Sunday. September 10, 2017. Horse Thief Campground.
Today was eventful, and a whirlwind of events essentially, constantly changing. We started off the day early this morning planning to hike Black Elk Peak with an elevation of >7000ft. We made it about 1/4 of the way up the 5 mile hike up from the north side, before accepting the fact we did not bring enough water or a packed lunch for the time required. So, we plan to go tomorrow with my pack fully, if not overly, prepared.
It is a good thing we did turn back though. Because we went to Mt. Rushmore afterwards, and while leaving there, it began to storm. While there however, we had nice weather and ate sandwiches we brought in, in front of the very nice rock. Apparently Thomas Jefferson wrote the first ice cream recipe in America (along with the majority of the Declaration of Independence, I am not sure which is more significant??) but anyways, I felt obligated to buy some. Yum. Of course we spent plenty of money on the expected souvenirs too.
That is when it began to storm, which posed a problem because our next move was the scenic byways, wildlife loop, and iron mountain road around Custer State Park. We didn’t know what to do, because obviously the point is to enjoy the animals and views, which is hard to do in a storm. I was very close to just getting a hotel room for the night (should I also mention I don’t have a footprint for the 2 person tent?), when it finally started to let up.
That is when the best part of the day was; all the wildlife! We saw plenty of bison and deer, a few pronghorns, and numerous burros- essentially wild donkeys. Two burros were up at our car window at one point, the mama burro was even scratching her face on my side mirror. Plus we got out of the car to pet a herd further down the road, it was great! Apparently the burros were brought into the area by humans, and were once used for treks up to Harney Peak (now Black Elk). They were set free into the wild afterwards, and now are frequently seen begging for food from tourists alongside the road. We didn’t mind the roadblock though, that’s for sure.
All of the roads and maps around here are very confusing however, we have had to back track several times. We somehow missed the Iron Mountain Road (another must from our dad) after the wildlife loop. Which again was okay, because we made it back to our same campsite (near Elk Peak) right before it started to storm again. Actually we made our dehydrated meals, and had to eat in the humid tent because of how hard it started to rain at that point. So, obviously you can guess the two plans tomorrow.
This trip is extremely different from the Yosemite trip. 1) I do not have a set game plan, which has it’s pros and cons. I like the ease of new plans, but that is not stress free since random isn’t also easy. Also, there has been plenty of back tracking due to not planning every thing out, and their confusing roads. 2) Traveling with a partner, especially my sister, is both great and not. Having a second person causes pros and cons too. Two people’s opinions and emotions do not always mix, but can also improve the appreciation of the better moments.