Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Custer Panoramas

After a brief stop in Denver for some clean/dry/cool air breathing and a couple delicious beers (including one of their own brews!) with Erin, Matt, and the adorable Ella (hi guys!), we (me, Tim and our intrepid road trip buddy, Molly) took a scenic drive through Wyoming en route to the next stop on our whirlwind 'round the world adventure:

That next stop was Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota... and it was awesome.  Within a few minutes of driving into the park we pulled over for something marked on the map as "Prairie Dog Town."  After looking at a bunch of grass for 30 seconds, we started to see why the area earned that name... a zillion prairie dogs prairie dogging, if you will.  Pretty cool!  My first prairie dog experience:

We took the scenic route (the "Wildlife Loop") to the State Game Lodge area, and, again, the loop was aptly named... after seeing a two dark spots in the distance, judging them to be buffalo, squealing, pulling the car over and taking photos, we turned another corner on the Wildlife Loop to see this herd of hairy beasts:

We got out of the car to check them out until this guy made a move in our direction, at which point we got right back in the car.  They are not small:

More lovely scenery, yada yada yada:

Once we reached our cabin, we piled a couple more into the car (namely Eileen and Colleen, who nicely rounded out our Irish-named ladies quartet) and headed to Mt. Rushmore for the patriotic Fourth of July festivities (which, alas, did not include fireworks this year due to federal budget issues and/or threat of forest fire).  However, they did have this fun photo opp, which softened the blow a bit:

Mt. Rushmore, of course, was lovely in all of its controversial glory:

The next morning we got up bright and early (although it wasn't particularly bright out, see below), drove on the scenic and twisty Needles Highway (see said granite Needles below) on our way to the trailhead for reaching South Dakota's highest point, Harney Peak.

The hike was lovely, as was Molly in her purple shirt and water bottle, which looked like they were strategically worn to blend in with the local wildflowers:

Tim did some awkward stretching and Colleen did some enthusiastic waving:

Harney Peak, which the sign informed us is the highest peak between the Rockies and the Pyrenees, was pretty awesome, with 360 degree views:

And some sweet yoga moves:

The morning of the Jenneth wedding, while the bridal party prepped and primped in our cabin, Molly, Tim and I headed out on another hike, this time on the Prairie Trail, which is through the green grasslands within the Wildlife Loop, giving us another chance to see some buffalo:

We also caught this burro doing some braying:

The hike was really relaxing and quite pretty- lots of wildflowers, including the blooming cactus below, which I was not expecting:

We also got up-close-and-personal with this fellow, a pronghorn antelope (apparently the fastest land animal in the western hemisphere?! and second only to the cheetah in speed worldwide?!)... pretty cool!  He posed majestically for us for a few minutes before bounding off to meet up with his lady friend over the hill:

Here's me dorkily posing with him in the background:

On the way back from the hike, more buffalo, this time crossing a traffic jam as the herd crossed the road:

Aaaand, finally, the main event:  Jenneth got married!   

This pretty much sums it up:  super happy wedding couple, crazy fun reception:
(PS: I love that Picasa/Google+ auto GIFs my photos!!)

And a little wedding photobombing by Jenny and Kenny's niece (aka Eileen's BFF for the weekend):

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