For the final leg of our South Dakotan adventure, we took the long wildlife loop around Custer State Park — stopping to feed the ‘friendly’ burros carrots along the way — and then headed north into the higher elevations to Sylvan Lake.
Staying in the Sylvan Lake Campground, the idea was to spend a day or two swimming and for my husband and son to hike the Sunday Gulch trail. We opted to swim the first day because it was at the top of everyone’s list and the weather did not look like it was going to cooperate for our second day there. It was a pretty perfect day for a swim. We found our own little mini-cove and passed a few hours in the cool water.I think the boys could have stayed in the water all day. Eventually the cold water got the best of them though, so we stopped at the concession for a snack of bison stew and fries. Full and refreshed we decided to do the short 1mile hike around the lake.This is such a nice little hike — perhaps the most important thing I learned on this trip is that even the smallest sojourn onto a trail can really give you a much deeper connection to and appreciation for this place. You really needn’t go far to get a taste of the wilds here.And you never know what treasures you will find and experience.
From a rocky outcrop along the way we spotted three trees busy with Red Crossbills — another life bird for me. We watched for a good long time as they feasted on pine seeds while we simultaneously managed to keep the kids from falling off the mountain and kept Moose from knocking his passing admirers (or us) down the rocky hill. We are such multi-taskers.
The next morning we awoke to hail with the promise of more hail in the forecast. We opted for our rainy day plan of driving over to Mount Rushmore. Costing only $11 for our entire family, it is a bargain (not to mention there is underground parking to protect the car from hail — can you say win-win?). For the tired, chilled campers in us, we were able to sit in the cafe with a hot coffee while watching the monument break through the fog… By the end of lunch…The fog had cleared and we embarked on the short Presidential Trail.
Yes, it really was that dark — it’s not just the filter. We headed back to camp to take cover at which point we saw this coming from our tent…And then about 20minutes of hail ensued. Of course, I was convinced we were somehow going to die in some sort of gigantic freak hail (remember that irrational fear of wild animals? Sometimes it extends to weather events, too), but the worst we saw was nickel-sized ice. We all survived. Somehow.In fact, the kids were great sports. We packed them up for a final drive past the Crazy Horse Monument. We got there just in time to see it enveloped in fog, so instead we stopped for ice cream at Turtle Town in Hill City. No one minded that it was cold.
We went to bed with full bellies & listening to the rain. We awoke early & broke camp quickly in hopes of beating out the next round of rain. As we exited the campground and turned east, the rain started to fall.
It was a l o n g drive home. Having completed my Capitol Square Market Bag a couple days earlier, I restarted the Wispy Cardi I am knitting for my daughter for the third time.I have been having some issues deciding what size to make my girl. I have finally decided on the 8-10. It is going to be huge on her right now, but with a growing girl I finally settled on a bigger is better mentality — big today means it will fit in 6months, right?
The drive home was mostly uneventful until about 5 or 6 hours from our doorstep when the torrential downpours and lightning began. Tired and nerves frayed, we landed at home shortly after midnight. Coming home is always a little bittersweet after such a great trip. At least it is for everyone except Moose. Above and beyond all things, he loves his bed. He is relieved and happy to be reunited with it.
Many thanks to my husband for taking so many of these beautiful photos & for letting me use them here!