Friday, May 29, 2015

The Great South Dakota Vacation

We just spent four days in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  I was skeptical about Kai's ability to tolerate the long trip in the car since he is usually content for about an hour in his car seat.  True to form, he would sleep for about an hour and then spend the next hour or so alternating between being happy, shrieking, screaming, or crying.  The big kids did swimmingly.  All of the kids were impressed by the mountains and Conleigh has declared she is moving there when she is older because it is just so beautiful.

We tried to break it up by going to my mom's.  We also tried to have something to stop at every few hours.  From my mom's, we were hoping to stop at Smith Fall's in Valentine but it was too rainy for that.  Next stop was Wall Drug.  Cheesy?  Yes.  Touristy?  Yes.  But free and that matters a lot.  (Well, free if you don't count that we had to buy snacks while we were there as well as a few trinkets since Zeke found shark teeth fossils in one of the stores.)
Wall Drug photo props

Wall Drug's jackalope
We stayed at the High Country Guest Ranch in Hill City, in a real log cabin.  The two oldest kids said that was the best part of the trip.  We just finished reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods so they thought it was great that we were staying in a cabin like Laura's.  Our cabin even had an upstairs loft like Laura's.  The upstairs had two bedrooms so the kids slept upstairs while the grown ups slept downstairs.  It also had a kitchen, a front and back porch, a grill, and a fire pit.  The kids wound down most nights by playing football or soccer in the yard on the front.  Behind the cabin was a stream bed that was normally dry but since the Black Hills have received so much rain, the stream bed was full and over its banks.  The horses from the ranch also had access to the pasture behind the cabin so between the water and the horses, the kids loved being outside.

Crazy kids

Great view

Another perk of the ranch was that it adjoins the Mickelson Trail.  The Mickelson Trail is perfect for families with young kids.  It's flat and paved with hard packed gravel.  It's easy to follow but still right in the thick of the views.  The kids got to see the slabs of rock up close and watch for animals.  We saw four chipmunks, one dead field mouse, two rabbits, and four worms.  (Zeke was counting worms.)  We also saw a lot of deer tracks.
A hiking we will go

On Tuesday, we headed to Mount Rushmore which was what Zeke liked most about the trip.  He was eagerly awaiting this part so much so that on the way to South Dakota, every time he would see a billboard with the faces, he would yell, "There's Mount Rushmore!"  The other big kids would then sit straight up, look out the window, and strain their eyes to see.  Let's just say there were lots of false alarms.  We ended up having to do our Tuesday a bit backwards and do Mount Rushmore last despite the storms that were threatening in the afternoon.  Zeke's shoes were too small and wouldn't stay on his feet for long walks so we had to drive to Custer to find shoes at Shopko.  So Hill City to Custer to Custer State Park, where the buffalo were a bit scarce.  Then Iron Mountain Road which would have given me a headache if I had been driving given it's curves, switchbacks, one lane tunnels, and one lane bridges.  Finally we hit Mount Rushmore and as soon as we got there, it started to rain so we didn't do too much walking there.

Quintessential Mount Rushmore picture
D thought we need to pose in the parking garage on our way home since we were drenched, just for comparison's sake. 

Wednesday was also supposed to be a wet day so we opted to try to do an indoor activity.   We headed for Rapid City and Reptile Gardens.  Kai was quite excited to see the giant turtles and the koi in their pond.

Kenson was the only one who wanted to touch the baby alligator.  He waited at the end of a line of like thirty people and then touched it for approximately one second before hurrying off.

After lunch, we went to Story Book Island which is a free park in Rapid City.  As its name suggests, the theme is children's books.  All of the equipment and decor features characters from children's books.  We saw Captain Hook's boat, Pooh Corner's treehouse, The Cat and the Hat, Noah's Ark, The Billy Goats Gruff and their bridge, and Jack and the Beanstalk to name a few things.
I love that they have this sign at the entrance.  I think I need to print it off and put it on my fridge.

Raggedy Andy and Annie

Cinderella's carrage-Cinderella is actually behind Kenson.  Just moments before, he had his arm around her.  Then when he saw I was going to take his picture, he quickly moved away and started karate chopping the shoe on Prince Charming's pillow.

Engine, Engine # 9

We headed back home on Thursday, via the Badlands.  We thought we could spend maybe an hour there hiking but we did the driving loop instead and got out occasionally at the viewpoints.  I had not been there before and really thought it is kind of an underrated attraction.

So there we go...that's it...the end!


Miss Alissa said...

Fun, fun, fun!

Kathy C. said...

We were at Ellsworth AFB from Aug 1992-Dec 1995. That's where we lived when we adopted Adam. We used to put the kids in a bike cart and bike seat and take the trail that goes by Story book Island, the fish hatchery and a bunch of other places. Would drive to Flintstone Place about an hour away, Bear Country and Rushmore. WOuld like to take the kids back some day. We left right before Adam turned one. Jasmine planned for three years to go there this summer but changed her mind and we are headed to NYC instead.