We'd been hearing that snow was expected during our stay, but we were in shock to wake up to the scene caused by Winter Storm Selene. Our plan for the day was to see Mt. Rushmore, then the Badlands and then drive back to Denver to spend the night before our flight home.
But all news reports were imploring people to stay away from Denver completely. All roads in and out were shut down, the airport closed, etc.
Instead we booked another night at the taxidermy-filled Holiday Inn and hunkered down in the lovely lobby until the snow let up. We passed a lot of time at the free continental breakfast buffet.
I brought my tiffin down to the hotel's kitchen to avoid using their styrofoam plates and wrapped up a couple of slices of toast in a handkerchief.
Once it stopped snowing we bundled up and headed out to see Mt. Rushmore. I haven't had to scrape ice off my windshield or dig a car out of snow since I was in college in Utah 25 years ago. I don't miss that one little bit.
It turned out to be really lucky that we'd driven to the mountain yesterday evening, because we got to see two completely different views of Mt Rushmore. Our view yesterday vs today:
The mountain itself was definitely more than I'd expected. I could have stared at it for hours if it weren't so dang cold. I loved the museum and the interactive exhibits they had there too.
Because of our inexperience with snow and the unknown road conditions we scrapped our plans to drive to the Badlands. Instead we picked up a few snacks at a gas station and drove down to Custer City to see the Crazy Horse Monument.
Then we drove on to Custer State Park to drive the Wildlife Loop, about a 2 hour drive. Considering the weather, we were pretty happy to have an excuse to stay inside the car.
The Wildlife Loop was super scenic, full of deer and prairie dogs and ponderosa pine.Oh, and a few herds of buffalo, and, yeah, no fences between them and our car.
In the morning, we left our wonderfully adorable kitschy hotel at the crack of dawn and drove to Denver, hoping for the best road conditions.
The roads back to Denver were mostly clear, but it was still a white knuckle 6 hour drive, with us calculating and recalculating our drive time, counting the minutes before our flight. Lots of podcasts were heard on this very long drive.
Final meal in Denver was McDonald's at the airport terminal. Just what I needed.
Mt. Rushmore was totally worth the effort and expense (and time) to visit. If that was all we'd seen, I would have been satisfied. We managed to sneak in a few other POI's and it turned out to be a great trip. Even the Puff had come around and enjoyed herself in the end.