Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sep 18 – Needles Highway

I hope people don’t mind these long posts. We saw a lot today and it is hard not to use a lot of pictures. 

We did one of the many scenic drives in the area today.

On the way we passed by the Crazy Horse Monument. A man decided to carve a mountain into a huge statue of the Indian leader Crazy Horse. He died but his family is continuing the work. We didn’t actually go into the site but just took a picture from the highway. We were told you didn’t see much more inside.


This is what it is supposed to end up like. I have my doubts it will ever be finished.

crazy horse

The face is currently 87 feet tall. The entire sculpture will be 560 feet tall.

The Needles Highway is an amazing road that takes you around and through spires/needles of volcanic rock. The guide book said you should allow at least an hour to drive it. We spent 3 1/2 hours because we stopped, climbed and hiked everywhere.

There are three very small, one way tunnels on the “highway”. This one by far the best.


It is only 8 feet wide and 12 feet tall and about 100 feet long. A lot of the bigger pickup trucks had to fold in their mirrors to get through.

There is a small parking lot just before the entrance where we stopped for a long time to climb around and explore the spires.


This is the most famous one called the “Eye of the Needle” for obvious reasons.



I climbed up and poked my head out to watch the cars go through.


Eventually I climbed up to where you see the tree above, to get this view.


We had lunch at this spot below.


We eventually dragged ourselves away and continued down the road.


We stopped and parked here to do a trail called Cathedral Spires.


This is our destination, from the start of the trail.


The spires are volcanic and made of feldspar, quartz and mica. The mica comes apart in very thin, very shiny flakes. It was everywhere and everything sparkled. It made the path seem like it was covered in glitter.


We got close to the spires but then the trail got very steep and rocky and we decided to not risk hurting ourselves and turned back.


By now it was about 2:30 so we decided to take the long way home and drive the Wildlife Loop Road through Custer State Park. We did see some bison off in the distance and these pronghorn up close.


We also saw one of the burros that wander the roads of the park begging for treats. If you open your window it will come over and stick its head in, thinking you are going to offer it something. These are the only animals you are allowed to feed.


The park is mostly a huge grass prairie. More “Big Sky” country.


We then drove up to the Mount Coolidge Firetower Lookout.

A telephoto shot back towards Crazy Horse (face on).


The Needles.


and Mount Rushmore far off in the distance. You could see part of one face.


Here is the full picture, before the crop, done with my 300 mm telephoto.


Finally, the view to the east towards the Badlands.


On the way home it seemed that there were rays of clouds surrounding the sun.


We were tired so we decided to eat out. I had read in other blogs about this place.



The meal was so-so but the strawberry-rhubarb pie and ice cream was some of the best I have had (except for my mom’s pumpkin pie).

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