I was scheduled to work in Wyoming for two weeks, so it really didn’t make much sense to fly home between the trainings. Instead, I decided to take a road trip to South Dakota. I actually wanted to see two things while I was there–bison and my dad’s favorite rock group, Mount Rushmore, which has been near the tippy-top of my Bucket List for a long time!
I checked and re-checked the weather forecast, because the drive was in an isolated area, and I didn’t want to add bad weather to the mix. On Saturday morning, multiple sources said, “No snow,” so I set off early, insuring that I had many hours of daylight in front of me. The landscape of southeast Wyoming is flat, flat, flat with a backdrop of hills and mountains in the distance. And trees? What trees? The ground had a bit of snow cover from the last storm, and for the most part, the roads were clear, but remnants of snow and ice came and went in patches as I drove past.
I barely saw any cars as I was driving through Wyoming and into South Dakota. I finally entered the “tree zone” area of the Black Hills, which is where Custer State Park is located. While I was in park, I didn’t see another single vehicle (or person) for the entire time that I was there. It was magical and eerie, all at the same time! I was told that my best chances of seeing bison was at this park, so I kept looking and looking!
At one point, I came round a curve and I saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. I pulled the car over and looked out to see hundreds of prairie dogs popping in and out of their holes. I opened the window and listened to their elaborate communication system–where each would squeak and chirp, disappear underground for a few seconds, then reappear to seemingly start the process again. They looked like the ‘whack-a-mole’ game that many of us have played when the carnival rolled into town for the weekend when we were kids—pop up, squeak, pop down, pop up, squeak! The only thing missing was the whack, whack, whack! I could have watched and listened to them all day!
They say timing is everything…about 45 minutes after arriving at Mount Rushmore a huge fog bank rolled in. Check out the difference in the pictures! As I was leaving, I stopped at the visitor center and I was told that the fog was expected to stay put for the rest of the day–I was SO lucky! I felt bad to see the visitors walking in and overhearing them ask, “Where is it?”
When I asked the rangers at Mount Rushmore about seeing bison in Custer State park, they agreed that was the best place to see them. I told them that I didn’t see any and the ranger guessed that the animals were probably huddling up to keep warm, and to protect themselves from the approaching snow. SNOW?
“It’s supposed to snow?” I asked, trying to hid the surprise in my voice. “The weather report said that we weren’t expecting snow.”
He smiled, and replied, “It’s going to snow….soon.”
It was snowing by the time I pulled out of the parking garage of the park….so much for no snow! I left Mount Rushmore at a few minutes before 3:00 p.m. and I was heading for Deadwood, which is located about an hour and twenty minutes north of the park.
To sum it up–the drive was beautiful, Mount Rushmore was amazing, but no bison sightings—‘two out of three ain’t bad!’ Now I have to worry about the snow…