different those magnificent rock formations were from the BadLands and the tortured look of those rocks all spikey and pointy.  It’s just so hard to even understand all of this if you don’t see it yourself. 

Here's a little video (sorry you have to turn your head!) that's exactly what it's like Going Through the Needle Tunnel!

We have learned that we need more time in each park.  So, going forward (after our  Harvest Host Raspberry DeLight Farm stopover tonight) when we arrive at a new park we will set up camp and then go to the visitor’s center to determine what we want to see, how long we want to stay (so we aren’t putting in 10-hour sightseeing days; we ARE retired, after all) and if we want to stay in one or more campgrounds in the same park for the duration of our visit.  Learning how to go more with what is presented to us vs. moving like we are still working with limited time when we worked and took vacations, is a whole new adventure, in and of itself.  

We no like this part of Wyoming so much...coal trains
So, I love South Dakota, right now I am typing as we drive along Wyoming 405 and it’s kind of…….boring.  Oddly, it seemed like the moment we crossed the border from South Dakota to Wyoming the topography changed from colorful (green, yellow, orange) rolling hills covered here and there with proud Ponderosa pine to scrub brush and barren hills.  I am sure there is more to Wyoming (that is where the Tetons are!) but for now it’s not so scenic. 

Not much to see in Wyoming before the Tetons
Although we just passed a ginormous coal mining set-up with 150-car coal trains rolling along the tracks and huge mines (on Wyoming 405).  Turns out Wyoming is the biggest U.S. coal miner.  I stand corrected, this part of  Wyoming is kind of interesting.   And, I remind myself that just 6 months back at this time of the day I’d be quickly stuffing down my lunch while prepping for the next challenging student would come visit me and not always happily and my husband would be preparing documents for submittal of a project.  No complaints at all...and really, nothing is boring!   

We are very excited for the Tetons and whatever else we decide to do on this trip to the parks of the West. 

Again at breakfast this morning I asked my husband, “So where do you think we will go after the Tetons?’  He shrugged and smiled, “Who knows?” 

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