Home Away From Home, South Dakota

So Long Custer

Dragging – that’s what we were today. A little tired and me still with a bad back though it’s better. We finally left the campground around 9:30 headed for the Stockade. It’s a small stockade with just a few cabins. Some were closed off to the public but we were able to enter several others. Those were made of heavy logs with lovely fireplaces and dirt floors. Otherwise, they were empty. Around the stockade were lookouts carved into the walls where one good lookout and then shoot if necessary.

Moving on we were looking for the Badger Clark Trail. While we were rambling around we discovered Hidden Valley. Although there were RV’s parked there, they seemed more permanent than transient. We finally found the Badger Clark rustic home. Despite having no running water or bathroom facilities, it was still a lovely small cabin. Everything in it was original even down to the tattered American flag with 48 states represented hanging on the wall in his bedroom. There is now a heating system there but during the winter it is turned off causing problems for the many books that Clark had. The volunteer there told us that they were in the process of obtaining a grant that would let them replace the books with cardboard look-alikes while the actual books would go to the archives.

We made a short stop at the General Store and then headed for the Wildlife Loop Road, not because we were looking for animals but because Jerry had decided to go off the main road onto some of the dirt, graveled roads. Before we could venture there though we saw lots of stopped cars which I knew, of course, meant animals somewhere near and there they were. We saw a huge herd of bison, not in the road fortunately but traveling across the hills grazing. Taking an idea from someone we saw yesterday we opened the sunroof and I stood up in the seat to catch some beautiful pictures. Earlier we had seen a lone bison and I had gotten a pic of him the same way. We wondered why a buffalo would be traveling alone.

Continuing along we turned on Fisherman Flats Road and rode through the less-trafficked part of Custer State Park. Beautifully green rolling hills are juxtaposed with hundreds of dead trees either by disease or fire we were not sure. The campground owner told us yesterday about the infestation of the pine beetle. Once the pine beetle is discovered in a tree the tree has to be cut down immediately. Otherwise, neighboring trees will be contaminated and there apparently is no way to eradicate the disease. We happened upon a couple of what we think were deer. Unlike our deer at home, they had black on their faces.

How many shades/hues of green are there? We were treated to numerous shades from dark green to emerald to cyan and on and on. What a panoramic and beautiful sight.

As we continued to wind around the park we came to the exit – how did we get here? No idea but we saw a sign indicating Wind Cave National Park was five miles away so that’s the way went. Five curvy, slow miles later we entered the park. Wow! How pretty. Once again, we saw a lone bison that plodded along beside the car. He was quite large and appeared to be older. Then we saw another and then a herd. Bison everywhere. It slowed us down just a bit but nothing like the traffic jam we were in yesterday. And to think when we didn’t see any on our first day in the park I incorrectly assumed that we wouldn’t see any for the rest of the week. Now we’re on bison overload!

Hot weather had arrived!
We finally arrived at the Visitor’s Center for Wind Cave National Park. Since we had not found a shaded place to picnic and we were way past lunchtime we parked the car and just ate our sandwiches sitting in the air-conditioned car.

Despite the star attraction, Wind Cave itself being inoperable due to an elevator malfunction, the center was still a busy place with rangers hustling everywhere. There were several demonstrations going on and a fantastic film showing the history as well. What a difference in how one park handles a problem and then another ignores it. Mt. Rushmore and Wind Cave both had problems this year but while Rushmore did nothing to enhance a visit, Wind Cave surely did. Kudos to Wind Cave National Park.

Wind Cave was described as where the land above meets the land below, where the Great Plains meet the mountains, one park, two worlds. One of the rangers had a display of fur – one badger, one pronghorn and one coyote. Interestingly the badger and the coyote hunt for prairie dogs in tandem. The badger will run the prairie dogs into their holes with their huge claws and then as the prairie dog tries to escape the other end there is the coyote with his long fast legs to capture the prairie dog.

We also learned one reason why we had seen lone bison. Apparently, there was a problem with only one being an Alpha male so one must go. As we left the center, we saw another large herd of bison and interestingly, these seem to be paired up, one bull and one cow. It is rutting season but other than the pairing we didn’t see any indication of mating.

We returned to the coach for a little while before leaving to go back to Rapid City. Jerry had mentioned returning to the Chapel in the Hills for their 7:30 evening service so off we went. We went back through Custer State Park one more time though, bought a pullover and started on the Iron Mountain Road. This time I was driving! After we passed through Keystone, we decided we had enough time to grab some dinner before the church service so since I was driving Jerry started looking for places on Yelp. He found Adrian’s Place which just happened to be in Keystone. Since it had four and half stars we turned around and headed there. Adrian’s Place is not exactly haute cuisine nor is it fine dining but the food was OK. It’s located in a strip mall along with a Dairy Queen, an old photo shop and a pizza place. Like I said … We both had buffalo burgers and quite frankly I can’t tell the different in a buffalo burger and a beef burger.

