Rattlesnakes and unicorns

The crew and I tumble out of the Best Little Trailer to a fresh, new morning. 

The cool air surprises me, especially when compared with yesterday.  I walk around savoring the breeze until I notice Larry hunkered down at the next campsite.   I get the feeling he’s been waiting for us to come out.

“Good morning, Sue!”  He calls out on his way over.  “I’ve got something to show you.”

I slip my shirt on over my camisole as he approaches.

He opens up the palm of his hand. 

“What d’ya think that is?”

“I don’t know,” I reply, studying what looks like a dead bug or something.  “What is it?”

“They’re rattles,” he announces proudly.


“I got him on the road down over there.”  He points to the road which winds up the hill to this campground.  “He was a little guy, but they can bite, too.”

Oh-kay.  Good morning to you, too, Larry.  Geesh, I need a cup of coffee.  Now.

Later I detect a bit of activity over by Larry’s fifth wheel.

Larry and another guy are hanging out talking to the park ranger who is sitting in his official, white pickup.  I go over to join in.  Immediately I can tell there’s nothing of any substance being discussed.  The Camp Host from Cold Brook Campground, not far from here, is apparently pals with Larry.

A lot of ribbing is going on.

As soon as I find an opening in the jokes, I ask the park ranger if he could do me a favor.  “I’m on my way to Box Elder to get a South Dakota driver’s license.  That’s where my legal residence is with America’s Mailbox . . . .”  I can see from the park ranger’s face that he’s aware of the situation of people claiming residence in South Dakota.

“I need to bring a paper proving I’ve spent at least one night in South Dakota.  Could you get me a paper like that?”

Let me stop right here in the telling of this tale.

I’d like to point out that the park ranger is a comely lad of about twenty or so. Comely isn’t the word.  This adorable creature in his tidy, tan uniform and precious little cap with Corps of Engineers embroidered on it is drop-dead gorgeous.  About forty years ago those big blue eyes and perfect, white smile would’ve melt me right down to my shoes.  Anyway . . .

“Oh sure.  I’ll make a copy of your camping permit and bring it back to you this afternoon,” he responds without hesitation.  Oh my.  There’s that smile again.

No one seems in a hurry to go anywhere.

I ask Camp Host of the Other Campground what it’s like over at his campground.  “You have a swimming beach over there, right?”

“Oh yeah, but you don’t want to move over there.  It’s really crowded right now.  Not with campers, with day people.”

Big Blue Eyes points out that there were over a hundred people at the beach yesterday.  “Two busloads came in.  You don’t want to go there.  People driving in and out all day.”

It isn’t long before the conversation turns to the topic of rattlesnakes. 

Oh boy, here we go.  After a minute or two, I broaden the topic to wildlife.  Larry says, “Did you know there’s elk around here?”

“No, I didn’t know that.  Well, I’ll never see one.  I’ve been looking for elk in six states and I haven’t seen one yet.  I’ve come to the conclusion that elk don’t really exist.  They’re mythical creatures, like unicorns or something.”  The guys chuckle.

I’ve got their attention which encourages me to expound on my theory. 

“I was camped near a guy in Arizona who’d come back from his morning walks with his dog and tell me how many elk he saw.  I’d go the next morning to the same place at the same time, no elk.  I’m always hearing somebody tell me about elk they’ve seen.  I never see any.  I have not seen one elk.   And those road signs.  What is that?  A joke?  ‘Frequent elk crossing’ . . . .  “Pffft, give me a break.  I haven’t seen any unicorns either.”

This amuses the trio.

Now Larry’s primed to tell his own elk story.  Seems he was fishing over at the lake one morning when he turned around and saw, this is no lie, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, ten, bull elk.   “No kidding. Ten of them.  They were just standing there, staring at me.”

“Oh, right,” I react sarcastically.  “And I suppose Bigfoot was sitting at your picnic table, too.”  This gets a laugh out of all three guys.   I’m on a roll.  “Why, just last night I saw ten leprechauns scampering around my trailer!”

By this time the crew is howling in the BLT. 

Spike and Bridget obviously don’t think anything is funny.  “I’d better go and let them out.”

I sit in the patch of shade under our campsite’s pine tree and ruminate on our choices.

