Yes, this is a LOT of ground to cover in one blog, but with all the troubles we’ve had, and limited cell coverage, we have been somewhat unavailable.
After the generator hiccup, we did finally make it to the Badlands. On our way, we paid a visit to the almost obligatory Wall Drug. Our expectations of it were low, so we left thinking it was a pretty cool place. We had hoped to hit a few other places while in the area, but didn’t end up getting to: the drive-through wildlife park, Bear Country USA; Lewie’s Burgers and Brews in Lead, SD (voted best burger in South Dakota); and Jewel Cave (the third largest cave in North America).
We are now in our fourth week of our ten week journey. After the Badlands we went to Custer State Park which was a mere 2 hours away. While both Custer and Badlands are stunningly beautiful, the contrast is significant. The dry, virtually treeless rocky hills of the Badlands was very different from the soft, rolling, tree-covered hills and beautiful views at Custer. Every time we get to a new place, it seems as though it becomes my favorite, but Custer really is a special place. Shortly after we drove into the park, we saw a huge bison at the side of the road. Thankfully, visitors are pretty good about slowing down and pulling over safely, so we can take it all in.
While at Custer we hiked around and swam in Sylvan Lake (below) and I got the laundry done while taking in the view.
The second day, we drove the Wildlife Loop and saw an endless number of prairie dogs, dozens of bison (some from afar, some up close) and a group of burros. The burros were brought into the park in the nineteenth century to help visitors get around. When the company closed down its business, they let the burros go free and they have lived there since. When we came upon them and got out to visit, we almost immediately felt threatened and ran back to the RV. They seemed very interested in us and wondered if we had food. A moment later another family pulled up and jumped out of their car to pet them and feed them doughnuts, fruits and vegetables! We got such a kick out of how frightened we were at first and how tame they really were. They are indeed “begging burros.”
As we left for the Grand Tetons, we suddenly had brake problems that forced us to skip Mount Rushmore and head directly to Jackson, WY. After 8 hours of skillful driving by Mike (my hero), we were able to leave Loretta to get checked and fixed. Instead of staying in the RV at the Colter Bay RV Park as planned, we rented a car and stayed at the Jackson Lake Lodge. Again, we had to consider ourselves “lucky” that we were able to get a 3 night reservation on the 4th of July and find an available rental car.
While in the Tetons, we did a 2+ hour rafting trip on the Snake River which was the highlight for all of us up to this point. Our rafting guide was incredibly knowledgeable about the area and told many stories (some surely tall tales) about the park bison and bears and its history.
Friends of ours who are moving to San Diego for a year, happened to be at the same campgrounds as we were at Custer and then we met up again in Grand Tetons for dinner and drinks at the historic Jackson Lake Lodge. The view at the lodge is absolutely incredible, but you don’t have to spend money to eat at the restaurant or stay at the lodge—you can get it for free (photo here).
Since our brake problem ended up requiring a few days in Jackson, WY, we kept the rental car and bought $600 of camping basics and went along our way to Yellowstone where we camped for two nights in our new gear. We were all mostly excited about doing something new but two nights was enough for us. The gear we had was not adequate for the 40 degree overnight temperatures at our campsite so we hit Yellowstone in two days and were able to take in the major sites: Old Faithful and the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. We also saw bears, elk and bison.
We made it back to Jackson to pick up Loretta first thing tomorrow. We then head near Butte, MT as a stop on our way to Glacier National Park which was one destination I wasn’t willing to consider optional.
Next up our two day drive to Glacier! Peace.