Custer State Park

I’ve been channelling Doris Day today as we hiked in ‘The Blackhills of Dakota...’. I could do the whole soundtrack of Calamity Jane.....if I was ever asked.

We stocked up on coffee at the Pure Bean and then drove south to Custer Park where we parked at Sylvan Lake, packed our rucksacks and took the Little Devil’s Tower Trail. We were soon into forest studded with giant pinnacles and slabs of granite. The trail gradually took us upwards through the rock to the top of Little Devil Tower, affording us 360 degree views into the far distance and of the nearer Cathedral Spires.

The trail then descended to the foot of the Spires before rising again towards the doubly named Harney Peak/Black Elk Peak. En route we spotted two different woodpeckers creating nest holes and a couple of grazing mule deer. Nearing the summit of Harney (7244 feet) we walked through a couple of hail showers and spotted a very cute red squirrel with a mouthful of nest bedding.

The final steep section to the fire watching tower on the summit of Harney Peak, reminded Becky and I of Minas Tirith as the path was stairs cut in to the rock, connected with steel stairways. We decided the tower was a good place to stop for lunch and also to sit out the coming hailstorm which we could see sweeping towards us across the peaks. We took in the magnificent views from the fire tower before descending on the Sylvan Lake Trail to the carpark.

From Custer State Park we drove to the town of Hot Springs to view the Mammoth Site before it closed for the day. Originally the site of a sink hole filled with warm water, during excavation for a housing estate, mammoth bones were found. To date the remains of 61 mammoth have been uncovered and they are still digging. The archaeologists estimate they have enough work for 150 years! They dig in the month of July each year and then spend the remainder of the year cleaning and cataloguing their finds. The dig site is now housed in a purpose built building which we walked around to view the remains still visible in the ground. Pretty special.

My blip is of the family descending from Little Devil Tower with the Cathedral Spires just visible.

And tomorrow our time in Rapid City comes to a close and we move on...

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