Black bears are the largest group of animals in the park.One Thursday we made a trip once more to Rapid City to do a little shopping and to say goodbye to the The bighorn sheep are lead by two large rams.Walmart store there. We also had the oil changed in the car to ready for our travels that begin once more next week. While we were in the area we also dropped by a wildlife park that is called Bear Country to see what it was like.

While animals in captivity are not as interesting as in the wild, the park does a pretty darned good job of creating natural settings and good habitats for the animals and you can see them much closer up than would be the case in the wild. While they have a wide range of animals, all from this part of the country, it becomes very apparent the reason for the name as bears make up by far the largest population of the park.

There is also a section where baby animals are the main feature. All animals are hand fed in order to have them be unaffected by human visitors and so that we could see them better. I would rate this as one of the best of this type facility that I have ever visited and is worth the time and cost to visit.

The arctic fox pups are born in diffeerent colors but turn white as juvenials. This arctic fox pup is still mostly black, but just starting to turn white.

This was my favorite tee shirt from the Prairie Berry Winery!It has been a bit busier here as last Monday our college intern left to return to school, leaving a part-time employee and the two of us to keep things going. With summer on the wane the grass has slowed its growth rate so mowing is not as big a job and the campground is less busy, so we are helping with the maintenance side of things. I have been finishing up the tree trimming that needs done along the lake shore and also helping some with The Prairie Berry Winery is a beautiful building!mowing and irrigation of trees.

We do still have our days off and so are getting in the last of the attractions that are in the "hills" which we haven't yet seen. On Monday we went off to Hill City to do some wine tasting. The Black Hills is one of the areas with a pretty new, but very successful wine business and we wanted to see what they had to offer that we had not previously tried. We visited the Prairie Berry Winery first The Naked Winery was also an interesting place with good wines.and found that they have some really great products that are interesting, but by far my favorite was the best-selling of all their wines. It is made completely from rhubarb with a bit of sugar added and it is great!  We also visited the Stone Faces Winery and the Naked Winery which are all just to the north of Hill City and on US385.

While we were there we also took time to have on last lunch at the Alpine Inn, which must be the best place to eat in all of the Black Hills!

The sunsets here are spectacular nearly every day!  

One of the great things about spending the summer at this park has been the sunsets and sunrise too, if you get up early enough to see them! With sunrise at about 5 am, I have tried to avoid seeing too many of them but sunsets are a virtual light show. We do not get any TV and very little radio unless you have satellite TV, which we do not. Since I prefer the evening light show anyway, that really hasn’t been a big deal for me, somewhat so for Pam. We do have good Wifi and so can get news updates from the cell phone or laptop and that is good enough for me. Sometimes it is nice to not know what is happening on the news anyway!A violent storm is approaching rapidly!

One of the negative aspects of this area is the sudden and explosive weather changes that sometimes take place. We were advised when we arrived that we should never leave camp or go to bed leaving our awning down and that has been very sound advice. Thus far we have not had much hail but areas near us have and we have had brief but nasty wind and rain storms. At times it can come from a beautiful day and arrive with winds gusting to 50 mph or more and driving rains. We have had several storms that dropped an inch or more of rain in less than one hour and once we had 1 ¼ inches in under 30 minutes. We seem to be located on the edge of a weather pattern area where the worst storms touch us along the edges but the worst seems to pass us by.

A double rainbow appears to signal the end of an afternoon thunderstorm.Just as quickly as the storms arrive they move on the weather clears. Aftermath from the thunderstorms tends to be very showy, as our skies seem to be constantly. Rainbows are common. One thing I have never heard any local mention when discussing weather is boredom.

We are located about a mile to the west of the main park complex and across the lake. It is sometimes surprising how much difference there can be in the weather experienced on the opposite sides of the park. Shep’s Canyon area is somewhat sheltered from the main body of the lake by a high ridge and I suspect that this helps to protect us from some of the wind effects. We are thankful for that because our little, light weight trailer moves about more in wind gusts than did the motorhome we once lived and traveled in. I have discovered that keeping our water tank completely full and adding more leveling jacks has helped with that. Our trailer came with only the tongue jack and one on each rear corner. I added four of the screw type jacks, one on each front corner and one near each spring shackle attachment. The lifting of some weight from the suspension has made significant difference.