Well, apparently we’re not getting that early start to see Mt. Rushmore.  Let’s see . . . I could haul the BLT up near Keystone and Hill City and boondock on National Forest land, and be closer to Rushmore. Higher elevation, too.  And step out our door in the morning to a bed a rattlesnakes under the BLT. 

Or I could go to a campground and pay $20-$30 a night plus “$2 per dog.”  At the very least, it’d be double that, because you’ve got the night before doing the tourist thing and then the night when done doing the tourist thing.  I’d be dropping fifty dollars, easy.  For what?  A drive-by of Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse and a tour of the area. 

Or we could stay here. $3.50 a night with the town of Hot Springs right up the road.  It’s really nice today, cool and breezy.  The campground is empty.  Not like the other one.  No hordes of people in bathing suits swarming out of cars and buses.  Plus, here, I’ve got Larry the Rattlesnake Hunter.  Hmmm . . . I think we’ll stay here a few days and make day trips.

I know one thing for sure.

I don’t want to do a thing today!  And when struggling with a decision, I rely on an old, time-tested strategy.  I take a nap.  As I’m coming back to Earth, I hear a low voice, “Sue . . . Sue.”

Well, that’s all it takes to turn Bridget and Spike into hopping, yapping, whirling dervishes.

I come out of the BLT and see Larry and Camp Host of the Other Campground . . . gee, is that guy still here?  Don’t you have a camp to host? . . . coming around.

“You just missed them!”  Larry tells me.  Camp Host of the Other Campground elaborates.  “A turkey hen and her babies were walking over there, right behind your campsite.  Your dogs scared them off.”

“Really?  Over there?”

Larry confirms it’s true.  “Yep.  A mother hen and eight babies.  Right over there.”

“And I missed it.”   Sure.  Santa and eight tiny reindeer walked right behind my campsite.


P.S.  Late in the afternoon the crew and I went for a drive and explored the town of Hot Springs.  We saw a prairie dog but no elk.

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About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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70 Responses to Rattlesnakes and unicorns

  1. EmilyO says:

    Ha, ha, ha, ho, ho, ho, hee, hee, hee. Had a good laugh – needed it after being cooped up inside because of the heat. Oh Sue . . .

  2. gingerda says:

    I got a laugh too, cute post. I love your descriptions of people. I hope you get to see some elk soon, and not the darn snakes. Neat old buildings in town.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hot Springs is a lively place. Several old buildings are being put to use . . .art galleries, coffee shops, a fabric art store, restaurants . . .

  3. Cynthia says:

    Um….you know what I was checking your slideshow for… :0)

  4. klbexplores says:

    I posted a post about rattlesnake hunters today too. Bless them and their enthusiasm #$*(% Loved the little town. Take a nap….. maybe you’ll see elk in your dreams!!

  5. Dewey Powers says:

    We were in that area a little over a month ago and really enjoyed Wind Cave NP and Custer State Park. There are lots of animals in those parks. There is a nice campground in Wind Cave.

  6. cinandjules says:

    WHAT no pictures of the Comely drop dead gorgeous man in uniform? Did he return your residency papers yet? Ya still have a chance………….tell him he is the spittin image of….. of……….of…..you’re quick thinking..think of someone..and you want to capture a picture.

    Remember this is the 4th of July weekend since it falls on Wed. People and campsites will be packed! So I would stay put…maybe you’ll see an elk or the turkey hen family.

    God you make me laugh………..I look forward to your blog every night.

    And how did you sleep last night?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I slept all night through, dead to the world. In fact I slept late. That’s why Larry was waiting for me.

      I don’t think my little Coolpix digital camera could handle that park ranger’s face. He came by this afternoon with the paper. He also gave me a map where he’d highlighted where I should drive to see elk. What a doll.

      • cinandjules says:

        Hmmm….your ability to take gorgeous pictures of the scenery is amazing. Not being able to capture a still of his face…………would be operator error! 🙂

        Wonderful…..happy elk “hunting”.

  7. Robert says:

    Well if you are really serious about seeing lots of wildlife, when you are finished in S. Dekota head west into Montana. Go to Lewistown and turn south into Yellowstone. I can practically guarantee you Elk, buffalo, big horn sheep, bears, wolves and antelope.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      If Yellowstone lets me down, I’ll know I’m jinxed! I’m headed that way after the Black Hills.