We got to the Chapel in the Hills just before a storm with thunder, lightning and rain hit. The pastor for this week was from outside Omaha and was volunteering for a week. He gave a lovely message and we sang some hymns ending with the Lord’s Prayer.

A ride back to Custer and our time in Custer is almost over. It’s been a lovely week. Custer State Park is wonderful. The Black Hills are stunningly beautiful. Wind Cave National Park is extraordinary and the bison are roaming!

Home Away From Home, South Dakota

The Chapel in the Hills

We got off to a very slow start this morning. First, I slept until nearly 8:30, totally unheard of for me as I am generally an early riser. I asked Jerry why he didn’t awaken me and he said he figured I needed the rest. Perhaps I did. The other thing holding us back was changing RV sites. When I had made the reservations earlier the only way I could get five nights was to split up the stay into two sites. Fortunately, the site we were headed to was right across so we could easily get in. The problem was an 11:00 checkout time which the folks there took full advantage of. No problem though, I understand. They pulled out about 10:30. By that time we had had our showers, breakfast and had gotten the coach ready for the short ride. Interestingly enough the same things that we do for a long ride we do for a short ride across the street. I drove the coach across and up the incline as Jerry directed me. We were parked and set up in no time.

We had decided to ride over to Hill City and Rapid City today so I took some things out to the car in preparation for our little jaunt. I went back into the coach, leaned over to pick something up off of the sofa and was gripped by the most intense pain ever in my back. I fell to the floor remembering labor pains. Jerry walked in the door and unfortunately, I scared him to death. He was wondering where the nearest medical facility was. I laid on the floor for a few minutes and then hobbled to the bed and got on a heating pad plus I took two aleve. Jerry had earlier prepared our picnic lunch to go so about an hour later we had our picnic – it in the coach.

My back eased off some so we headed to Rapid City with our first stop being Hill City. Hill City seems to be a small town with little shops and several restaurants not to mention breweries and wineries. We walked around for a few minutes, went in the Farmer’s Daughters shop, an eclectic shop with outdoor ornaments, lots of cute signs for indoors like “Be strong I whisper to my WiFi” and made in the store cotton candy! We also saw some pretty cool metal sculptures made from scrap metal. Along with farming tools and implements placed throughout the sculpture, we could see five horse bronze sculptures, a man’s face, and some flowers. Supposedly there were also iron feathers but we didn’t’ find them.

Jerry chatting with President Calvin Collidge
Next, we headed to Rapid City where the temperature had climbed to 86 degrees, quite a difference from the cool temps we’ve been enjoying in Custer. Of course, 2000 feet in elevation could make a pretty big difference. In Rapid City, we were lucky to snag a parking place right on Main Street. We walked down to Main Street Square, took a seat in the shade and watched the young children enjoy the water park. Then we walked a couple of blocks each way looking in the various shops and stopping at each presidential statue. It was just too hot to find all of the presidents!

Our next stop was the Chapel in the Hills which made the visit to Rapid City worth the ride. What a peaceful, calming oasis in the middle of a city. The Chapel was built in 1969 as a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It is an exact replica of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway which was constructed in the 1100’s.

You enter the chapel by the ambulatory, a walkway that encircles the chapel. The ambulatory was used during inclement rain or for men to leave their guns there as guns were not permitted in the church. At the altar there lies a Bible, a cross and candles symbolizing a Christian church. To the left is a sliding door used by Lepers. They were not permitted to enter the church but were not excluded from taking communion.

As we entered the Chapel, we pressed a button to start a CD which explained the significance of each part of the chapel. At the end, we listened to a hymn sung as we very reverently lifted our eyes and hearts heavenward.

At the apex of the chapel is a rooster illustrating Peter’s denial of Christ by the time the rooster crowed three times. Outside is a prayer walk which is set aside as a place of meditation, a silent nook. We did not take the walk as I was hesitant to go too far with a bad back. There is also a museum there with many relics from days gone past.

Afterward, we made our first visit to Walmart since we left home. Guess we prepared pretty well but we are finally needing to restore our depleted supplies. We were getting warnings for a severe thunderstorm warning for Pennington County so I asked at checkout where Pennington County was. The lady informed me that I was in Pennington county. I must look like an RVer because after she asked where I was from she said if I was in an RV I better take cover. We ran into some light rain on the back to the campground but nothing severe.

We thought we might get some rain so we nixed our plans to grill pork chops and instead had leftovers. Tomorrow is our last day in Custer so I pray my back will allow us to do everything we plan to!

I got a visit in with George H.W. Bush.