Friday, August 31, 2012

Needling it in Custer State Park

Needles Road will keep photogs. snapping. Photo by Debi Lander.
Pronghorns greeted us shortly after we entered Custer State Park in South Dakota's beautiful Black Hills. They do look black, from a distance except for where the mountain pine beetle has left behind huge swaths of brown, dead ponderosa pines that darken the gray and brown rocks.

The Game Lodge. Photo by Debi Lander.
The park is a delight. Our rooms at Creekside Lodge were huge and wonderfully equipped with decks overlooking a creek that we wished we'd had time to enjoy. The best meals we've had were next door at The Game Lodge which has hosted a bunch of presidents and, on its lawns, herds of bison almost daily.

We had been told not to miss the Needles Road so we took it en route to Crazy Horse Monument, the world's largest sculpture.

Needles laced mountain ridges.... Photo by Debi Lander.

Needles Road
Spectacular is too tame a word. With every turn - and there are more than an endless corkscrew - rock formations model for photo buffs.

...stand in clumps... Photo by Debi Lander.
 We hit every turnout, scenic overlook, wide shoulder and still wished for more. Repairs keep a large part of it a one-lane drag but we just lowered the windows and snapped away.
...or by themselves. Photo by Debi Lander.
It couldn't be named anything else either, for needles of rock, like overgrown hoodoos of Bryce in Utah crop up along mountain ridges.
Phallic? You bet. Photo by Debi Lander.

So beautiful, so itchy if touched. Photo by Debi Lander.
The aspen and poison ivy (or oak, we weren't sure which) have begun to turn yellow and gold, so striking against the dark green of the pine needles.

These guys ALWAYS have the right-of-way. Photo by Debi Lander.
Deer graze along the roadside and in the meadows, bison herds go where they want, leaving ample buffalo chips behind in case like Hansel and Gretel they need guides to find their way back. They don't.

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