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Monday, August 31, 2015

Black Hills and Custer State Park

Aloha Everyone,

The name "Black Hills" is a translation of the Lakota word describing dark appearance of hills from a distance because of dense forest.

The Black Hills are a small but important mountain range located in western South Dakota and extends into Wyoming. Some of the top attractions in the Black Hills include: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Crazy Horse Memorial, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park, Jewel Cave National Memorial and in Wyoming, Devils Tower National Monument.

Custer State Park has been voted as one of the top 10 state parks in the nation. It is also one of the largest state parks comprising of 71,000 acres offering hiking trails, game fishing, scenic drives, lodging and camping.

There are 13 camping sites including ones with modern amenities with full-hook-ups, cabins and a horse camp for campers with horses, as well as a few primitive camping sites.

The annual pass which we paid $30 allows us to access all South Dakota state parks. Camping fees are separate and varies on sites and services. We are paying $26.50 per day for our site with electrical hookup. The cost is inclusive of the use of bathroom and shower facilities.

Exterior shot of the shower and toilet facilities

Inside shower and toilet facilities

Meeting room for evening talks and special presentations

Aloha -- Cathi

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Tatanka (American Buffalo), Texas Longhorns, Burros and Jewel Cave Nat. Monument

Aloha Everyone,

This morning we experienced an incredible sight of seeing an estimated 250 bison moving and grazing. Only a strong wood fence separated us from the enormous mammals.

On September 30, 2015, there will be the 50th Annual Buffalo Roundup. Approximately 1,600 heads are corralled, tagged and vaccinated. Excess males are removed from the park.

The Texas Longhorns were brought from the brink of extinction. There are two types of Longhorns, both having exceptionally lean beef. Their names come from where they originated and their distinctive horns which can span up to 7 feet. While in Texas, I was unable to see one close. Here they were in South Dakota lounging in a private ranch just outside of Custer State Park.

The free magazine published by SD Department of Game, Fish and Parks clearly warns visitors not to feed, disturb or approach wildlife. Yet we see time and time again, people feeding wild burros carrots, apples, chips or whatever "food" they happen to have.  

Jewel Cave National Monument offers several different guided tours to visitors. Being close to lunchtime and J.J.'s decision to stay above ground, I joined a short, 20 minutes tour. My visit was enhanced by Robert, a fantastic guide who enjoys his work. He is from Florida, studying Urban Planning and he told us that there is no relationship to his summer job, but he truly loves his work.

We happened to be at the right place at a right time. As we returned to Games Lodge Camping Ground, the herd of bison were also coming back. We were told that this close encounter especially twice on the same day is extremely rare.

My healthy dinner salad

Aloha -- Cathi

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Chapel In the Hills and Custer State Park

Aloha Everyone,

The Chapel in the Hills sits on 30 acres of mostly forest with a beautifully manicured lawn. It is an exact replica of the Borgund Stavkirke which was built circa 1150 near Laerdal, Norway.

The chapel is small but has intricate carvings of dragons on the roof from the Viking era. Once you step inside, it is a quiet, restful, meditative place.

I also took a short hike on The Prayer Walk all the way to where a natural cave entrance is located.

Brooke is a very enthusiastic, knowledgeable and helpful volunteer. Here is Craig, the manager of Chapel In The Hills with Brooke.

J.J. and I decided to return to Custer State Park. We are staying at Game Lodge Campground. We have a beautiful site with a large grassy area and a small brook running just a few steps away.

Volunteers, Jo and her husband Al.

Aloha -- Cathi