Up, breakfast and then started driving South towards Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park. It was a little rainy for the drive through Custer. Apparently, since it’s on a main highway, there’s a “loophole” where you don’t have to pay the state park fee of $20/car if you’re just driving through, which we were planning on doing to get to Wind Cave. The rain had stopped by the time we arrived at Wind Cave.
We went to the visitor center and confirmed what had been discovered on the drive in – that the elevators were out of service. Elevators out of service meant no entering the cave, which was the primary thing to do in the park. Beyond that, the recommendations were wildlife car tours, short hikes and ranger talks. One of the ranger talks was happening while we were around near the natural entrance of the cave, so we went out to catch the latter portion of it. The natural entrance to the cave was much smaller than might be anticipated from other caves like Mammoth – it was maybe the size of a basketball or just a bit larger. The other known natural entrance up north is only the size of a grapefruit (or softball, if you prefer sports).
We found a short hike to do, but it was stopped shorter by a bison sipping water from a mud puddle on the path. We stood around for a short bit hoping he’d decide to move on, but he was not so inclined, so we drove back through Custer and out toward the Badlands – arriving in Badlands around 4pm.
We came into the park from a different direction than the last time, entering from Wall instead of Interior. The only real item of interest on the drive in was a herd of big horn sheep. We did the window and door trails in the early evening, spending some time at the door trail to wander around a bit off the designated trail, which is really the more interesting part of the hike.
The campground was full, so any plans of camping were thwarted. We stopped back to the general store in the evening for WiFi, ended up calling and booking the Sunshine Inn in Wall SD for the night just north of the Badlands. Once we got a room and made some sandwiches, we wandered down to and through Wall Drug to see what all the fuss was about since, there are like 800 billboards saying we should. I would describe it is a little bit of everything touristy in a dozen separate shops all connected under one roof.