    • d. says:

      Yes, travel Yellowstone just after sunrise, that’s when I saw many elk and bison, and the light is fabulous…..just a too busy time of year.

  8. bear says:

    A pleasure to read as always. We have rattelers here only about 40km away from us, I don’t like camping in that area, always nervous about them, rather put up with the water snakes… be careful, hopefully you have an anti venum kit and benedryl just in case.. That is a wonderful little town, it looks so clean. You are blessed to be able to do this and see so many wonderful places.. As for elk we have them here – a piece of property we owned rural had a herd of them all different sizes, they are amazing creatures, at first you keep looking becuase they look so weird, but if you get to hear them bugel that is amazing sound.. I really hope you get to see them in 10 yrs going to the property for recreation I have only seen them twice… Take care and stay safe..

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You only saw elk twice in all those years? I hope it doesn’t take that long for me . . . I’ll be careful. I’m not taking the crew off the campground area which is kept mowed. There aren’t any woodpiles or debris around for snakes to hide in.

  9. Chris B says:

    Hi Sue! Just admit it. You stayed with hopes of more eye candy!

    Diego says hi to the crew! We are in the Sierras for a few nights. It’s beautiful!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Gee, Chris, that guy should dump the uniform and hat, get an agent, go to Hollywood, and make a fortune. He owes that much to womankind.

      Oh, the Sierras . . . someday! I know it’s a beautiful place. I’m glad you can enjoy it for a few nights. I bet Diego is having fun, too.

    • Chuck says:

      and the hound herd says woof to Diego!!!!!

  10. Bev Deem says:

    There’s a beautiful Hot Springs Swimming Pool in Hot Springs! Your story was a delight! I’m not a fan of rattlesnakes either… No one talked about Jackalopes??? They’re everywhere…

  11. cathieok says:

    Be sure to warn that ranger about cougars!!!! :))))))))))

  12. Dedra says:

    That’s a really cute town. What kind of tree was that? Was that fruit?
    I’ve never checked my emails as much as I do now. Don’t want to miss any of
    your blogs. There the greatest laugh I get each day. Thank you for blogging.

  13. EmilyO says:

    He must be a really sweet looking piece of eye-candy for Sue to be so perky tonight. Cathieok, I hope he has been forewarned about two-legged cougars. Her responses to everyone tonite are even more jocose than usual. Ahhhh, Sue’s blushing.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    Glad the host likes to hunt rattlers!! And your having dogs MIGHT be helpful too…surely the snake can smell where they have been, near your rig!! I HATE SNAKES!!

  15. Chuck says:

    Waiting for the picture of the cougar bait…………..bet Sue won’t post it though……..

  16. LMAO! Sue, you crack me up! I love reading your blog. Sorry you missed Santa and the 8 reindeer! 😉 Julie in Or, PS still waiting for you to come visit!

  17. Sue,

    I’ve been reading your blog since you were at SKPs park North Ranch this past winter. My wife Elena and I are also full-timers registered in SD and are on our way to Hot Springs, SD to renew our driver licenses. I’m not sure where Box Elder is but you should be able to renew your license on Friday in Hot Springs. You don’t have to renew your license in the same town as your address. The driver license office is open just one day a week in Hot Springs and that is each Friday. We are spending the night near Lusk, WY and plan to be in Hot Springs tomorrow night for our obligatory “one night stay” and then get our license on Friday.

    Check into it – is may be easier for you to just renew there in Hot Springs.


  18. DesertHawk says:

    Wow, 2 Buck a Pup at the Forest Campgrounds; I assume with the Senior pass this will be $1 a day. After some checking, Comanche Park Campground West of Custer on US 16 is the least expensive in that area. Rate: $15 per day plus $2 per pet, per night. Or $9.50 a day. More than $3.50 a day, but might save more than $6 in fuel cost in driving to & from the Mt Rushmore area to Hot Springs area.

    Drove through Comanche Park Campground on one visit in the area. Stayed at Bismarck Lake CG ($19 per day $2 for pets) $11.50 with Senior Pass. But it does have a very nice lake there for Spike to do his soaks.

    I would be extremely surprised if you didn’t see an Elk in your drives up there….Bison as well. Even a few donkeys, on the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. Maybe not walking through the campground, but along the roads. We’ve seen Big Horn Sheep as well as White Mountain Goats on one of the roads leading up to Mt Rushmore.

