After a week of “taking care of business” duties such as establishing SD residency, obtaining SD drivers licenses and transferring truck title, etc., Kevin and I were ready to take in some South Dakota culture and beauty. We booked a tour through “Black Hills Open-Top-Tours“.
It was a great choice!
The tour was 6 hrs. The tour offered breathtaking beauty as far as we could see, with many different landscapes (open prairie and meadows, pine and spruce forests, rock formations) and lessons in the history of the hills, land and wildlife.
Wildlife loop is a winding road through the prairie and hills which is home for many wildlife species, including 1,300 free roaming buffalo. We were by no means disappointed as we saw (up close and personal)many different animals, including buffalo (some too close for MY comfort in an open top vehicle). Our tour guide informed us that this is called a “buffalo traffic jam” and that if we are to be caught in a traffic jam, this is the one to be in! What a spectacular sight! There were males (BIG ones) and females with offspring of various ages. Some even nursing in the middle of the road.
We had the pleasure of observing these creatures for approximately 30-40 minutes and I would have to admit that as scary as it was at times, it was exciting and captivating as we watched in awe and listened to the communication of grunting and snorting between them.
Prior to the grand finale of the buffalo, we saw many white tailed and mule deer, pronghorn, and a coyote and fed what the park service calls the “free- loading” burros. We did not get to see the entertaining and popular community of prairie dogs as there were people walking on their little village of tunnels which kept them hiding. We did get a shot of one from a distance!
From here we continued through the the breathtaking beauty of the land, on quite the winding road, to the historical Mt. Coolidge lookout and fire tower. Today, It still serves as an active fire tower. Mt. Coolidge is 6,023 ft and is the highest point in the center of Custer State park. It was a clear day with no clouds at all which allowed us to see Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, the Needles and the Badlands (which are some 60 miles to the East). Spectacular views!
We continued on to Sylvan lake where we ate a packed lunch, included in the tour, where once again, beauty and serenity surrounded us!
Last stop was the Needles highway and famous tunnels. I can’t imagine this area when Sturgis week is in full bloom. It has to be insane. A fascinating site, with the eye of the needle a perfect picture. Along the side of the Needles highway, right before entering the one way tunnel were mountain goats. There were at least 12, Billies (male), nannies (females) and kids (little ones). It always amazes me how they can climb those steep and rocky slopes flawlessly.
We returned to our RV site around 5 PM very pleased with our decision to take this tour. It was money well spent. This was a day filled with reflection, wonder and awe inspiring beauty, a very good day indeed!