Today, we wanted to make an early start to head out to the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park, we had heard this was the best time to try and spot the wildlife, so we had left Battle Creek Lodge by 0815. Driving down to the park we first stopped at an idyllic lake for some photos and then drove on passing the Crazy Horse sculpture, through the town of Custer and were soon into Custer State Park and on the winding road to the Wildlife Loop.
We didn't have to stop at the pay point as we had already paid our $20 yesterday and the pass lasts a whole week. Our early start paid off and as we entered the Wildlife Loop some delightful Mountain Bluebirds welcomed us, Paul very quickly spotted some deer in the undergrowth, and we stopped for our first of many breaks to enjoy the wildlife and take photos.
Carrying on, we both had an eye open for something much bigger and we soon got rewarded by the sight of a lone Bison just to the side of the road, the mature males tend to be more solitary.
Continuing, we were soon surrounded on both sides by a large herd of the huge beasts, the Bison herd included several delightful babies - which I had been hoping to see. As we watched we could hear the snorts and see the steam coming from their nostrils, I for one wouldn't like to get to close.
Leaving the large herd of Bison behind we continued on our journey around the loop and before we knew it we had come across the famous Wild Burros, although luckily, they were behind a fence and not trying to stick their heads through the windows. We parked up and got out the bag of carrots that we had remembered to buy for this very reason and began feeding them, some were very keen to show the others they were in charge by pushing themselves to the front of the queue.
Once we felt we had seen enough of the Burros we went on our way, stopping off to buy postcards at the Wildlife Station Visitor Centre and as we drove on we spotted a couple of Pronghorns. A few moments later we really did get lucky as we came face to face with another of the Pronghorns in the middle of the road, after staring at us and trying to decide which way to go it ran straight down pass the car and away.
Coming to the end of the Wildlife Loop loop road we came upon the brand new Custer State Park Visitor Centre which is very well done and very informative of the locale. The Visitor Centre has many great exhibits including a life-size replica of the 'Eye of the Needle' rock formation that we had passed yesterday.
Next up we were to the drive the Iron Mountain Rd a 17 mile stretch of extreme driving including 314 curves ( a rarity on American roads), 14 switch-backs, 3 piggy-tails, 3 very narrow tunnels, 2 splits and many views of the 4 presidents on Mount Rushmore.
We were now more than ready for a coffee, so on our way back into Keystone we popped into the quaint little Peggy's Place diner for coffee and a cherry pie with two spoons. The day was still early so we made the decision to continue on the couple of miles to Mount Rushmore. Compared to the all of the of the places we had visited this trip this was certainly the most busy, we decided to head to the Presidents trail and walked our way around the vast sculpture. After an hour we both felt it was enough, I'm sure if you are an American it would capture you attention for much longer.
We fancied a beer at Sick .n' Twisted Brewery, but when we got there we found it was closed for the season, along with many of the other local shops. including the Iron Mountain Road shop. So straight back to Battle Creek Lodge and crashed for a couple of hours. It was around 1530 that we'd decided to roust ourselves and walk into New Keystone and purchase some souvenirs and take a look at Dahls chainsaw sculptures.
Having breakfasted early we decide to grab an early dinner at Ruby's House Restaurant, we both had the very tasty Black Bean Burgers and followed it up with a Black Tooth Brewery Wheat for Paul and a very strong Bourbon Old Fashioned for me at the Red Garter Saloon adjacent to the restaurant.
We still weren't ready to head back just yet so we took ourselves on a round on the the Historic Old Town Keystone walk, the original gold-mining settlement along east flowing Battle Creek, including the original Big Thunder Goldmine.
Back in our room we pass an hour or so relaxing before we took supplies down to the fire pit for S'mores and beers. Later being joined by some other guests and finished the evening chatting to them before making our way to bed.