Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Black Hills of South Dakota

We started our day with a drive down the Iron Mountain Highway towards Custer State Park. The Black Hills National Forest is a contrast to the scenery of Montana. The Iron Mountain Highway also had some very interesting engineering features, one of them being cute bridges called Pigtail Bridges. They are essential corkscrew spirals of road. The other were tunnels blasted out through the rocks which were designed to frame the faces on Mount Rushmore. I, of course, could not get a photo...

One of the many one lane tunnels that we had to squeeze through

We entered Custer State Park and continued along the wildlife loop. Although pretty, this was a little bit of an anti-climax after our ranch stay. The children had seen so many deer and antelope close up, that they had become a little desensitised to seeing the same animals in the distance. The herd of bison also did not come close to  bear sightings. The donkeys, however, did perk them up! They tend to approach the cars going through so the window was quickly wound back up and photos taken behind the safety of the glass!

Granite amongst ponderosa

Poor bison couldn't hold the children's interest

Too close donkey, too close...

We stopped for lunch at the Blue Bell Lodge. The restaurant was nice and had decent food. Set in a log cabin with stone fireplaces, deer and antelope heads on the walls, and a bar with saddles as stools, it was as western as you can get other than the Indonesian waitress. A Jakarta native, she conversed in Indonesian to my parents which brought them great jpy. We took the opportunity to do more shopping in the gift shop across the road. As we have arrived right at the end of the season, most places have much of their stock on sale. Its amazing what you can convince yourself you need when things are cheap, such as a piece of leather shaped as bison and fitted with bells made to hang on the front door. Yep, absolute necessity. I wouldn't want Jonah opening the front door without me knowing...


Intense studying of the menu all round

What's on offer

Jars as glasses

One of my favourite American food, sweet corn bread. Mmmmm, these were served with honey butter

My lunch - fried chicken steak with pepper cream sauce

The funky saddle stools at the bar

Stick 'em up!

Our next stop was Sylvan Lake where we embarked on a trail which circumnavigated the Lake. We were a bit disappointed to discover that the lake was probably man-made. The rocks did look a bit strange sticking out of the water! We continued along the pretty Needles Highway. The leaves of the deciduous trees had turned a beautiful golden yellow. Shimmering in the light and floating down with the wind, they were just gorgeous. I was frustrated at being unable to capture this beauty on camera. We manouvred through a few more tiny tunnels and returned to our hotel with time to spare before our Chuck Wagon dinner at Fort Hays. Here's where we were greatly surprised. The children love country music!

Scenery along the Needles Highway

One of the more narrow tunnels

Eye of the needle

Walking around the lake

No one else there

Human version of the tunnels in rocks

What is it with the children pretending to be lizards in the sun?

Where we had our chuck wagon dinner

Apparently Dances With Wolves was either filmed here or the set has been moved here...I  obviously wasn't paying attention!

Many interesting things here...

The children learnt to make rope

Machine is over 100 years old

The end product

Stripping kernels 

Then grinding them

Let's get food! Its like getting lunch at a school canteen, line up and get various things slopped onto your plate.

Fried chicken, corn, apple sauce, beans, potato, biscuit and spiced cake with iced tea to wash it down

The evening's entertainment

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