Sylvan Lake is one of the most scenic lakes. It is very small, the loop hike was only one mile, but is located high in the Black Hills at an elevation of 6,100 ft. It is at the beginning of Needles scenic highway and the trail head for Harney Peak (Black Elk Peak) is here as well. Harney Peak at 7,244 ft is the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains until the Swiss Alps. The trail to the peak is 7 miles so we did not hike it, but did walk the loop!!
The walk took us behind the dam and thru the rock wall. So glad that these rocks did not fall while we were there.
We visited on Sunday of Memorial weekend which was probably a mistake. As I mentioned it is a very scenic lake and very popular. Fortunately there had just been a huge downpour on our drive up there so when we arrived there were not many people on the trail or the lake, but by the time we walked the mile around (not long) it was packed.
Would really hate to see it in the middle of summer… They rent the kayaks, canoes and paddle boards for get this $22 per hour. What a racket. We will save our kayaking for a larger less popular lake there are several around. Anyway, still enjoying the young wildlife of spring even on the crowded lake.
Being the beach people we are, this National Park really hit home since we both love sand castles. It is the largest gathering of dribble sand castles we have ever seen, and they are huge. Not literately dribble castles, but pretty close. If you look at the texture closely a lot of it is a sand clay mixture that when dry crumbles easily. It has a high bentonite content which expands when wet and becomes slippery both of which help hold the formations together.
I was really surprised how soft and crumbly it could be. We have seen a lot of land like this (on a smaller scale) and I thought that it would be solid rock to still be there and not have eroded into flatness as would occur at home?? Just really blows my mind it is not hard on the surface and is really eroding measurably with each rain they say one inch per year on average. There is rock mixed in, some really large rocks and a lot of really small rocks through out. Below see rock left balancing on a bunch of mud… Impressive?
So this in in the middle of grass lands and the Great Plains. Just east of the Black Hills of SD in the south western corner. Here there is a section of the plain that splits into an upper plain and a lower plain for approximately 100 miles east to west. It is really wild from the top all you see are hilly grasslands until it falls off into the “Badlands”…
Clouds were pretty cool that day too.
From the bottom you have the same hilly grasslands for hundreds of miles then this pops up??? Wow just Wow.. Who Knew… Why or Why not… BEAUTIFUL!!! Speechless
Anyway we thought that the Badlands were actually pretty cool. See for yourself…
So we moved north from Hermosa to Sturgis, SD. Yellowstone is still a little chilly and since we are now officially South Dakotans figured we should get to know the area a little better. Sturgis is about 20 miles north of Rapid City and is home to one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the world. The second week in August the Sturgis population increases from ~6,600 to ~500,000 all with motorcycles. (Bet they waive the noise ordinance that week??) Luckily we will be long gone by then.
We will be here for a couple of weeks if not a month. Rates are so much better by the month that we went ahead and paid for a month, if we stay 2.5 weeks we are better off than paying weekly.
I can not say enough times how much I love having water and green vegetation around. The desert was beautiful and a new experience for us, but 3 plus months was enough for our first exposure. I am sure we will return next winter and love it again, but really missed GREEN. And waterfalls don’t hurt…
By the By, a couple of posts ago, I mentioned the presidential busts in our front yard in Hermosa, SD. There was a tourist attraction called the Presidential Park Near Deadwood, SD that has since closed. But interesting there was an article in LIFE magazine and that at the time there were only 43 presidents, We thought about sneaking in to see who was left, but decided we better not. Recent history may have changed the “Family approved attraction”??
Also in the area is Belle Fourche (pronounced Bell Foosh) which is the center of the USA? I get Alaska to Florida, but Hawaii to Maine, I’m not so sure about. But I trust them they must know… Quaint town with a nice walking trail around the rivers.
Custer State Park is the largest state park in SD at ~71,000 acres. It is in the Black Hills in southwestern SD. The park has varied terrain from rolling hills with roaming buffalo, hill top drives thru cathedral spires and scenic lakes ideal for summer water sports or ice fishing. While staying in Hermosa we ventured to the park on several occasions, it was only about 15 minutes west and had plenty to do. We actually purchased an annual pass to SD State parks because of Custer. Annual pass was $30 where day passes were $20.
