I awoke Tuesday morning, got myself packed up and decided that I would complete the rest of the Needles Highway and take in the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. I was told that they had a herd of 1500 Buffalo that were usually visible. Well, little did I expect that when I left the campground a HUGE bison bull was right alongside the roadway! I watched him for about 15 minutes and got some great pictures. At one point, he was no more than 5 feet from my car! What a start to my day!
Home on the range, I found where the deer and the antelope play! Along with prarie dogs and the buffalo herd. I saw a group of about 200! It was like an American Safari. All of these animals in their natural environment.
By afternoon, I completed the loop and headed to the north trail up to Harney Peak. I started around 2:15 PM. It was a 12 mile roundtrip, gaining about 2000 feet in elevation. It was tough because of the altitude factor (less oxygen per breath!). Harney is the tallest mountain (7,242 feet) east of the Rockies and west of the Pyrennes in Spain. I was virtually alone the entire hike and it was beautiful with lots of lookouts. Incredibly, this trail is used by horses as well! At its top there is a CCC stone tower with fantastic views into 4 states. On my way back down, I was greeted by a mother and two fawns near the trailhead!
It was nearing dark and I decided to stay at the Hilton less than a mile away. If you are a camper, you know that the Hilton is the KOA! I ate dinner, showered and went back for an evening viewing of Mt. Rushmore. Quite honestly, it was a bit eerie. Since the monument relies on shadow for the pupils of the eyes, at night when illuminated, it almost looks like the faces have no eyes!
I've awoken this morning, did the laundry, wrote these posts and I'll be re-supplying in Rapid City before heading onto my next stop - Devil's Tower National Monument. It has been a great visit to South Dakota. One could definitely spend a week here, no problem.