Since the early 1900’s, Custer State Park is home to an abundance of wildlife and spectacular views. Spanning 71,000 acres, the park is rich in history and provides its visitors with countless adventures. Dan and I traveled the road that encompasses Custer State Park many times during our travels; however, my favorite is an 18-mile stretch called “Wildlife Loop Road” which is rich in wildlife such as Big Horn Sheep, Elk, Pronghorn, Prairie Dogs, and much, much, more.
Custer State Park “Wildlife Loop Road” Map
One of the most famous attractions in Custer State Park is the free-roaming Bison herds. Dan and I were in the right area at the right time and were able to observe a round-up as they were moving a herd from one area of the park to another. The sight of hundreds of Bison coming at you was exhilarating! Instantly, we parked the car and opened the sunroof where I could poke my camera outside for the wonderful photo opportunity… Such amazing creatures.
My favorite part of Custer State Park are the “Begging Burros”. The Burros roaming the park today are descendants of the pack animals once used to trek visitors to Harney Peak Summit. Full of character, they gain the attention of the visitors that travel in the park (both inside and outside of cars). The Burros mostly inhabit one area of the park where a herd of about 50 will try to obtain food, sometimes even causing traffic jams as they block the road. Of course, I would always recommend using caution when encountering the herd, but I am amazed and entertained every time I see them.
If ever in South Dakota, make sure Custer State Park is on your list of places to visit!
After leaving the Badlands, Dan and I (along with Tindra) spent the next few days in and around Custer, SD. This was Tindra’s last trip with us and we were so grateful that we had this time with her. The magical views of the Black Hills National Forest never do get old. The Black Hills get their name from the Lakota Sioux, “Paha Sapa”, meaning the hills are black. From a distance, the hills of this area do appear black due to the towering Ponderosa Pine forest; however, up close, these forests are teeming with color.
Needles Highway is another favorite of mine. Completed in 1922, the highway is named after the needle-like granite rock formations that were carved over many years by erosion. Such beauty is found in this area and surprises are noticed around every turn.
We camped out for the week, but decided to move into a log cabin when a snow storm hit the area leaving 3-4” of the fluffy white stuff. The snow blanketed the Pines in the Black Hills creating a peacefulness that I will never forget… A Time to Love.
After spending a day exploring and photographing The House on the Rock, our time off was coming to an end. We packed up the car and headed on our way back home but of course, we took notice of the surrounding views. Not only is the landscape beautiful in this area, the counties of Vernon and Monroe Wisconsin, also have some interesting barns, including many round barns. I encourage you to get lost in the countryside no matter where you reside; each state has its own unique features and architecture!
This trip brought us through the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest which is located in Southeastern Minnesota. The Zumbro River twists and turns as it flows through the lower Zumbro River Valley and right through this beautiful state forest..
When it comes to backroading, we have come across some “sticky” situations- The first that comes to mind is a trip we took that celebrated Earth Day literally, or take a peak at Dan’s post on our “Sticky” situation that one Earth Day as we made a Mud Pie. That, truly was a “sticky” situation that really got us stuck!
This day we were not stuck per say, it was the hope that the car keeps moving in the direction we wanted it to. Driving through the beautiful area of Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest and the Zumbro River bottoms after a winter ice storm may not have been the best idea ever, but we were enjoying the day. We stopped at the information area to view a map so that we may actually travel on a paved road. The shortest route was the path we chose, the road was flat and our Chevy Equinox was plowing through the fresh ice and snow perfectly. Well, the road (or one lane path) started heading up the side of a bluff. With no way to turn around, we had to move forward and finish our trek. One quick look out my passenger window and I noticed the step drop off, which caused a slight whimper noise to escape out of my mouth. We both knew that if we stopped, we were in some deep doo-doo. We look at each other and saw the worry in each other’s eyes. “I think we might be using up a ninth life right now”, said Dan. We held our breath and eventually made it to the top… WE MADE IT! With steamy windows we moved on down a safer path, giving thanks to both of our guardian angels.
Please enjoy the images from this particular trip in and around the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest in Winter.