South Dakota Road Trip – Wall Drug, Badlands, Mount Rushmore & more

July 2, 2013 at 4:15 pm Leave a comment

Mount Rushmore lit up at night

Mount Rushmore lit up at night

Mount Rushmore at night

After leaving Custer State Park Karen and I headed to Mt. Rushmore for the evening lighting ceremony held in the amphitheater.  The National Park Service sponsors a special program Memorial Day through Labor  Day.  It consists of a 10-minute talk followed by a 20-minute film.  Then the narrator called down all active service men and women in attendance while the mountain was lit.  It was very touching and emotional.

Mount Rushmore evening lighting ceremony

Mount Rushmore evening lighting ceremony

Wall Drug

The next morning we were off to Wall to see the famous Wall Drug store.  I’ve always loved the story about Wall Drug.  Ted and Dorothy Hustead bought the store in 1931 during the dust bowl.  After 5 long years of hardly any business, and the family ready to give up and close the store, Dorothy had an idea.  Put up signs along Hwy 16A, like the old Burma Shave signs (if any of you can remember them) advertising free ice water.  Maybe that would get people to stop.  The very day the signs were put along the road, the store was filled with people.  The following summer the Husteads hired 8 girls to help out in the store and today, with nearly 50,000 sq. feet of selling space, there can be as many as twenty thousand people stopping by on a good summer day.  Now that’s a success story!  And a place I just had to stop in at.

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Wall Drug.  Much bigger than when it opened in 1931!

Wall Drug. Much bigger than when it opened in 1931!

Yes, I got my free glass of ice water :-)

Yes, I got my free glass of ice water 🙂

The Badlands

Badlands National Park with its 240,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest grass prairie land in the United States. The contrast between the prairies and the harsh and desolate hills and valleys is amazing.  Water has been carving away at the cliffs for the past half million years or so.  Today an entire inch or more in some places erode each year and, because of its soft and sandy texture, the Badlands will eventually disappear.   I can’t say that The Badlands is a beautiful place, but it’s the most unusual place I believe I’ve ever seen.

The Badlands

The Badlands

Prairie meets the Badlands Wall

Prairie meets the Badlands Wall

Unique landscape at Badlands National Park

Unique landscape at Badlands National Park

Ridges formed from water erosion

Ridges formed from water erosion

Mount Rushmore

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Mount Rushmore during the day is a much different experience than during the evening.  The weather was beautiful and warm so we walked the Presidential Trail to get a closer view of the monument.  We stopped along the trail and inside a cavern to get this awesome shot of George Washington.

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And of course we had to get a shot of us with the presidents.  Do I look stately?

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Hill City

We made a short stop in Hill City to do a little shopping, check out the local sculptures and have some lunch.

One of the sculptures in Hill City

One of the sculptures in Hill City

Bumpin Buffalo Bar & Grill

Bumpin Buffalo Bar & Grill

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse Memorial

Then on to Crazy Horse.  One of the biggest highlights of my trip!  Crazy Horse was a legendary warrior and leader of the Lakota Sioux, celebrated for his battle skills as well as his efforts to preserve Native American traditions and way of life. Resisting efforts to force the Sioux on to reservations, he fought alongside Sitting Bull and others in the American-Indian Wars, and was instrumental in the defeat of Custer’s forces at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. After surrendering to federal troops in 1877, he was killed amid rumors of a planned escape.

Still so much to be done

Still so much to be done

Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear officially started Crazy Horse Memorial on June 3, 1948. The Memorial’s mission is to honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians.  Ziolkowski’s 10 children along with his wife Ruth have worked on the monument since that time.  Korczak passed away in October of 1982 but Ruth, along with several of their children still have a major role in continuing his work at Crazy Horse.

Helen our 'tour guide' with Karen

Helen our ‘tour guide’ with Karen

We were so fortunate to meet up with a friend of Karen’s who took time out of her work schedule and took us on a two-hour tour of the campus.  The facility is huge and growing every year.  There is a welcome center, an Indian museum of North America, Native American Educational and Cultural Center, Korczak’s original studio and home, conference centers, a restaurant and gift shop.  We talked with Native Americans who were making and selling crafts and we took the bus tour to get a closer look at the memorial.

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Thank you so much Helen for showing us this amazing place!  I’ll never forget it!

Custer City

After leaving Crazy Horse Memorial we drove through Custer City with all the beautifully painted Buffalos throughout downtown.  The Custer Stampede Buffalo Art Auction is a public art project created to showcase original bison artwork by artists from around the country.  The buffalos are auctioned off in September during the Buffalo round-up for the cultural and economic benefit of Custer City.

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Hot Springs

Our next stop was at the Double D Bed & Breakfast Cabins a short distance from Hot Springs.  Boy did we get lucky in finding this amazing place!  It was so much fun visiting with our hosts Cindy and Stoney, and we thoroughly enjoyed their big country breakfasts they served us each morning.  The rustic cabin we stayed in was made from local rough cut pine and was clean & quaint, squeaky floors and all!

Our cabin at the Double D Bed & Breakfast

Our cabin at the Double D Bed & Breakfast

A perfect cabin

A perfect cabin

Quiet and peaceful.  I could have stayed a week!

Quiet and peaceful. I could have stayed a week!

Close to Hot Springs was the Mammoth Dig Site.  The world’s largest mammoth research facility with the largest concentration of mammoths found anywhere!  To date, 59 mammoths have been identified, along with the remains of a Giant short-faced bear, camel llama, prairie dog, wolf, fish and numerous invertebrates.

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Karen in a replica of a hut made from woolly mammoth bones and skins

Karen in a replica of a hut made from woolly mammoth bones and skins

We also stopped at Cascade Falls, a roadside rest area outside of Hot Springs where there is a swimming hole.  The temperature of the water was at around 75 degrees from the hot springs flowing into it.  We didn’t get our swimsuits on but we did have a refreshing wade in the pool while watching lots of others swim and play in the wonderful warm, clear water!

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Another end of a wonderful trip with a wonderful friend!

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South Dakota Road Trip – Custer State Park, the Wildlife Loop Road & Needles Highway Safe Summer Outings for your Pets

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