    Comanche PK CG link: http://www.forestcamping.com/dow/rockymtn/blkhcmp.htm#comanche_park
    Bismarck Lake CG: http://www.forestcamping.com/dow/rockymtn/blkhcmp.htm#bismark_lake

    More info on Disperse Camping in the Area:

    Never done any Disperse camping there, but did see an area which might work with some sites suited for dispersed camping. It was off US 16 east of Custer (the town), just before getting into Custer State Park, north side of the highway near the last commercial campground/RV park (maybe Wagon Wheels something?), take Heller Rd, which intersects CO Rd 345 (America Center Rd) follow it pass some houses/homes; there will be forest roads off this road. Might ask at the Ranger Station about disperse camping, 330 Mt. Rushmore Rd. Custer, SD (US 16/89/385 on the way to Mt Rushmore).

  19. DesertHawk says:

    Perhaps you will find a kindly neighbor who could doggy watch you buddies while you take a trip to see Mt Rushmore. But one can just drive by it & do a few stops & see it pretty good. But not the exhibits & the flags & the videos.

    Drive by Stockade Lake, neat lake much larger than Bismarck Lake, some pull over spots & picnic sites as I remember the road, place for fishermen to pull over & get to the lake.

    There is a use fee for Custer State Park to drive the drives, etc: $15 per vehicle
    Have to pay it if you do the Wildlife Loop, etc:

    My advise: You have spend a lot of money on fuel getting up there, take some time to see the sights. Maybe spend a little extra for camping now, then do some boondocking as you move on to the next area. A few overnights at Walmarts will help average out the expense. Might find a spot to disperse camp there as well.

    Perhaps, it would be less expensive to do the COE Campground & drive a lot.

  20. DesertHawk says:

    As I started to say, we drove through Comanche Park Campground, it is more densely forested with pines/furs & at a little higher elevation than Bismarck Lake. Very shaded campground as I remember, but there might be sites where the solar would work there.

    Bismarck Lake has a upper “ridge” loop & a lower level going down to the lake with sites. The ridge sites were taken, we camped on the lower sites. Some shade but should be able to find a sunny area.
    Our site: http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll120/DesertHawk46/2008%20Travels/P6080207.jpg

  21. Bob says:

    I have nothing to add, except…
    I’m not sure which has been more entertaining. The post itself or the comments. Glad I stopped by.
    Elks to you is what whales are to my wife. We lived for a year in Puerto Rico, we’ve been along the mouth of the St. Lawrence, been several times to the Bay of Fundy. All places where there are whales and “whale watching”. Supposedly.
    Never seen one.
    We’re pretty sure they do exist. We’ve seen pictures, moving pictures even.
    Hope to see at least a tail before we croak. Might have to go to an aquarium.

    Keep an eye out for those snakes, even the two legged kind.

  22. Mark Watson says:

    If you want to see elk, plan on being inside Rocky Mountain National Park in September or October. I’ve been to the park 5 times and 3 of the times I have seen a herd with 100 or more elk. It was quite a show. They were wandering through the campground. I would get ahead of them and turn the car engine off, and watch as they roamed by the car, then would move ahead and repeat watching them.
    i went down one dirt road and saw 2 coyotes sitting in a field a few yards from the car. i shut off the engine and watched them. I don’t know what came over me, but I lowered the car windows,and I just threw my head back and started howling. Next thing I knew, both of them were howling too. we howled for a minute or so. I bet they thought the big dog is here this evening.
    It was a good time had by all 3 of us.
    And one trip there was one moose by the road. I stopped about 50 yards from the moose in my car.. .I didn’t get out… the moose was as big as a semi trailer truck cab… really big.

  23. Sue says:

    Love your stories, no wonder you have a big following. You know I saw a young man that gorgeous once. He and two other young men were the owners, I guess, of a tree removal service we hired. They sent out a crew of gentlemen from another boarder to fell our tree instead of chunk it like they should have since we lived in a neighborhood instead of the wide open Forrest. And yes, they hit the neighbors house with the tree, idiots. Anyway this guy about 23 to 30 years old comes with two other not as great looking young guys. He had red hair but it was beautiful, a color red I’d never seen before, and blue eyes, also a blue I’d never seen before and the rest of him was so perfect he looked like the statue of David but with his clothes on. My SIL and I almost drooled at the window while watching him talk to my husband. I didn’t have my camera that day. Anyway I understand your pointing that out because I still tell people about that boy/man. Just like I did today. I have never see a human bean so attractive or perfect before or after.