On Thursday of this past week we made a trip up to Custer Park to get together with a host couple there and all of us then drove into Hill City to have lunch at the best restaurant in the Black Hills, the Alpine House. Should you ever visit and spend time in the area this is a place not to be missed with wonderful German food, steaks, and spectacular deserts. We have learned that we get one desert and share it, or eat desert first!

After lunch we made a visit to the museum of the Black Hills Institute.  They have an amazing collection of fossils from the dinosaur period. It seems that the Black Hills has been the source of some of the most unique finds anywhere. It is very easy to spend a couple of hours looking around even though the space isn’t large but there is a great deal packed into it.

With the start of the big motorcycle rally in Sturgis nearing, both Custer and Hill City, as well as most other towns in the central to northern black hills are now crawling with motorcycles. While most are pretty good folks, it is very common for the tourists in automobiles to feel uncomfortable with some of the riding done by the more aggressive ones in the groups. The area is mostly made up of scenic but crooked roads and most have pretty restrictive speed limits. It isn’t unusual for the riders to become unhappy with being held up by the drivers of cars and some of them go to lengths to display that displeasure and even harass drivers, particularly if a little slow.  If you are not comfortable with them very close to you, riding close behind and passing in bad places, the end of July and early August is not a good time to visit the hills.

Earlier I posted a few pictures from our first visit to the Needles Highway and our experiences there but we now have some new pictures that are truly unique. I believe that I mentioned that tour busses do occasionally squeeze through the tunnels but I now have some pictures of one in the process of this. You need to keep in mind that the tunnel in this picture is only 8 feet, 4 inches wide at the tightest point and about 9 feet at its widest point. This bus did scrape both mirrors at the tightest point and it seems to be what the driver used to tell that he was in the center of the tunnel.

Even though this wasn't one of the largest of luxury busses, it must take nerves of steel to make the transit, and especially so the first time or two. The entry and exit are the easy part as near the center of the trip it squeeses down for a distance of perhaps 30 to 50 feet.

I do believe that if you have any experience driving large vehicles, they are hiring drivers! If you are looking for some seasonal work in the black hills for the summer this just might be what you are looking for.

This sign tells the history of Sheridan, the gold town that the lake covers today.On Thursday we chose to spend the day touring to our north because our area was predicted to have the hottest day of the year, at 100 degrees! Since the altitude in the far north end of the Black Hills is around 5000 feet and more we thought that might be nicer and that proved to be the case. Tuesday had been our previously hottest day at the mid 90's and the evening followed with a wicked thunderstorm which lasted less than an hour but had very high winds, small hail, and more than 1.2 inches of rain. We thought that we would likely be back before the evening storms so headed out on a beautiful, sunny day. This is a beautiful mountain lake of medium size and crystal clear waters.

Our first stop was at Sheridan Lake. This medium sized lake now covers the gold rush townsite of Sheridan and is named for it. It is located to the north of Hill City and along US385. The roads are winding and hilly but easily traversed and the lake has public fishing, boating, and a campground as well as a public marina. It is a very pretty lake with many fishermen.

Pactola Dam was constructed in the 50's for water supply to Rapid City.From there we continued north on US385 and soon approached Pactola Dam & Reservoir. This lake was constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation in the 50's in response to a shortage of water in Rapid City and surrounding area. Today it is also the home to a large federal park and also to a South Dakota state park and is very popular with both boaters and fishermen. There are several This vew of the lacke shows the deep blue of the clear water and mirror relections of the trees.really striking views but of particular interest is the island near the day which protrudes sharply out of the waters to a very rocky top. On top of the highest point there is a flagpole with a US flag proudly flying. I asked in the visitor center about it since there is no real place for a boat to land and was told that the owners of the marina got permission to place and maintain that flagpole at his own expense because he just felt that there needed to be one. It even has a solar powered light for nights. It is a very remarkable site to behold. There is a nice visitor center at the east end of the dam structure with a nice size parking lot and also RV parking. They have a scenic overlook and a picnic ground as well.

The flag flying at the top of a rocky island outcrop is a wonder site to behold.From here we traveled into Lead which is a mountain mining town that is interesting but small and then to Deadwood where casinos and gambling have invigorated the local economy. We then traveled up to Sturgis, where surprisingly to us; there were very few motorcycles yet, like most of the area has, but lots of activity setting up vendor booths and such for the big biker rally to come in August. It seemed as though the bikers are all gathering outside of Sturgis to suddenly descend when the big day arrives! We then followed a series of canyons back south and returned to Hot Springs, via Custer City.

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