I'm happy to say that not everything in the Black Hills have changed in the last 30 years. One of the highlights of that trip three decades ago was driving down the Needles highway and so I made sure that was the way we took back to our hotel after leaving Crazy Horse Memorial. It is classic rugged country and a beautiful drive.
Along the route are at least six tunnels carved into rock that you must pass through that limits the size of vehicle that you can take on the highway. I was a full size conversion van with the extra little headroom thing on the top sneak through this tunnel with just a few inches to spare on the three sides not in contact with the road. He had to inch through this tunnel just to avoid the van from swaying enough to hit the rocks. I also saw full sized pickups that had to fold in their mirrors to get through this point.
This is the needle that give the highway its name.
All throughout the area are vertical rock formations sticking up here and there just inviting you to jump out and climb on them which we did every now and then.
As I drove (not while I was taking this picture of course), I had to go slow so I could take in the sights which were all around, including the rear view mirrors.
This is my second trip to this area and as I was staring off at scenes like the ones above and below, I realized that I didn't know much about the area. I know it was at the bottom of a gigantic inland sea at one point and that many of our country's prized fossils come from the area but I didn't know much contemporary history. I also have two 4th great grandfathers who lived for a couple decades each and are buried in the state. So I decided to buy a coupe books on the area. One is a history of some of the more notorious people who have lived in the area and another is a fairly well known book about the Great Westward Expansion told from the Indian perspective facing east.
Below is my parting shot if you may that shows Mt. Rushmore off in the distance. The most popular entrance for the Needles highway is right near the Mt. Rushmore memorial. In order to minimize the traffic going in my direction, I opted to go to the Crazy Horse Memorial and get on the other end of the highway heading into the traffic instead of with it. The rewards were great because we very rarely saw a car in front or behind us heading the same direction allowing us to drive a leisurely pace and not feel as if we were ruining someone else's vacation. We also had time to stop in the middle of the road and take pictures like the one below.