Friday, October 23, 2015

Geezers, Wyoming and South Dakota - Badlands to Custer State Park, SD

Day 15

We were up early today as we were traveling to Custer State Park where we will spend two days.  It is only about a 70 mile drive, but we wanted to take the long way around and go through the mostly inaccessible southern section of the Badlands on a dirt road.  We decided to skip breakfast, but we did have a few things to do before we left Cedar Pass Lodge so we didn’t get going until a little after 9:00.

We have enjoyed exceptional weather on this trip with clear or partly cloudy skies and the temperatures mostly in the 80's, but today our luck ran out.  The sky was overcast and dark and it was even darker to the west where we were headed, and the temperatures had turned much cooler.  We headed west across the bottom of the northern section of the Badlands and were pretty much the only ones on the road.  We turned south at the abandoned town of Scenic.  Just after Scenic we entered the southern section of the park and found the only access to that part of the park.

We turned onto the Sheep Mountain Road, which was a seven mile dirt road in the Badlands.  The first five miles of the road was pretty good and didn’t require 4-wheel drive, but the last two miles you definitely needed a high clearance vehicle as it was just a worn track with a very high center and some areas of sand.  We actually didn’t go all the way to the end as we had been warned by the ranger not to drive it if it was raining and it looked like rain was moving in.  Even so, it was a great drive and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  The road drove through the canyons before climbing to the plateau above the formations.  I think it was the best scenery we had seen in the park.  We usually make the best of adverse weather, but the heavy overcast made for flat and gray photographs.  Oh well, you have to take the good with the bad.

Sheep Mountain Road.
We couldn't identify these birds, but they didn't seem to be inclined to get out of our way. 
Anyone know what they are?

These formations looked like they were made out of mud, but they were a soft rock.

We made it back to the main road and circled the southern part of the park.  This is the most desolate stretch we have seen on this trip, there were very few vehicles on the road, very few homes to be seen and absolutely no services.  Most of the way we were passing through grasslands, but occasionally we caught views of the hills and formations in the distance.   

After leaving the Badlands, it became very flat and desolate.
Finally around noon we reached the town of Hermosa where we got gasoline.  We were very hungry, but the only place we saw to eat was where we got gas and it looked very greasy and unappetizing to us so we continued on.  By this time the temperature had dropped into the 50’s and it had started to rain.

It started to rain as we left Hermosa.
From Hermosa it was a short drive to Custer State Park and the land turned from grasslands to hilly terrain with trees and streams.  When we got gas we noticed that one of our windshield wipers had broken so with rain starting to fall, we decided we had better find an auto parts store to get a new one.  We entered Custer State Park, but drove straight through to the town of Custer to look for new wiper blades.  Unfortunately just before we got to Custer, there was loud claps of thunder and lightning and it started pouring.  The bad blade was on the passenger side so at least the driver could see.   The first order of business was to eat lunch and then we found an auto parts store just down the street.  I decided to replace both blades and someone from the store graciously came out in the rain and installed them for me.  I was thankful for that as it usually takes me twenty minutes or so to install new blades and he did it in a couple of minutes.  I would have been soaked by the time I had them on.

We drove back to Custer State Park and checked into the Creekside Lodge which is part of the Custer Game Lodge which is the oldest lodge in the park.  After getting all of our stuff out of the car and getting a little damp in the process we were checked in and in our room by three.  We were a bit damp, but the room was very nice with a great view and we were happy.  Since it was raining, we decided to just relax in the room.

We had dinner reservations at the Lodge restaurant for dinner so at 6:30 we made our way over there.  The restaurant had a good reputation and it lived up to it.  The service was very good and the food was equally good.  As I’m writing this, I am still pretty full.  We are cautiously optimistic as the weather report is predicting partial clearing and warmer temperatures.  As for now, it’s time to call it a night.

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