The Tourists

The wife and I recently completed an 8 day road trip that included a visit to Custer, South Dakota.

I did something I don’t normally do and that is leave most of my camera gear behind. The idea being, we were going to be tourists and not treat our trip as a photography trip. I brought my Nikon D810 with a 24-120mm and a 100-400mm zoom. I still made some photographs, but there was nothing done to optimize the situation for photography. I just snapped photos of our tourist activity. A welcome departure from being photographer dude.

Here are a few tourist photos I made along that trip.

Night view of Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore Lit at Night

We actually made two visits to Mount Rushmore. The first was in the evening to attend the 8pm lighting ceremony. It’s quite the experience. There was a presentation by a National Parks Ranger spokeswoman, along with a brief film, capped off with the lights hitting the monument. Pretty cool too. It was like going to church without the religion, and more or less a history lesson on the monument. The second visit was the next day around 10am, so I could get a daylight photo of the monument in good sunlight. The monument was actually orientated to face the sun, which is rare as most things like this seem to have the sun behind them for some reason or another. Things seem seldom created to be lit by the sun. This photo was taken after the lighting ceremony as we were leaving and headed for our car.

The partially completed Crazy Horse Memorial
The Partially Completed Crazy Horse Memorial

We passed by The Crazy Horse Memorial several times during our stay in Custer. It is visible from the highway. We stopped at the monument one day on our way to Deadwood. It cost $30 to get into the memorial, which is not funded by taxpayers, so I didn’t mind donating to the cause. The memorial itself is incomplete as you can see. Progress is slow on finishing the carving, but it is still impressive. The physical size of the monument is much larger than Mount Rushmore. When it is complete, it will be an awesome scene. We parked in the parking lot next to the museum, where buses were lined up for shuttling tourists to the base of the monument. We didn’t take the bus, too crowded and too much pandemic activity in the area to cram ourselves into a sardine can with wheels. This photo was taken from the parking lot at the museum. Good enough for me.


Buffalo in Custer State Park, South Dakota
Buffalo in Custer State Park, South Dakota

One of the main attractions in the Black Hills of South Dakota is Custer State Park. We made a drive through the park prior to the upcoming Buffalo Roundup, figuring we would see more buffalo if we got there before they rounded them all up. The roundup itself didn’t really interest us. It would only be a sea of automobiles sitting on the roads, and none of us were up to enduring that for 4 hours.


Eroded Granite Pillars Known as The Needles in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Also situated in Custer State Park are the rock formations known as The Needles. Originally, the Mount Rushmore Monument was going to be constructed in the Needles, but it was found to be unsuitable for making the large carvings so it was moved to Mount Rushmore. Nonetheless, the Needles are a geological sight to see and our drive through the park included this interesting and beautiful area.


Saloon No. 10 in Deadwood, South Dakota
Saloon No. 10, famously known as the saloon where Wild Bill Hickok was murdered.

No tourist trip to South Dakota would be complete without a visit to the town of Deadwood. Famous since the days of the Black Hills gold rush, one of the most notable people associated with the town was Wild Bill Hickok. Hickok was murdered by Jack McCall on August 2nd, 1876 while playing cards at Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon No. 10 in Deadwood. So lets set the record straight. The above photo of Saloon No. 10 is not the actual location of Hickok’s murder. The town burned down in 1879 and the original saloon was destroyed in the fire. As a matter of fact, the current day Saloon No. 10 isn’t even located in the same spot. The original saloon was actually located up the street from where it now stands. Over the years since, the new location has changed ownership but has played the history to its own benefit by perpetuating the myth of Hickok. They even have a chair hanging over the entry door inside the saloon that claims to be the chair Hickok was sitting in when murdered. It’s not very likely to be the actual chair, as the town burned down and probably destroyed everything from the original saloon. But, showmanship and myths are a good way to attract tourists, so they’ve kinda recreated the concept along the same stretch of Deadwood’s Main Street as the original. The lore of Hickok himself remains a major tourist draw for the town, so the myth lives on. Today, it’s a tourist trap bar that hosts daily dramatic reenactments of the murder of Hickok and serves cheeseburgers, and is filled with slot machines to take your money. My wife Trudy was actually able to participate in the reenactment of Hickok’s murder, playing the role of the bartender. The beer was good and cold though and it was a fun way to spend an afternoon.


Moose Camp
Our cabin in Red Feather Lakes, CO.

We finished off our road trip by returning to Red Feather Lakes for several days of peace and quiet. This would be our last visit to the cabin this year, as we shut it down and winterized it. We’ll return next spring to open it up and begin a new season of enjoying the solitude of our remote mountain getaway in Northern Colorado.