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South Dakota: The Black Hills

The black hills are magical. And a bit touristy. Especially on a weekend in the summer.

After our regrettably quick exit from the Badlands, Kate was bound and determined to see Bear Country, which is a drive through wildlife safari/sanctuary. After coasting by signs for water parks and all inclusive cabin resorts high in the hills, I gave in and we stopped to see some bears. At this point, I was more concerned about the van overheating after climbing all the hills, so we turned the AC off. Then we had to roll the windows up per requirement by the park.

They had more animals than bears in the park. First were quite a few grazing mammals:

After all that hub-bub we entered the bear sanctuary location. I’ve never watched bears in such quantities before. They have always been more of a solo encounter before.

Lots of playing in the water and socialization. How do they keep the bears in but allow you to drive through? Electrified cattle guards. Which is a bit weird to drive over. Below is a bear who was pacing at the exit; you can see how close he is to freedom but the guards do their job.  Any enclosure of animals is a bit sad, though the sanctuary did have a bunch of acres in the back for the more sensitive bears to seclude themselves.

We drove by Rushmore on our way to our campsite and it was all kinds of crowded. Which is what we expected for our visit the next day, but it turns out if you show up at 8am when the park opens, there are so few people that you have to wait a bit for other visitors to take your picture!

There is a nice little hike around the base of the monument with exhibits on each president and the carving of the mountain.

We swung by Crazy Horse as well, and although we didn’t take any pictures we learned a lot about that project. It’s intended to be a huge Souix Native American complex with a school and scholarships and cultural preservation. Even the intro video gave off a vibe that it is a bit of a response of the Souix to the white people coming in and carving a monument out of their sacred mountains.

Afterwards Iron Mountain Road was very close and we experienced the cool tunnels.

And pigtail bridges.

Which culminated with driving through Eye of the Needle and the cathedral spires high up in the park.

We had some bison burgers at a touristy place which were a bit underwhelming and stopped at a couple of wineries, but all was a bit of a taper after the Badlands. Ready to get away from the crowds so the dog can run again!

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