Home Away From Home, South Dakota

Needles Highway and More

Neither of us had a good night’s rest last night although I slept a lot more than Jerry. We decided that we would first ride to Jewel Cave to see if and when we could get reservations for a tour. Jerry was able to secure two tickets at the first available time which was 12:45 which gave us about 3 hours, not enough time to get a hike in. While Jerry was securing the tickets, I rode around the parking lot waiting for him. There is a designated area just for RV’s and wouldn’t you know it? There’s a car parked there. Honestly people, can’t you follow rules or are you just that self-centered?

While we waited we rode into Custer and walked around a bit. Some of the stores were closed but we still got a feeling for the little town. If you want to go out to eat you can find what you want in Custer as the restaurants are plentiful. Several of the restaurants seemed to focus on beef, bison and elk burgers. Elk burgers? Um… might have to try that.

We went back to the coach for lunch and a little respite during which time I finally caught up on the blog. Why do I blog? Simply put, to remind me of things we have done and places we have been. It’s so easy for me to forget the details of each day so by blogging I keep it fresh. My blog is also a good reference point when questions are asked. We have been blessed to see much of our great country and I can safely say our country is quite diverse and it’s still difficult to remember minute details of each trip and visit.

On to Jewel Cave National Monument. We were on the 12:45 tour so after a quick lunch we headed back to Jewel Cave. The cave is the third-longest cave in the world with the first being Mammoth and then one in Mexico. There are over 202 miles of mapped and surveyed passages. Jewel Cave goes down the equivalent of 23 stories with 723 steps along a half-mile loop, equivalent to 40 flights of stairs. Some were stair steps and some were slanted ramps. The cave temperature is 49 degrees Fahrenheit and boy, was I glad I had my coat. I kept thinking about putting my Patagonia coat in the RV when packing and then thinking no, I won’t need that. So glad I had my jacket that I bought in the Grand Canyon. Between that and my Badlands shirt that I had on I was a walking advertisement!

Into every day, or least some of them, a little rain must fall and today was the day. We’ve encountered rain twice on this trip but each time it was when we were traveling. Although the weather apps had been promising rain and the skies were overcast we were rain-free until after the cave tour. As we were leaving the cave it began to sprinkle and then rain more heavily so afternoon activities were out or we thought.

We climbed even higher!
As we rode along we decided to go to Bear County USA but along the way we saw a sign for Crazy Horse with an information center. Jerry stopped to check it out and discovered that it was $30 a car no matter how many people were in the car. In other words, it cost $30 to park. We could see the carving in the distance so we elected to go on to Bear Country USA. On the way we saw a sign for Needles Highway and of course, off we went. We’re flexible if nothing else. As we rode we came to Sylvan Lake and Gift Shop. We stopped, went in the gift shop and then decided to take the 1 mile “easy” trail hike. Although marked “easy” there were places where we had to climb some rocks and then climb back down. It was not difficult but hopefully no one thought they were out for an easy stroll. We thoroughly enjoyed it though and even climbed some of the large rocks.

As we walked to the car which we had parked along the side of the road Jerry noticed what we think was a mule deer standing on the other side. He was nibbling grass and though occasionally he looked at us, mainly he ignored us. It began to sprinkle lightly as we headed to the car so we decided to call it a day but … the Needles Highway was ahead. It is truly like threading a needle, curvy, narrow, winding, 5 mph speed limit and then you hit the tunnels. There was no problem going through Hood Tunnel or Iron Creek Tunnel but Needles Eye Tunnel was a different story. Cars were trying to go both ways plus many people had pulled over to get a closer look. Someone needs to be standing on both sides with a Stop/Go sign. I am surely glad Jerry was driving.

Since it was raining a little harder, we decided to call it a day and headed for the campground. A little rest, a good dinner and we were done for the day!