Day 3 - Needles Eye, Bison, Crazy Horse, and Rhubarb Pie, oh my!
Drove to Rapid City down Sheridan Lake Road after breakfast. Got gas and ran through the car wash before going to Edgewood to pick up Mom. She enjoyed the day and we saw and did a lot. We ate lunch at the Alpine Inn in Hill City and then drove down past Sylvan Lake and along the Needles Highway. There weren’t many people at the Needles Eye so we stopped and looked around. Made several other stops along the Needles Highway to admire the vistas and formations. No matter how many times I visit the Black Hills, I’m always awestruck by the beauty. From there we made it to the top of Mount Coolidge to take in what I consider to be the most spectacular views of the Black Hills and surrounding prairie and Badlands. Even though it was a bit hazy the views are unmatched and you could easily still see over 100 miles. We made it down the hill and to the beginning of the Wildlife Loop Road and thought it was going to be a dud trip because the only thing we saw were prairie dogs. Fortunately, our luck changed when we stopped at the new Bison Visitor Center and spied a few buffalo with the help of one of the rangers. We enjoyed the displays at the new visitor center and then set out on the gravel road in search of the bison we had seen earlier. Sure enough, we came across around 60 head of cows, calves, and yearlings! Once we were back on the paved road we saw 3 pronghorn antelope, and then on the way to Custer came across 4 mountain sheep and a lone bull bison lounging in the woods. We enjoyed a slice of pie at the Purple Pie Place in Custer (rhubarb, of course) and then stopped at the Crazy Horse Memorial north of Custer to check on the progress of the gigantic mountain carving. I still remember seeing Korzcak Ziolkowski, the original mountain carver, at Colonial House having breakfast when I was young. To this day they have not accepted any federal funding for the carving. Mom wanted to drive by Sheridan and Pactola Lakes on the way back to Rapid City and come into town along SD44 (Rimrock Highway), and we drove through the old neighborhood on our way back to drop her off at Edgewood before returning to the cabin. It was a full but gorgeous day.