2016-10-01. Kayaking, Mt. Rushmore, Needles
This whole Black Hills/Rapid City area is worth the trip out. Rapid City has a population of about 68,000 but it is spread out over the prairie. From the heights about town at night, you can see the city laid before you like a lit placemat covering the grasslands. The city is clean and filled with lots of nice restaurants.
We did a lot of fun things here that I would recommend. Go downtown to see the bronze sculptures of all of the presidents on each corner of the downtown area. There are interesting shops and old buildings but the town does not seem crowdd or rushed in any way. We ate at Firehouse Brewery housed in an old firehouse and the food, beer and pear hard cider were wonderful.
Bob, Angie and I kayaked Stockade Lake, the largest in Custer State Park but not really very big. There was a lot of pollen suspended in the water but the view of the golden aspens against the blue sky and blue water was lovely. We went to Ft. Hays, a locale of numerous old west buildings that house folks making tin plates, knives and ropes. From there, you can take a day long tour of the Black Hills attractions such as Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and the Needles Highway but we opted to go to the Chuckwagon dinner and cowboy show. If you haven’t been to the Black Hills before, the tour is probably worth the money but the dinner and show were definitely worth the money for us.
We had been to Mt. Rushmore before but Angie and Dave suggested that we go again this time at night when they light the mountain and honor the veterans in the audience. There is a short video about the mountain and a talk by an “experienced” (older than us) ranger and then, they ask all of the veterans to come onto the stage where they introduce each one and honor them under the benevolent approval of the lighted Presidents. Quite moving and, in many cases, long overdue.
On our last day, we drove the Needles Highway and to our friends Leslie and Carlie – we cannot believe you dared to ride that on your motorcycles! This is a drive that everyone should do. Pigtail curves winding through spires sharpened by the elements like, you guessed it, needles. The tunnels through the limestone and granite are so small and narrow that you can barely fit through and we watched in awe as a smaller tour bus came through with barely inches to spare. It was a beautiful day with blue skies dotted with clouds above forests green with pine and golden with aspen. Loved, loved, loved it. We tried to hike the Cathedral Spires trail but it is a popular spot and there was no place to park the truck but we did manage to scramble around some of the other needles along the ride. The Needle’s Eye is a wondrous granite tower with a vertical split in its middle making it resemble a (wait for it) “needle’s eye”. Of course, both Bob and I couldn’t find the needle’s eye initially. We looked all around as we read the sign describing the “eye” but couldn’t find it. Finally, we asked a guy where the needle was, and with an eyeroll, he point up. Sure enough, there it was!
To celebrate a lovely ten day stay in the Custer State Park, Black Hills National Forest area, we all went to dinner at the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park; what was once the Western White House for Calvin Coolidge. Lovely ambiance with inside and outside dining in the hills and OK food. We tasted the rattlesnake and rabbit sausage which was actually really good. Angie’s Elk Osso Bucco was also quite good. I had walleye and Bob had a steak - both only so so. Still, it was a great way to end our stay here.