  24. Sandy says:

    Really enjoy your blog…You must have been an journalist in your other life!….I live in Fl. so I really enjoy the photo’s you post……Absolutely beautiful!…..How long do you plan on traveling? Ever considered being a Campground Host? Keep up the great work and have a blessed day.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I plan on traveling as long as I’m able. By that I mean living in the BLT and having no real permanent address. I’ll slow down considerably during the winter.

      No, I have no desire to be a campground host. I’m enjoying not having to work!

  25. Lew Johns says:

    Sue, pretty much the further north you go in the Black Hills the higher and therefore cooler it gets. As well as Dispersed camping there are several Forest Service CGs. Sheridan Lake CG is close to our favorite walk, the Flume Trail. I don’t mean to blogwhore but there are PICs of the walk on our Blog @

    About the middle of the Post are the pics on the Flume Trail


    • rvsueandcrew says:

      We may camp in a National Forest campground north of here. For now it’s cool here. The campground is on a hill. We’re enjoying having the place to ourselves. The crew can run all over the campground like they own the place and Larry and Virginia don’t mind. In fact, Bridget and Spike are frequently over there schmoozing with them.

  26. karen says:

    Thanks for the entertaining post. The pictures were beautiful as always but, like the other ladies, you left me wanting to see “Blue Eyes”. Maybe you can get a picture of him with a herd of elk. Ha, ha!

  27. Marcia says:

    Two things I have to say: cute town and wear boots! Oops, one more: watch out for young handsome rangers 🙂

  28. earthdancerimages says:

    Just wanted to mention, now that I am down in the “civilized world” I can read your blog on my Kindle!

    However, disappointed that the comments do not come through nor do any of the pictures if you use the slide show feature on your blog! If you post the images rather than slide show them, they show up well on the Kindle. Anyone else experiencing these problems??? Geri

  29. Patty says:

    I hope you see more elk than rattlesnakes. We had a rattlesnake in our site in Sarasota, FL. It was then that I decided I didn’t know if this was the life for me. LOL I was really nervous heading into Texas after that, but so far no rattlers. I have seen other snakes. Eeek!

  30. Chinle says:

    They’ve cose the Kolob section of Zion becasue of fire. That’s just over the hill from where you were camping. Just FYI. Have fun, I’ve always liked Hot Springs.

  31. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy rvsue & crew,
    Sue, if you want to, look up Pat & Mike McCall’s blog, as they LIVE CLOSE to the area you want to camp in AND THEY ARE RVrs, BLOGGERS AND WONDERFUL PEOPLE!! They have hookups
    and love to have VISITORS.. Contact them, please, they’ll be there until November..
    butterbean carpenter

  32. Ron says:

    Dang Sue you crack me up and remind me of way back in younger days. Yep thats when I still thought women were all shy and bashful and just looked at guys muscles. Yall are worse than us .about rubbernecking ,lol yep look at those blue eyes and you left out the part about checking out his butt as he walked off.
    Boy did I have a lot to learn back then.

  33. Sherry says:

    Well I’m clearly late to the party but I’m afraid Sue that you really are going to have to go back and get a picture of “the nice young man who was so helpful”. Maybe from both sides. LOL
    Can’t wait to see it!!

    Oh and I can GAR-UN-TEE elk, elk and more elk in the town square in Yellowstone. 5 miles from the north entrance, Camp in Mammoth Campground at Mammoth Hotsprings ($14 a night $7 for old folks – no hook ups) and walk the trail at the rear of the campground up to the town square. They will be there. The formations are fabulous and so is the hot springs just down the road toward Gardiner. Oh this is making me wish I was going there..

    Check out the pics of the campground, open all year and first come first serve NO RESERVATIONS (or that was true when I was there)

  34. patricia Leonhardt says:

    rv sue so much fun to read your blog. I am just a dreamer about full time rving so I am living through your posts! I camped last year near Hill City. Loved it up there. I wanted to go up to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Close to you, have you considered it? Jandeaunt

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