Leaving Devil’s Tower also meant leaving Wyoming and heading into South Dakota. For the most part, Jason is the one who decides our routes, and does the research for where we will be staying. Occasionally he will ask me a question or two about what I might prefer, when there is no obvious choice.
Decisions about South Dakota were a bit tricky. Turns out, there is quite a bit to see and check out!
On our drive into the state, our first stop was at Jewel Cave National Monument. If you’re into caves, it was pretty cool. But I’m not really into caves – which probably doesn’t make me the best one to write this post!
I was assured at the Visitor Center’s counter that there were no tight spaces I would have to crouch through. And so I endured a tour that took me into the ground via elevator over 200 feet. Although it was well lit, with sturdy stairs, platforms, and pathway, it took me from one section of the cave to another, until we were nearly 400 feet below the surface, for over an hour. Let’s just say I was happy to see the sunshine again when we were done.
We continued on to make camp at the Sheridan Lake Campground, part of the Black Hills National Forest. This location became our base camp for 6 nights – breaking our record of consecutive nights in one place! (previous record is 5)
The campground was in winter mode, as all but one loop was closed. There was a camp-host, trash services, and a reduced nightly fee of $10. Sheridan Lake has an interesting shape, with multiple inlets. Our campground loop sat in the center of a small peninsula, with the lake on 3 sides of us. The first night there were 5 other campers, but we quickly saw that number dwindle each night we stayed there.
Sheridan Lake proved to be an excellent location for us to explore from. First things first, we had to go to Rapid City to re-provision. Our day was full of grocery shopping, laundry, filling propane, eating at the iHop, and our very first trip to Camping World.
We had read all about Camping World and were eager to check it out for ourselves. It was fun to look up and down all the isles of various camping gear. It’s true what that they say, prices were a bit spendy and most could be found online for cheaper. Not to mention their customer service was a bit lacking. We did however pick up new support jacks for Jason to install, since we had one destroyed at Yellowstone along with another tweaked, and another that Jason had to fix when we were in the Yukon.
Our second day became a bit chilly, windy, and believe it or not, snowy. We decided not to explore outside, but instead took a drive up to Deadwood, a historic western town. We spent the afternoon exploring the Museum of 1876 – which gave a great history of the area and their annual parade and rodeo. They had quite the stagecoach collection, which highly interested Jason.
Our third day the skies cleared and the sun came back out. We headed south of Sheridan Lake towards Custer State Park and took the Iron Mountain Road to Mount Rushmore. The road was fantastic, originally built for pleasure driving, and I highly recommend taking it for your first visit to the monument. There are numerous ways to get there, but there’s nothing like seeing the presidents framed at the end of the tunnel as you drive through your first time.
Mount Rushmore was pretty impressive. Even if you’ve seen pictures, there’s just nothing like the real thing. There was an excellent visitor’s center that showcased the four presidents along with the sculptor, and told the story of the construction. The monument is actually unfinished, left by the sculptor who spent the last 14 years of his life on his craft. I enjoyed learning about all the changes that had to be made during the construction because of the challenges they encountered with the mountain. It reminded me of the large ancient sculptures I used to teach.
Our fourth day also presented as a clear sunny day, which was perfect for a scenic drive. We headed back to Custer State Park, for two more scenic roads. First was the Needles Road, where we got to see some impressive pointy rocks and second was the Wildlife Loop Road, where we got to see buffalo, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs, and a coyote. Be sure to check out the additions to our Critters page! We also were able to take the pups out for a small hike on the Sylvan Lake Trail.
After four busy days in a row, it was time for a break. So our fifth day at Sheridan Lake became a stay at home day – or rather, a sleeping day, as Josie and Leda would claim.
We have two more national parks to visit before we head out of South Dakota – Wind Cave National Park and Badlands National Park.