June 13, Black Hills

We have been comfortably encamped in the Black Hills of South Dakota for about a month now, and will probably leave sometime next week for Wyoming. This is near the top of our list for places to visit--it's beautiful, and every road is a great motorcycle road. We are staying in the same RV park where we stayed in 2007, surrounded by National Forest and well off the highway, so we are happy here. The only problem has been that my phone gets no signal and Riley's gets only a marginal one--most of the time it doesn't work either. However, to make up for it they do have a good WiFi system and we have made good use of it for Internet access and Skype. We miss Jonny a lot and seeing him via Skype once a week helps.

RV at Custer's Gulch RV Park
When we left Jonny in Albuquerque, we came through the Texas panhandle, stopping at Palo Duro State Park for a couple of days, then stayed in Oklahoma a few days, visiting Wichita Mountains NWR and Great Salt Plains NWR. All three of these places we've visited and enjoyed before. The Wichita Mountains are more hills than mountains but are very beautiful and we always see lots of birds there and in the Great Salt Plains. On leaving Oklahoma, we drove straight through Kansas and Nebraska, stopping only at night as we were anxious to get to the Black Hills.

Spanish Skirts at Palo Duro Canyon

View of Wichita Mountains from top of Mt. Scott

The weather here has been just as flaky as elsewhere--much cooler than normal and has rained a great deal more than we would have wished--one hail storm. Yesterday and today it hasn't gotten out of the forties, and has rained off and on both days. We have had some beautiful days though, and have taken advantage of them to ride the motorcycle on the great roads through the Hills and through Custer State Park. The Needles Highway and the Iron Mountain Highway have just spectacular scenery and are fun to ride with lots of curves, tunnels, and corkscrew bridges. The day we drove the Wildlife Loop through the park we saw lots of bison with calves, pronghorns, wild donkeys, deer, mountain sheep, and birds. It was fun.

Margie at "Hole in the Wall"

Riley & motorcycle

Tunnel on Needles Hwy.

Spires on Needles Hwy.

We also went up to Deerfield Lake, where the Eagle Refuge is, and came back through the Hills on some fairly good dirt/gravel roads. The hills are covered in Ponderosa Pine, all of which have been cut at one time or another. The forests are beautiful but they are not old growth, and in fact, are managed forests. This means the trees are selectively harvested, and the lumber companies clean up to a certain extent. They leave piles of wood to be burned next time it snows. The understory of the forest is mostly just grass--few vines or bushes. Bushes can be seen along streams but for the most part there is just grass and baby pines beneath the bigger trees. It makes for a parkland type look--very pretty. I suppose these are the same grasses that used to cover all of the Great Plains.

Mount Rushmore from Peter Norbeck Viewpoint

Corkscrew Bridge on Iron Mountain Highway

Hotel on hillside at Keystone

Lakota Lake

We've made the trip into Rapid City several times to run errands, get minor maintenance done on the RV, and go to the movies. I'm still impressed with all the statues of the presidents they have on the street corners, but don't understand why they didn't commission them life size. I think they are about 4/5 of life size and that's just enough to make you think they look off a bit--too short. Ah well, they are interesting and well done. The movies we've been to see are "Iron Man 2," "Robin Hood" and "Shrek Forever After." We enjoyed all three. With all the rain yesterday, we rented and watched "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" and the latest "Alice in Wonderland." Both were fun, and it was a good way to pass a rainy day. We've also been doing a lot of reading! Last time we were here we did a lot of hiking through the woods and on the Mickelson Trail. Weather has just not permitted us to do that this time.

Bison and calves on Wildlife Loop

Deerfield Lake

Love to all,
Margie & Riley

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