We start the day by going to Devil’s Tower which is right next to the KOA we are staying in. On the drive in are 3 pullouts where you can stop and watch prairie dogs. They were adorable and there were signs everywhere telling you not to feed them. It was funny watching them pop up and down their burrows. We even saw some babies playing with each other. You had to watch the road closely because they would scamper across it so quickly. We continue on the road and took pictures of the tower which was covered in clouds this morning. We arrive at the visitor center and park and get ready to walk the circle trail around the tower. We saw some climbers getting their gear ready to go up the tower. The visitor center doesn’t open until 9 am so we decided last night to walk first then do the Jr Ranger and displays in the visitor area afterwards.
The walk was only about 1 mile in length but a lot of it was uphill since it was near the base of the tower. On the way in we saw a deer in the woods and as we rounded a bend around the tower we saw another one. We took pictures of the valley and of the tower with the sun rising behind it. It is considered a sacred place by the local Indian tribes and the tower is closed to climbing in the month of June. The walk around was peaceful and you could hear the wind whistling through the cracks in the columns. Signs told us that there are 4,5,6, and 7 sided columns that have fallen. There is still a set of wooden ladders in some cracks that were left there by the first climbers. We could see them with binoculars they had on the path. There were lots of birds flying around the top. They must have nests up there. We were enjoying the walk and reading the signs for information when we walked around the bend and heard this strange noise. It was a group of young people who were working on the path that wound around the tower. They had these mechanical wheelbarrrows that pulled their loads of asphalt uphill.
We finished the walk in about an hour and headed back to the visitor center. CC got his postcard and pin and PTCC started working on her Jr Ranger badge. We all looked around the visitor displays in the original log house. After answering all the questions she was awarded her badge. We then headed back to prairie dog town and took some more pictures and then back to the KOA to get ready to leave.
We head out back to Moorcroft to get gas and catch US 16 to Hill City, SD. This was our worst experience gassing up so far. There was a gas truck filling the pumps and the way the station was arranged it had to go between all the pumps making it hard to get in or out. Compounding our problem to fuel was a stupid old man on a motorcycle who acted like he had never put gas in it before. He had to go in and then came out of the store and then put about 3 gallons in and then had to go back inside again instead of moving his bike out of the way. Then when he does come back he just stands around waiting on something. Finally an old lady walks out to him and then they stand there talking forever. We waited 20 minutes to get to a gas pump here because of him and his rudeness. Unfortunately when we did get to a pump we had to block the guy filling the tanks from getting out. He was cool about it he said as long as we didn’t have to go inside to pay. CC assured him he wouldn’t. The guy said he hated delivering to this station because it was always a mess to get in.
After that hassle we get back on US 16 to head to South Dakota. We’ve decided to stop at Jewel Cave on the way to Hill City to see if we can get in on a cave tour. We make pretty good time and get there within 2 hours so we are good for the 1:35 pm tour which is a short one of about 20 minutes instead of the 1.5 hour long one. I don’t think I can take the cold that long again after Timpangonos. PTCC gets her Jr Ranger book and CC goes back to the RV because I can’t take my purse in with me, so I had to empty everything I wanted to keep with me to my jacket pockets and he took it back because we forgot to lock the car. So PTCC starts working on her booklet while we wait for our tour and has it almost finished by the time it starts. They have a block outside the visitor center to demonstrate how small a space you have to crawl through if you take the Wild Cave tour. So PTCC has to try it and it is a tight fit even for her. We get the luck of the draw with rangers for our program. I think we got the guy who Overdosed on caffeine today, he was so peppy. On the Discovery tour they take you down in an elevator and you spend 20 minutes in one room only on a platform while the ranger tells you about different areas of the cave. It was enough for us for today. We go back up and PTCC finishes her book and gets her badge and we move on to find the Rafter J.
We go about 20 miles down the road and we find it so we register and drive to our site. It looks like a nice place. There is some up and down to the sites and it is centered on a bowl meadow. After leveling, our front right tire isn’t touching the ground anymore. Wi-Fi stinks here but we do have very basic cable in our area. Best of all they have a hot tub and it is open as well as a heated pool. PTCC hits the new playground while we set up and then we pick her up to go to Mount Rushmore since we have time and it is open late.
We drive about 10 miles and we are there. The whole experience here to me feels so commercial. Not at all like a national park. There are parking decks to park in and a boulevard of flags to walk through to see the heads on a mountain. This stop is mostly for CC since he was adamant that we stop here on our trip. PTCC gets a JR Ranger book here as well. Actually she did 2, one for her age range and one for older kids. The heads were impressive and we walked the path all the way around the park, stopping to read about how they came to be. We watched the movie and visited the exhibit hall for answers to PTCC’s books. The artists studio was closed when we got there but the walk was OK. There are a lot of stairs so beware if that’s not your thing. Unfortunately the late afternoon sun made it harder to take pictures without getting the sun in most of them. We make it back and go to the bookstore. Inside they had one of the original workers who was signing his book appearing today. I get a stuffed prairie dog to add to my collection and CC gets his pin. They don’t seem to have the WPA postcards here that he has been buying. We go back to the visitor center and PTCC gets her Jr Ranger badge and we take off. There is a lighting ceremony with veterans honored at 9 pm but we don’t want to stay that late so we leave.
After we get back we cook out and hit the pool and hot tub. It is fun talking to others who are traveling too. We like to ask where they’ve been and where they are going next. We are camped next to a couple from Inverness, FL and met a couple in the hot tub from Weeki Wachee, FL. Small world isn’t it?