After attempting to sleep in, Jeremy and I woke up around 7:30am. We went down to the hotel restaurant, Enigma, for breakfast. We both decided to enjoy the buffet which featured pancakes, sausage links, scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, oatmeal, fruit, and orange juice. We both had the pancakes, sausage and eggs, but Jeremy also had oatmeal and coffee.
After breakfast, we walked down to Essence of Coffee where we both ordered their special of the day, Autumn's Kiss. We both ordered it as a latté. It was vanilla with cinnamon and was delicious. Coffees in hand, we went to the car and drove out to Bear Country, U.S.A..
Bear Country, U.S.A.
Bear Country U.S.A. is a drive-thru wild animal exhibit that features way more than just bears! Of course, you have to keep your windows up, so the quality of these images are a bit lower than what I'm used to since I had to photograph through the car windows.
The first animals we saw were elk bucks. Since it's their mating season, we did not see any does - they were in a separate area. There were quite a few bucks, all with full or mostly full antlers without velvet.
The next animal we saw was the reindeer, or caribou. Several of them were napping, and we were happily surprised to see that they can curl up, kind of like a dog, to nap.
The third area featured an arctic wolf, but he/she was taking a snooze. The sleepy wolf was very cute though! We later saw the arctic wolf up and active, and I got to take a photo then.
Next up were the big-horned sheep. Maybe they should have separated out the males and females here too, because the boys were being quite naughty. The rams were chasing the ewes all over, getting very close to the car at times. There was one lamb that stayed close to mama and out of the way of the rambunctious behavior going on.
The next area had timberwolves, though one was black instead of the usual gray and white. A good portion of them were napping, though we soon discovered some were roaming with the bears in the next area.
The bears definitely had the biggest area, which isn't surprising considering the name of the place is Bear Country U.S.A.. There were so many bears! Some were snoozing, some were lumbering, and one was itching its bum on a stump.
A few mountain lions were also present, but they were a bit difficult to see as they were in blocked off enclosures. They could not be near cars, even if they wanted to be.
There was a single pronghorn towards the end of the driving portion who was in the same area as a group of bison. The pronghorn was busy grazing while the bison were lazing about chewing on grass.
After the driving portion, there was a smaller walk through area. Animals were in enclosures.
The first animal we saw in the walk area was a javelina, which looks like a small pig, but is actually not at all related to the pig. Nature is so interesting.
Second, we saw an American badger. The badger would hide in its den, and then quickly scoot forward, grab snacks, and retreat back into its den.
There were two wolves over in this area, and both were napping. There was also a sleeping lynx that was a bit hard to see.
Two bobcats were roaming around in the next pen, until one laid down to sleep. Honestly, I could have used a nap too!
Several baby black bears were in a large enclosure together. There had to have been more than five. We learned that this place allows cubs to stay with their moms until they are at least two months old. They then separate cub and mom for the safety of the cub. I guess male bears are not great parents and often kill their young. About 40% of cubs won't make it to adulthood in the wild - isn't that crazy?
Next up were a couple of coyotes, who were both feeling a bit antsy at the time.
Tree red foxes were in the next enclosure. Two were sleeping and one was energetically running around. Apparently that one didn't get the nap memo!
Two arctic foxes occupied the next enclosure. One was trying to sleep, but the other one really wanted to play and kept disturbing the other one's sleep. It was pretty cute to witness.
Last, but definitely not least, was a river otter. The otter was very mobile and stayed underwater for long periods at a time, so I didn't get to take a photo. That's okay though, I got to witness it in person and the otter was beautiful.
We had a full day of adventures planned, so we got back to the car and made our way to our next stop.
Before entering the National Monument lot, we were able to see Mount Rushmore from an overlook on the highway.
We entered the memorial and parked the car in the Lincoln lot. On our way up to the viewing deck, we saw a friendly little chipmunk.
There was an "Avenue of Flags" along hte walkway to the viewpoint that displayed the flag of each state and territory of the United States of America.
It's surprising to me that the carvings are unfinished. I always just assumed this is how they were intended to be. The project ran out of funding years ago, and it was determined that the rocks are no longer stable enough to endure further carvings. Despite the fact that it is no longer safe to carve into these rocks (that shouldn't have been carved into in the first place, but I digress), a majority of Americans would still like to see a fourth face up there - Franklin D. Roosevelt.
I do think Jeremy would make a great addition though! What do you think?
We bought a few things from the gift shop, checked out the museum, and then left the memorial.
A short distance down the road we pulled over to see the profile of George Washington.
Crazy Horse Memorial
We continued driving and arrived at Crazy Horse Memorial. The carving started in 1948, with an original timeline of 30 years to completion. However, as of 2022, the face, beginning of the outstretched arm, and thinning of rock for the horse head is all that has been completed.
We walked through all the exhibits, bought a few items in the gift shop, and had lunch at Laughing Water, the restaurant at the memorial. Jeremy had a club sandwich with sweet potato fries, and I had a chicken sandwich with fries.
Black Hills National Forest
We left Crazy Horse and made our way towards Keystone. There was a forest fire in the Black Hills, and we could see the smoke and smell it from the road. We were far enough away that we weren't in any danger.
There were several mule deer on the side of the road at one point in the drive through the Black Hills. We stopped to admire them, from a safe distance of course.
We came upon a lake and stopped for a bit there to admire the view. Horse Thief Lake is absolutely beautiful with Black Hills National Forest surrounding it on all sides.
We made it to Keystone. Almost all of the shops were closed for the season, but we did buy a few things from the places that were open.
We returned to Rapid City. We decided to get coffee at Alternative Fuel. Jeremy got an iced macchiato, and I got a vanilla latte. We also grabbed ice cream at the parlor next door, Silver Lining Creamery. Jeremy got a scoop of pumpkin pie and a coop of huckleberry in a chocolate dipped waffle cone. I got a scoop of Nutella swirl and Chocolate in a dish.
Returning to our hotel room, we relaxed for a bit before heading down to Enigma for dinner. Jeremy had scallops and I had walleye. Our dinners were delicious.
We returned to our room and relaxed for the remainder of the evening before going to sleep.