South Dakota Day 6 – Crazy Horse to Pringle

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial

We awoke to rain during the night, and I was concerned that our bike ride might be in jeopardy. However, by the time the sun rose and we got ready to go, the rain stopped. Mary and Jim dropped Ed and me off near the Crazy Horse Memorial where Jim and I started our ride yesterday evening. Today, Ed and I planned to ride 17.5 miles south to Pringle.

Granite Spires

Granite Spires

The weather was obviously colder this morning so I put on an extra layer of clothes. As soon as we started riding on the trail, we noticed a change in the terrain. This portion was primarily rolling hills with granite boulders and spires during the first few miles. The trail was wet and sandy, which made it difficult to pedal. Fortunately, most of this section was either downhill or flat; however, it still felt like we were riding in quicksand.

Aspen-Lined Trail

Aspen-Lined Trail

When we reached the Custer city limits, we were pleasantly surprised by the paved trail through town. However, as soon as we left Custer, the trail started climbing :-(. Although the incline was slight, it felt like I was pedaling with lead weights on my feet.

Small Pond along Trail

Small Pond along Trail

We stopped about every mile, stretched our legs, and watched the birds frolicking beside trailside ponds. We spotted red winged blackbirds, flycathers, and one bluebird. There were several horse farms and one bison ranch along the trail. One horse galloped back and forth along the fence as if he was trying to catch us; Ed was afraid that it was going to jump the fence, but it finally gave up and trotted away.

Buffalo

Bison with Calves

Finally, after 2 1/2 hours, we rolled into Pringle. Mary and Jim were waiting for us, and they were anxious to retrace their early morning drive through the Wind Cave National Park to show us the bison and beautiful scenery. What a breathtaking place! Rolling prairies stretched in all directions, and we spotted several groups of bison, including three calves.

Blue Bell Lodge

Blue Bell Lodge

We drove north through the western edge of Custer State Park, and stopped at the Blue Bell Lodge to tour the dining room and browse the gift shop before driving back to Custer. Ed found a perfct book for Phoenix, which teaches children to identify animals by their poop and footprints – definitely a book for boys!

We decided to wait until tomorrow to drive along the Wildlife Loop, but we did spot two small herds of pronghorns on the distant hills leaving the park. Mary’s binoculars came in handy to view these magnificent animals.

Buffalo Art in Custer

Buffalo Art in Custer

Our next two stops were in Custer and Hill City to buy a few souvenirs of our trip. I purchased an Native American doll for Emma Kate and a Mickelson Trail t-shirt for me. After a quick grocery run, we returned to the cabin.

Needles Eye

Needles Eye

Realizing that we still had three good hours of daylight, we checked the weather and decided to take the scenic drives on the Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road today. Prior to the drive, I asked Ed if we could clamp the GoPro camera on the front of his truck to video our drive through the tunnel at Needles Eye. We securely anchored the camera and synchronized the remote so that we could trigger the camera from safely within the truck.

Tunnel on Needles Hwy

Tunnel on Needles Hwy

As we approached the last turn before the tunnel, I hit the record button only to find people standing in the road taking pictures :-(. Mary and I persuaded Ed to turn around so that we could record it again. The road was extremely narrow with very limited pulloff space, but he agreed. Our second take was perfect (see bottom of today’s post)!

View of Mt. Rushmore through Tunnel

View of Mt. Rushmore through Tunnel

We continued on to the Iron Mountain Road because we heard that you could see Mt. Rushmore through the tunnels on that road. Although the carving was visible through two of the three tunnels, the bad lighting prevented the GoPro video camera from clearly recording Mt. Rushmore. It was fun trying to record the shot, but my excitement caused me to mishandle the wireless trigger (believe it or not, Ed turned around a second time for me to try again). He deserves the best husband award for his patience on this trip!

When we returned to the cabin about 6 PM, I cooked hamburgers on the grill for supper. Everyone watched the American Idol Finale while I worked on the blog. Tomorrow, we plan to ride from Pringle to Minnekahta in the morning and then spend the rest of the day at Custer State Park. This is our last night in the Storm Mountain cabin; it was perfect for our needs and had everything we could possibly want.

Mickelson Trail near Crazy Horse Memorial

Tunnel on Needles Highway

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