Well we are cramming in a bit of travel this Summer. It was Joel’s birthday on Saturday and he really wanted to go and see Mt Rushmore so we planned a very last minute road trip up through Wyoming and into South Dakota. Very little research was done into where we would camp but we hit the jackpot with Custer State Park. We just wanted a place to pitch a tent with a picnic table and fire-pit and we got so much more. It was rolling green hills, lakes, streams and wildlife galore. Proghorn antelope, white-tail deer, elk, wild turkeys, cottontail rabbits and most impressive wild roaming bison. Most of the bison sightings were from a distance, dotted on the rolling hills, but at one point we turned a corner on the winding road to find a bison walking straight towards us. We stopped the car and watched the huge animal walk past – it was a moment I don’t think any of us will forget.
What we weren’t so prepared for was the drop in temperature. It was well below 10 degrees C for the entire time and it rained through the night with a little drizzle throughout the day. We were wishing we had booked one of the many cabins which looked like they might be warmer than our tent. The mountains were covered in fog but the drive along Wildlife Loop was clear and we drove very slowly scanning for animals just like a safari. Mid-morning we stopped at one of the picnic areas near a stream for birthday cake that I had carefully stored in the bottom of the esky.
I could spend all Summer driving from park to park through America and camping. The National Parks have clean facilities and incredible activities as well as having some of the most breathtaking landscapes. There are plenty of informative talks and guided nature walks plus the Junior Ranger programs are free and the kids get so much out of them. We were given a sheet of paper at Custer State Park from our friendly Campground Hosts listing all the free activities that were on during our stay which included movies about the bison in the park, an introduction to canoeing and a ‘Hook ’em and Eat ’em’ fishing activity. We could have made a week of it! There were also activities that cost money such as horse riding, off-road bison safari jeep tours and wagon rides. We spent a fair amount of time at the horse stables befriending all the gentle horses.
In all the parks we have stayed at there have been great camp stores. They have all been housed in a log buildings and inside they are clean, well stocked and reasonably priced. I was so grateful yesterday morning to drop into the camp store and get a good hot coffee and I had a very friendly lady help me as she must have spotted me staring blankly at the coffee pots!
When we arrived at Mt Rushmore our hearts sank as the whole place was covered in thick fog. We went on one of the trails and went and heard a ranger talk in the sculpture studio and hoped the fog would have cleared but it didn’t. So we went back to the car and made ourselves a picnic lunch of sandwiches before piling back into the car. We drove towards the exit and noted that the fog had cleared a little so we drove right back in and parked again to try our luck for the third time. As we walked up through the entrance the presidential faces came into view and the crowd started cheering and clapping! We had a clear view for about 15 minutes until the fog settled back in again so we were very happy and relieved we hadn’t left. It was worth the drive for sure. We drove home via Nebraska and across to Wyoming and back into Colorado. So over the last week we have driven through 6 states and I think the kids will be happy to have a break from the car for awhile.