Ok Part 1 was very detailed about our trip excursions, but I promise I’ll answer more of your RV questions at some point.
Badlands National Park: After hours and hours of flat South Dakota, all of a sudden there is this amazing terrain. Deep cavernous rock, tall boulders. It really does feel like you are on a different planet. We parked at the Visitor Center, always with an eye out for “RV Parking,” and saw a park ranger in the parking lot with a huge skull in his truck. He told us it was a bison skull they found in the wilderness area and had to hike one mile back with it. It weighed around 100 pounds!
After some bathroom breaks and water refills, we grabbed a trail map and headed back to the main trails we wanted to hike. RV Bathroom Tip: we tried not to use it. We had to get gas every 4-5 hours anyway, so most of the time we used gas station bathrooms. We hoped to only dump the tank of the toilet once. So as much as possible we did not use the RV bathroom.
At the Badlands we hiked the Door, Window and Notch trails, and a prairie dog town. The Notch trail was longer and required climbing up (and down!) this wooden ladder. The scenery was always amazing!
After hiking at the Badlands, we drove about an hour and parked at a truck stop near Mt. Rushmore. Sleeping at truck stops is hit or miss. Sometimes its calm and quiet. Other times it is loud and bright. This night was windy but we didn’t even realize that until the morning when we walked into the truck stop to use the bathroom and get breakfast, and the wind was blowing us sideways! I’m not going to lie, I was not excited about driving the RV through this wind, especially knowing we had some twisty mountain roads ahead. Thankfully we left early enough that the roads were pretty empty. Every time the wind blew me into another lane, no one else was around. Yes, the wind blew me into other lanes. I had such a tight grip on the steering wheel that my hands hurt when we arrived. I have never experienced wind like this before!
Mt. Rushmore: The trails were closed at Mt. Rushmore because of recent snow and ice, but we were still able to walk past all the state flags on the paved path. We took the obligatory pictures, marveled at the stone carving, and headed to the gift shop. I asked the park ranger about driving routes to Custer State Park, our next destination. She informed me that the RV was too big for the route I intended to take, and also that part of the highway was closed down due to overturned semi-trucks who got blown over in the wind. Yikes! We found a route, made our purchases of National Parks patches and coins, and got on the road again.
Custer State Park: Custer has a road that goes through and around the park called the Wildlife Loop. We drove half of that slowly, while checking out the bison, more prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and the famous begging burros who come up to your car windows looking for food. We fed the burros slices of an apple and then supplemented with crackers to keep them around longer. We tried to alternate days in the trip with hiking and rest. So after hiking at Badlands, today was more restful driving through Custer. The kids loved seeing all the wildlife. Even though we saw hundreds of bison, it was still exciting to see more bison.
We detoured off the Wildlife Loop to check out Wind Cave National Park, which had just opened up their cave tours again, however we didn’t make it in time for that. We did a short hike on top of Wind Cave and read signs explaining the history. After a short time there, we ventured on to The Mammoth Site. Basically mammoth bones were discovered and a structure was built around it so visitors could see the mammoth bones in place. It is an active dig site and people were digging while we visited. Some bones they leave in place and others they take away for more research. They have found bones representing more than 60 mammoths! It was really a unique and amazing site to see.
Are you keeping track of all we did in just a few days? So far we are only two days into the trip and we have been to Badlands NP, Mt. Rushmore NP, Custer State Park, Wind Cave NP, and The Mammoth Site. Next up: back to Custer to climb a mountain!