Raising our children in Metro Denver, we took many road trips to scenic destinations throughout the West. Most of these treks were over spring break or during long autumn weekends, designed to avoid summer crowds. While Yellowstone, the Canyonlands and Carlsbad Caverns were among the most spectacular, a trip to South Dakota was one of the more memorable excursions.
Over the course of two days, we experienced the natural and historic wonders of the Black Hills, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Jewel Cave National Monument and the Crazy Horse Memorial, then in progress. En route, we also crossed parts of Wyoming and Nebraska that were new us but, unfortunately, did not have time to visit Devil's Tower. Accompanied by deep blue western skies and pleasant, autumn weather, it remains one of our more talked about road trips.
One particular event during that weekend left a significant impression on me and, I assume, on other members of our family. While crossing Custer State Park, we encountered a large herd of bison which, oblivious to our presence, soon enveloped our van as they moved across the grassland. Spooky and spectacular, it gave us a small taste of what Native Americans and early white explorers must have witnessed when these powerful animals dominated the Plains. At the very least, it was a humbling experience.