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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Custer State Park, SD (September 16 - 19, 2010)

We remembered this time and made reservations in Custer State Park at the Bell Campground.  Last time we were here (the busy summer months) you could not get in unless you made reservations.  This was one of maybe a half dozen campgrounds in Custer State Park; some being completely primitive; others being horse camps -- so they had a variety of what you prefer.  Of course we preferred the electric hookups and it was still a beautiful campground.  The scenery surrounded the campground and we were informed that there were 3 buffalo that visited the campground on a daily basis.  Of course it was evidenced to us by a big pile of poo just about 25 yards from our chosen campsite.  The camp host told us we just missed one of them coming in through our campsite earlier that day.  Our next full day we spent driving the 18 mile Wildlife Loop in which we caught a glimpse of some grazing buffalo, a couple of prairie dogs, and a couple of friendly donkeys in the road.  We also saw several antelope roaming on the grounds as well.  We then proceeded to Mt. Rushmore  on the twisty winding road of the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway.  We passed through 3 granite tunnels; of which one of them we remembered we had visited on the way to Alaska and were fortunate with our  3 kids to climb up on one of the bridge tresses and watch the 4th of July fireworks right over Mt. Rushmore which was back in 2000.  Ahh the good ole memories!!!  We had a picnic lunch at the Peter Norbeck park sitting on top of granite stone looking at the view of Mt. Rushmore.  But that was still not enough scenery for photographer Mike; we had to travel back to camp on the 14 mile drive on Highway 87 called Needles Highway.  It was called that for a reason; there were hairpin curves and narrow granite tunnels.  The name needles comes from the slender granite peaks that characterize this area.  There were also Cathedral Spires, a series of pinnacles that resemble church spires and the Needles Eye, a granite formation that looks like the eye of a needle.  The following day it became very cold (in the high 30's) and drizzled off and on during the day.  We were wiped out from our previous day's journey so we just hung out at camp waiting for the buffalo to show up.  Jason found one grazing behind one of the log cabins that you can rent; and then the other 2 were spotted behind a couple of campsites.  That was our excitement for the day.  We hear what the exciting event for the fall at Custer State Park is the Buffalo Roundup on Monday, September 27th.  Over 12,000 people annually attend to watch the Rangers round and corral the 1500 est. buffalo to a certain area for testing, branding and sorting to keep the population of 850 that's  the  number they say for the  park this size. The rest they will then be auction  off at an later date.  Best part -- it's a FREE event with concessions and exhibit vendors.  We will have to attend one of these years.  We had  great dinner at the Blue Bell Lodge which was a very nicely built log cabin style lodge and the corn bread was the Best.  Thus we conclude our visit at the Custer State Park and we will return someday to enjoy the cycling or hiking or horseback riding.  The park will keep you busy all during your stay.  Interesting websites regarding this park include:

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