12.06.2011 - 14.06.2011
The Black Hills are home to one of the most famous US attractions, Mount Rushmore. We made it there early Sunday and after fighting our way through car parks, entrances, walkways and visitor centres, were faced with the four fullas; Washington, Franklin, Roosevelt and Lincoln with their 60 ft heads. It was a gorgeous day so we took the short hike through the pine forest to view the monument from directly below which also took in the sculptor's studio describing how it was created.
The Black Hills area around the mountain and the Custer State Park which we drove to next were beautiful, with pine forests and streams opening out to green pastures. As we wound our way around the mountainous roads we kept catching glimpses of Mount Rushmore from further and further away. After reading that Custer was home to the US' largest herd of roaming bison (buffalo) and hoping to see some, we were delighted to come across a herd in a field next to the road and stopped for a few snaps. We were talking about what we'd do if we came across a bison on the road and only a few minutes later we came round a bend and nearly smacked into one standing in front of us. Cue mad scrambling from me to locate the camera as we held up the traffic while bison took his time to amble to the roadside and saunter off to wherever he pleased.
After lunch of buffalo burger (is that in poor taste?) we visited the Crazy Horse monument. There were a few surprises here; the exorbitant entry fee of $20 (twice that of Mt Rushmore), that it is entirely a private building project, that after starting work on it in 1948 only the face is finished and finally that it is – or will be – absolutely massive. At 563 feet it is taller than the tallest Giza pyramid. We scrambled back to the RV as another storm rolled in and made it back to our park just in time.
Monday we stretched out from South Dakota to Wyoming, with a big drive to bring us closer to Yellowstone. Our only proper stop was something we decided to do the night before, visit the Devil's Tower National Monument. It is more commonly known as the weird mountain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. At 1267ft it is a nearly vertical volcanic outcrop from the river valley below. We took a hike around the base of it and were excited to see in a field below the tower, a coterie of prairie dogs. They are wonderful little critters, like tiny meerkats. They bounded and gambolled and played and grouped together around their burrow entrances when a large bird circled overhead.
The rest of the drive across Wyoming, while long, was actually quite wonderful. We encountered a cattle drive, complete with denim-clad cowboys and their horse-drawn supply wagon, miles and miles of lush and rolling ranch-land and endless blue skies that eventually gave way to the snow-topped Big Horn mountains which we passed through and finally to the base of the Rockies. Our pit stop before Yellowstone was the town of Cody, made famous by Buffalo Bill whose home town this is. I was all go in Cody with a rodeo on that night (which sadly parenting duties meant we had to miss), and the town boasting a most excellent museum and a main street chocker with cowboy outfitters.