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Custer State Park, South Dakota

As I leave Douglas, I wonder what my landscape channel will show me today. My first two hours are of a golden flat land and blue skies. Not bad at all.

Slowly as I get closer to the Black Hills Forest in South Dakota, the landscape starts to change with trees entering my view, and the golden hills change to green.

Just as I enter the park, I'm stopping on the side of the road to call and make a reservation for a campground. It turned out that the only way to get a campground site is to call and make a reservation on the phone. The weather suddenly changed without warning. The wind picked up, and a dark cloud opened its faucet with the temperature dropping 20°, which I don't mind. Luckily, as I arrived at the visitor's center, the rain stopped, but the grey clouds still hung around.

I need to get my bearings. Custer State Park has a great movie that gives me a super idea of what this park offers. By the time I get myself oriented, it's already late in the afternoon and I don't have much time, but I know I should go and drive the Wildlife Loop Road.

I only heard about Custer State Park when Erin mentioned it. I opened the Google Maps app, found the visitor center, saved it to my folder, and that was it. I didn't Google anything else about the park, and you know what? I am so happy I didn't. The wonderful surprise I received when I got here and could see with my own eyes the incredible, beautiful landscape is a gift to my soul.

My view is of a land that spread forever. A blend of green, goldish straw, and reddish grass covering the folding hills with occasional trees. I stopped on the side of the road to take it all in with no interruption. The wind creates movement in the grass, giving me the feeling of pure freedom.

It feels like the most perfect place to ride a horse, so I booked an hour-long horse ride for Wednesday. I am excited! It will be super fun!

The Wildlife Loop Road is precisely what it means. Ten minutes into my drive, I stopped to enjoy the white-tailed deer. Later on, far in the distance, I see a herd of bison. I continue my drive and get to a spot where the burros come to say hello. They are not shy and they're adorable.

The wind is still blowing pretty hard outside, and by five the rain starts again. All I can do is drive to my campground, Game Lodge Campground, and find my site. It was supposed to be a nice sunny day.

I stayed sitting in my car; I do have reception, so I opened Facebook. I am still quite shaken by my post; it honestly took so much for me to put it out there. I knew I would get some reactions, but I was unprepared for the magnitude. I am truly humbled and honored by all the support, but it saddens me to read how many women can identify with my story.

Some things need to be changed! Emotions need to be a subject our children learn at school. We must work harder to prevent trauma and give the tools to heal from one. Brene Brown and many others have already mastered this field and provide priceless knowledge and information. History is a great subject, as long as we take it to learn what not to repeat and how to move forward, but unfortunately, we use history to point fingers and then wonder why we are emotionally stuck.

I do hope you all understand that I couldn't reply to each one of you. I hope you read the "Thank you from the bottom of my heart" post, which shows my gratitude.

The rain doesn't let go, and the radar shows a clearing later, around eight. I am hungry, so dinner tonight is a banana and chips. The rain finally stopped by eight, so I cooked dinner in the dark.

Ouch, another freezing morning! Having my heating blanket on makes it harder to get out into the cold. And still, I love it!

The sun works extra hard to come out from the clouds. I am back on the Wildlife Loop Road. I enjoyed yesterday so much, that I want to experience it again. It is also still early in the morning, so I know I have a good chance to view more wildlife. As I drive far, in the distance, I see a herd of bison. As I get closer, there is a dirt road that will get me closer to them. I decided to give it a try, even though I am the only one on the road, and I am not that thrilled about that fact. Luckily, a few minutes later, other vehicles joined me.

Amazing! They are just a few steps from me! I park my car and stand behind it. I am happy to see everyone else keeping quiet and letting the bison be. I love the sounds of the bison walking through the grass. I am so close that I hear them ripping the grass and enjoying breakfast. Wow, there are so many of them, and more are coming down the hill. It's so beautiful and wild. I love it when a calf runs down the slope, you can feel his call, "Hi, Mom, wait for me."

The wind is still strong and steady, and the almost clear skies change quickly to a heavy haze and the smell of smoke. Oh, my Canada, please stop burning.

There are many opportunities to stop and view wildlife. I walk through the field among the prairie dogs at one of my stops. Far in the distance, a herd of deer with big antlers are resting. It is a calm and peaceful morning on the prairie.

My next stop is Sylvan Lake. Oh wow, this is something! I don't even know how to describe it. The rocks look like they are coming out of the water. It's crazy beautiful!

Sylvan Lake is the beginning of traveling on the Needles Highway. The rugged granite mountains are stunning. They are thin and tall, which gives them the name needles. I am stopping at the trailhead of Cathedral Spires Trail to experience the "needles" beauty as I hike.

By three, I decided to find my campsite for tonight at Center Lake and relax with nature. I know camping days are ending soon (until I go back on the road again). Center Lake Campground is a rustic campground, and I love it here. My original spot is on an angle, so I called (there is no reception in this park, but there is a phone to call for reservations) to change it. I am camping on the lower loop. I asked to move to site number 30, which I found to be perfect! A small stream passed next to my picnic table, which means falling asleep to the music of nature.

I love being disconnected; not having service is always an opportunity to think quietly.

As the evening started to stroll in, a bison came from nowhere to the grass across from my site. A cyclist stops to watch the bison with me, and yes, you guessed right, a conversation is developing between me and Jake. Jake is from Pittsburgh and is on a few week's trip with his minivan. He is impressed with my car setup and admits he would love to travel full-time, but fears are holding him back. Jake realized all the excuses he came up with have no foundation. It is so sweet when he says, "That's it, you inspired me, I'm going to do it". Well, Jake, I hope you do!

Good morning, beautiful sunshine! The quiet morning is a true blessing. The only sounds in my ears are the singing birds and the flowing stream.

I am excited that later today I am going horseback riding! First a shower, as I have no idea when my next shower will be, since I will be boondocking for the next two days while visiting Badlands National Park.

Riding a horse is one of the things I wanted to make sure I would do on this journey. I am happy I was able to grant myself this wish. It was so much fun, and no, they did not give me a pony! 😊

Well, Custer State Park is an incredible place. I saw more wildlife here than I saw in all the national parks combined. I have a feeling I will be back.



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