On Day 12, we woke up in Custer, South Dakota at the Calamity Peak Lodge.
Let me back and up and say that while planning this trip and asking for suggestions of must-see things to do and see, one of my dearest friends from college, Kathy, recommended the Calamity Peak Lodge and several things we should do and see in that area.
We were not disappointed! The lodge is not super fancy or the most up-to-date place, but it’s very roomy and family-friendly. The owners are kind and helpful and gosh… we loved it!
I also loved that we were able to get one (very affordable) room for our family of 8 and that included a small living area and a kitchen! We stayed in a part of the lodge that was similar to a motel (several rooms in one building), but they also offer individual cabins!
We had hoped for a cabin but the ones big enough for our family were all booked up! Even so, I’m really happy we stayed there! Anywho, after making breakfast, we loaded up and started our day. We ended up making one huge circle for the day – but we squeezed in a lot of sites!
Our first thing to do for the day was a drive up to Crazy Horse. It was a truly fascinating place and I’m so glad Kathy recommended it. We visited the welcome center, watched a short movie/documentary about the history there, toured the cultural center and learned a lot! We didn’t pay for the extra bus ride up closer to the mountain but I’m so glad we made a stop here. Here are a few more pics:
A statue of what the Crazy Horse Memorial will look like if it’s ever finished (above).
So much to learn and see and look at inside the cultural center (above).
The Black Hills Nature Gates. It’s a beautiful gate with hand-carved gold animals representing the wildlife in South Dakota. #love
After Crazy Horse, we got back on the road and went to see Mount Rushmore. Like the Grand Canyon, we were a little disappointed at how extremely commercialized this National Park was. I’m glad we went and that we all got to experience such an amazing place in our American history, but it’s not somewhere I’d be itching to go again.
The Avenue of Flags (above) was pretty cool. And then getting to see Mount Rushmore – it’s pretty awe-inspiring! Richy and a couple of the older kids took one of trails up to get a little closer. I stayed back with the little ones who were not excited to walk that far!
Besides, there were about a million stairs up and down to the different areas of the park and I’ll be the first to admit (with shame) that I wasn’t in good enough physical condition to push myself up and down more and more and more stairs.
We did make it as far as the Sculptors Studio but that was the end of the line for me and some of the smaller kids. Richy and a couple of the kids went on up the Presidential Trail a bit farther – I think to where I marked the X.
When I tell ya there were stairs… I am not kidding. I was DY-ING.
Anywho… after all that, we had a picnic lunch! I don’t have any pics but I remember it was an odd little picnic area where we stopped and made sandwiches and let our legs rest 😉 Or maybe it was just my legs that needed to rest… ha!
Next up – we looped around a scenic drive down to Custer State Park. This was a beautiful park… full of curvy bridges, wildlife and gorgeous scenery!
The curvy bridges (and there were many of them) were one of my favorite things!
The prairies were so pretty and peaceful… and then there where hundreds (or thousands?) of prairie dogs too:
I took dozens of pictures of them but they were rarely still so this is my best one!
And then there were the Begging Burros. Apparently Custer State Park is famous for their donkeys that beg for food from passing cars. And I can see why!
They were everywhere – and they weren’t shy!! There were so many colors and sizes (BABIES!) and they’d completely block the road in places – we had to drive so slow! A few more pics…
The kids thought this old guy looked sad.
And there was this pretty white one 🙂
And a BABY!!! Squeeeeee….
Okay – after all the donkey excitement – we also saw more pronghorn deer (I guess they’re a type of deer?) and another elk, but my only pics were really blurry.
And then… a hail storm. We already lived through one hail storm on our trip (at Bryce Canyon) and we couldn’t believe it was happening again!
We sort of panicked when the hail came out of nowhere and we didn’t have a place to hide. Richy tried to turn off of a side road to get under some trees, but we couldn’t find any shelter so we just prayed it wouldn’t get any bigger and damage our truck (and it didn’t!).
After that, we were in some rain storms and I didn’t get more pictures. We took a long route home hoping for more scenery but the weather was yucky. We went back to the Calamity Peak Lodge, cooked some supper, and relaxed a little while.
We surprised the kids by loading up again after dark and heading back to Crazy Horse. They have a laser light show on the side of the Memorial every night and our tickets from earlier that day got us into the light show that night for free. It was really pretty up there at night and reminded me of the Laser Light show they have at Stone Mountain in Georgia (another favorite place to visit!).
Crazy Horse at night (above) and a picture from the laser show (below). The pictures aren’t great but it really was beautiful and fun!
Dozens of cars line up in the parking lot and everybody piles out in chairs, in the beds of trucks or sitting on their hoods to watch the show. They also play really loud music that’s coordinated with the show – fun, fun, fun!
And that was that! We drove back to the lodge and crashed for the night!
If you’ve missed previous posts – catch up on our 6000 mile road trip HERE!