Ben had work again this morning. The weather was nice and cool (in the 50s). So I thought the boys and I could go see the Badlands. Waze was acting up, so I used Maps instead. It was about 1-1/2 hour drive. I stopped for diesel when we were maybe 3/4 of the way there. Somehow the fuel pump sprayed me too. I tried using a wipe and water to help get it off my shirt, but I smelled like diesel fuel. I drove with the windows down because I couldn’t stand the smell.
We were getting so close, when we had to turn back. Maps had sent us through a reservation. We were stopped and very politely informed that the tribal council had shut down road access due to COVID-19. She pointed out another way to get to the Badlands, as the North entrance was open. They were very nice and helpful. My prayers are with them during this time.
It was another hour or more on the road to get to the North entrance, so we decided to go to Custer State Park instead. It was $20 for a week pass, or $36 for an annual pass. Since we are only in SD for a week, I ended up getting the week pass. I pulled off into a parking zone where there was no one around and changed out of my shirt into my sweatshirt. I couldn’t take the smell anymore. It was aggravating my eyes. We got back on track and ended up taking the wildlife loop.
It was amazing! We saw so many buffalo, both adults and babies. Will and Nick nicknamed them the B’s and mini-B’s, after the cow nicknames (Moo and Mini-Moo for baby cows). We got to see some males butt heads a couple of times, watch them graze, saw a few run. They came close to the road and even blocked it a few times while crossing to try the grass on the other side.
We also saw the “begging burros”. The burros are feral (although not afraid of humans and extremely friendly). A group of burros were released to roam free in the park. According to the park booklet, at one point they had been used to move tourists around, but when that ended they were let go to roam free. The pamphlet you get at check in says to give wild animals their space and not to feed them. However, these donkeys/burros were getting ear scratches and eating apples, carrots, Goldfish, Cheez-Its, Cheetos, etc. We did not feed them, but many people were.
There is not a lot of cell service in this part of the area. We tried FaceTiming Ben so he could watch the buffalo graze, but had intermittent luck. I did get some video that he was able to watch later. I have a short video up on the YouTube Channel of the buffalo.
When exiting the park, we turned towards Wind Cave. That was also a pretty drive and we saw a few buffalo, some prairie dogs, and a couple of pronghorn. The prairie dogs are so easy to miss! Look for a flat plain type of area with dirt mounds. They just blended in so well that it is easy to miss them as you are driving by.
We drove back to the RV and picked up Ben. We headed to Sylvan Lake to take a hike. We drove on the Sylvan Lake Road/Hood Tunnel/Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. Definitely not a RV road! It has many switchbacks and a rock tunnel! It was really cool.
Sylvan Lake also offers lodging and has gorgeous views. The lake is amazing and there are several trails nearby. The rock formations are incredible, especially against the blue sky backdrop we had today. We did some climbing, which the boys loved! I did okay, but was much slower than everyone else in the family. It was just a really neat hike.
We headed towards Walmart to return the scooters. They were just too small for the boys. Ben caved and got them bikes, which they were thrilled about. There isn’t a ton to do in the campground while social distancing. We still want to go to the pool, but it’s been busy. We also got dinner at Pizza Ranch. The boys were amazed there was such a thing as a pizza buffet. It wasn’t crowded yet, so YAY for food and social distancing! The final stop for the day was to drop some postcards off at the post office.