Day 4 – 9/3 Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Custer State Park

We are here!  Had a good night of sleep, AC on at 76, we were all tired, we were all sleeping by 10.  I did my morning routine, opened the kitchen window shades first and noticed the table cloth had flown out, but the rest looked ok.  Then opened the dinette window and wow… what a view.  Our slide out is like 2 inches from a tree, so we have that and a few other trees right next to us, then behind that is hills, the Black Hills of South Dakota, super pretty.  An to make it even better, the sun is rising right behind the hills, it’s 6:14 and I’ll be watching the raise from my seat in the dinette of the camper.  Wow, had to stop typing to appreciate this awesome moment as the sun comes up behind the hills, and quite quickly, within 7 minutes or so it was way up above the hills.  Great first morning already. 

I went for a run, and it was awesome.  Beautiful scenery nearby with hills and forests.  It felt great to be out there running and watching the view.  Early in the run I went by a ranch, and there was a lot of kettle by the front so I approached, and as soon as they saw or heard me they all ran towards the field, that was cool to see. 

Carol worked on the first video of the trip as well, it turned out great and I can’t wait to see it posted and for more videos to come.  We are having some internet challenges so uploading videos may get tricky as the campground wifi is just good enough for emails and browsing.  This internet issue is also a pain when the girls have video calls with school, Bella had one and the connection kept dropping on her, so she missed most of it. 

We also washed my running clothes with the machine Carol had bought for camping, it washes really nice.  It is a bit cumbersome though, setting it up in the tub in the bathroom is a bit challenging, so we’ll need to play around with it more.  Maybe Carol will do a video one of these days about how to do laundry in a camper :). 

After the girls were done with school, which was around 11am, we ate lunch and got things ready to go to our first official stop of the trip, Mount Rushmore!  We are pretty close to Mt Rushmore, so it was like 15 mins and we were there. 

The road to get there is windy, and you go up and down mountains so it’s pretty cool, definitely not a great place to have the camper behind you, though possible.  It was very cool to get there, and very exciting as we first saw the faces on the mountain from far.  The girls were very excited to finally get to Mt Rushmore, so as we walked up to it from the parking structure, they had their masks on and phone\iPad out and were taking pictures, they took lots of pictures.  We took a few pictures with all of us, I took a few of them, and they took lots of pictures, of all kinds of things.  The presidents faces on the mountain is just a really cool thing to see.  It’s amazing they carved those out on a mountain.  The area is very nice, with some trails around, etc.  It feels majestic and patriotic.  We took some pictures in the main area in front of the mountain, then went for a walk on the Presidents Trail, which is a quick trail around the area.  Bella took lots of pictures and wanted to touch every rock formation she could, she was very interested and intrigued by the rocks.  I took a few pictures of her taking pictures of rocks, and touching the rock walls, checking out the different layers, etc.  Bia was taking pictures of everything, and just nature in general, like trees, “chippies”, big rocks, etc.  They really enjoyed the visit there, as did we all.  I am very glad they enjoyed it and were so into it.  We paid $10 for an “annual parking pass” so we can return anytime we want, and we may do that one of these nights to see the mountain lit up. 

When we finished the trail we decided we were ready for our next stop, so we headed to Crazy Horse Memorial.  This memorial is basically the same idea is Mt Rushmore, but to honor Crazy Horse, who was an Indian who fought against the land take over.  The mountain is not finished yet, so you can see Crazy Horse’s face finished, but the rest which is his arm pointing towards the land, and his horse, are just sketched on the mountain.  Because this is a construction site, you cannot get close to the mountain, or walk any trails, so the $30 entry fee for the vehicle felt expensive to me.  Carol enjoyed going in the pavilion and reading about all the history and felt it was ok.  I don’t know if I can recommend going there until it is finished, but if you have tons of time and the spare $30, then why not.  Because there was not much to see or do, kids took a few pics and were done, so when Carol and Bia were done with the pavilion we decided to move on. 

Oh, when we got there the girls were a bit hungry, so they got the burgers we brought from home and started eating them as we went towards the pavilion.  When we got close, Bia threw her burger on the ground and started spitting… we were like, what the… and she was almost crying saying there was a bee trying to eat her burger… hahahahaha.. sure enough, when I went to get the burger from the floor to throw away, the bee was still there so I eventually just stepped on it so I could throw the burger away.  Poor Bia. :).

From there we went to Sylvan Lake, which is in Custer State Park.  That was another amazing ride, up and down mountains, zig zagging, hair pin turns, etc.  Just really pretty drive.  We paid $20 for a 7 day pass, and it was the best $20 we spent so far, Custer State Park is huge, and we covered just a small part of it.  After we passed the gates, we parked right away by the convenience store, which is also right by the lake and trails.  Girls got ice cream, and Carol and I got a beer each.  We then headed towards the lake and trails.  That place is amazing!  It’s a lake, on top of the mountains, surrounded by rocks, with trails.  Wow, you have to see some pictures and be there to fully grasp how amazing it is. 

We started walking on our left to make a circle around the lake.  Our side was a bit shady, so we wanted to get to the sunny side to find a spot to sit, have the beers, soak in the scenery and sun, and enjoy.  As we walked, the rock formations created some caves, and the girls immediately decided to explore, and fell in love with exploring.  They were sooo excited to follow a different path within the rocks and caves, and climb another rock, go inside a cave, etc.  Within minutes they said this was their favorite place and they wanted to spend a whole day there exploring.  It was awesome to see how excited they were, how beautiful the place is, just awesome.  We followed them as they chose some paths, and got to the top of a rock, overlooking the lake and in the sun. 

We stopped there for some time, had our beers, enjoyed the view, took some pictures.  Carol dropped the GoPro and froze for a second, and it stopped right by her foot, fortunately, because we were high up on a rock, and if it had started rolling down I am not sure we would find it as the lake was right there too.  We had a hard time balancing the phone on the rock as well, so we could get a family picture, but Carol got it.  We definitely need a better solution for setting out devices on rocks for pictures :). 

We started heading back towards the car, while the girls continued exploring the trail, and made plans as to what they wanted to do when we return.  This place is definitely worth returning, and we will.  We left there to go to Needles Highway, where you can see pointy rock formations and drive up and down, even more zig zags, more hair pin turns, and….  Super tight tunnels carved on the rocks.  That was cool.  There are a few tunnels on the road that are as narrow as 8ft, so my truck just made it through.  That was cool, and in one of the tunnels Carol got out to film so I had the girls open their windows and touch the walls, it was that close! 

That drive was amazing for all the views, but you definitely can’t make it with any oversized vehicle.  On the drive back to our camper we were trying to spot animals and we saw a lot of deer, we stopped once so Carol could video a fawn that was near the side of the road.  At that point, we were all tired.  We got dinner ready once we got back, had another nice meal outside, got ready for bed and that wrapped the day.  What an amazing day!

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