Toon and Wilma were up early while Hans and Frank were still sleeping in their tent. We love camping with the kids, but it doesn’t allow a lot of adults-only time. So, we left a note, we were gone for a hike, and that we would be back in about two hours. We walked to the “Natural Bridge” trailhead and walked the 2.5-mile there-and-back trail. The steep hiking trail meanders through the forest, partly over service road. The natural bridge is a 51 foot (18 m) cliff of rhyolite rock cut through by the Bridge Creek! It is always wonderful to walk early in the morning since the animals are very active, the light to take pictures is beautiful, and because there are not that many hikers!
We were back at the tents two hours later, and the boys hadn’t noticed we had been away! We got early lunch for us all, and suggested to do another hike in the area. The sons were reluctant and rather wanted to stay and relax in their tent, play some cards together or play on their GameBoys. And so we drove to the “Storm Point’ trailhead to start our second walk of the day. The “Storm Point” is an easy 2.3 miles loop trail. It starts with beautiful open views overlooking the Indian Pond and Yellowstone Lake, and continues through the trees to Storm Point. Afterwards, we went to the “Pelican Creek Nature Trail” for our last mile!
We came back two hours later, and Hans and Frank were still in their tent, and it seemed they hadn’t moved at all. Maybe, they didn’t like the idea that we would already leave the next day for our journey home. Or maybe, they just wanted to be lazy. However, because we had to leave early in the morning, we all had to do some packing before we would go out for dinner!. As a surprise and a good-bye, we all would go out for dinner in the “Lake Yellowstone Hotel” that evening!
At 9:30am, we were on our way to the Black Hills Forest. We knew we had a long drive ahead!
When we left Yellowstone Park, we drove through the area, I had seen before when. I mentioned the trees looked as if they were made from silver. Well, now we saw why. These trees while still standing were dead and shining white, we had been admiring dead trees!
Going East, the landscape changed, the trees disappeared. The “Big Horn Scenic Byway” showed a barren landscape. Hardly any trees or bushes, but a lot of white and colorful, red rock. Beautiful though! We drove through “Bighorn National Forest“, had a quick lunch break, and continued our drive to Devils Tower, a prominent landmark in Wyoming. The tower is fifty million years old, and consists if molten rock that was forces upwards. We went for a short walk to stretch our legs after the 7/8 hours drive we already had done, and to make some pictures of this unique made-by-nature landmark.
Two hours later, we arrived at our destination for the two upcoming nights, “Bever Lake Campground“, near Custer in South Dakota.
After a good night rest, we drove to “Mount Rushmore National Memorial”. We arrived early before the masses, and enjoyed the impressive statues! We learned about the sculptor Gutzon Borglum, and why he carved George Washington (1st), Thomas Jefferson (3rd), Abraham Lincoln (16th), and Theodore Roosevelt (26th) in the mountain. Borglum created his masterwork to celebrate America’s first 150 years as a free country, and he choose the four Presidents who played an important role in the founding, growth, preservation, and development to the United States of America.
After visiting the memorial we went tot Bear Country USA, and drove through the wildlife park with North American wildlife in their natural habitat. Bears, wolves, elk, buffalo, and other wildlife are roaming around freely here. We enjoyed the three mile drive in the safety of our car, especially the mountain lions hanging above us in the trees. After the drive-thru, we went to their “Babyland“, the home where baby bear cubs are raised. However, it has different lots with local animals that have limited space to roam around, and I personally don’t like wild animals being held captive in limited spaces. However, I am not sure if they have a special breeding program, and that they are eventually released into the wildlife park or into the wild.
On our way back to the camping, we followed the very narrow Needles Highway, a tourist attraction since 1922. Again, a drive worthwhile with unique granite statues like the Needles Eye and Cathedral Spired! That evening, we went out for dinner in Custer downtown, at Steak ‘N Ribs Place, a local restaurant in a historic old building. We were warped back in the late 1800’s with walls were draped in antique looking wallpaper and old photos on the walls. Food was goor, the company was great because, thee parrot near the entrance liked to be part of our conversation as well!