Custer is actually where we finally used the kayaks we have been dragging around for 5 months. First time we have been around lakes with temperatures warm enough to give it a shot. Luckily we did not fall out because I’m pretty sure that the water is still very cold. They actually had snow in higher elevations a couple of days later. We had a nice paddle and I am sure we will continue to use them during our travels. It is easy and free with beautiful surroundings. This is Stockade Lake, there are two others in Custer and we may be heading back to paddle again??
The “Needles” scenic highway is located partially within Custer SP and is part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. When Norbeck proposed the Needles portion of the byway, engineers of the time (1920) said it could not be built. The engineer he hired said anything could be done with enough dynamite. The road is very narrow and beautiful. It is named for This specific rock formation which looks like a needle hole in the needle shaped spires in the area.
The spires are also referred to as cathedral spires.
One of the tunnels on the scenic drive is called the “eye of the needle” for obvious reasons.
Custer is also known for their wildlife. We were privileged to see Buffalo (Bison) with their young
We found a beautiful little piece of heaven in the middle of the small city of Rapid City. The chapel is an exact replica of the famous Borgund stavkirke, of Laerdal, Norway. The Borgund stavkirke was built around the year 1150 and is considered the most completely preserved stave church still standing in Norway. It was really beautiful, peaceful and spiritual and was recreated here in 1969.
The visit is free although they do accept donations and have a gift shop. I am not an overly religious person, but consider myself spiritual and do somewhat believe in a higher being. The taped presentation in the chapel ends with this benediction which I will leave you with no matter what god or gods you may believe in.
This came as a recommendation from Aunt Anne and Uncle Ron. I thought it seemed like a commercial tourist attraction that would not be much. But boy was I wrong. Commercial in appearance and in their desire to have you donate as much as possible on top of your entrance fee, but amazing none the less.
This is very small area approximately an acre?? Where they have determined that there was an open wet muddy pit with solid yet slippery sides where animals would fall in and not be able to escape. The excavation shows that the pit was approximately 40 ft deep and they have only excavated ~1/2 of that area. The amount of remains in this pit are astounding. The site is enclosed in a building and the excavation is currently going on and you can participate in June and July for a fee. We may look into another year, who knows. I make a lot of the fees and request for donations, but this is a not for profit organization and is making amazing discoveries.
The quantity and quality of fossils from approximately 27,000 years ago mostly large mammoth/elephant species is amazing they report having found 61 mammoths in this one location. There are also bear, rabbits, lama, camel, prairie dogs and more. What is amazing is that they just located this site in 1974. A real estate development was beginning to excavate a residential site and dug up bones, who would have thought??
OK, so we are a little disappointed in Mt. Rushmore. Not the carving or location, but the fact that there is no entrance fee for this wonderful national treasure, but you have to pay to park!!! As you know we have purchased the Annual pass for National Parks, and other national accessible properties and we are trying to stay on the cheap as much as possible. On this property, they outsourced the parking and ended up with a never ending responsibility to make the public pay to park. Makes no since and we refuse to pay 10$ to park at a NATIONAL MONUMENT!! So our pictures may not be the best, but I think pretty good.
These images are all available from the main road if you slow down and stop at stop lights. We are lucky, there is really NOBODY here. I understand that it can be snowy and cold in May, but this year it is beautiful. Today was over 80 with lots of sun and a nice breeze, what more could you want.
We did not know, and really ran across it by chance, but Peter Norbeck designed three tunnels that would frame the Mt Rushmore sculpture being created when it was completed. The tunnels were located and designed before a road to connect the tunnels was even thought of. Our tunnel pictures are not so great, but as you drive thru it is really amazing they perfectly frame Mt. Rushmore. To hell with the $10 parking fee no view is better than these and they are FREE!!! Also on this famous scenic by way is what is known as the “pig tail”. This section of road actually turns in a corkscrew. Complete 360 degrees plus more twice. Never seen this before and made us giggle.
Peace and love from South Dakota our new home state!!