We decided at New Years that we are going to make a goal to get out to new places with the kids and 2013 was the start. We started little by going to the state right next door.
The anticipation for this trip was high (especially for me) and we could not wait to go. You always hear about different places and I always wonder if it will be a disappointment when you get there. Well this trip was no disappointment at all. I was stunned by the beauty of the hills, mountains, and natural forests. It was breath taking!
Our trip started off a little rough... but what trip ever goes off as planned. Hubby forgot his glasses, we woke up his mom as we dropped off the house key (whoops!), hubby took a round about way going WAY out of the way just to cross over a new bridge and then getting us lost. Well... you get the picture. But as soon as we crossed the border and got to our first destination it was pretty much smooth sailing and stress free.
We made a pit stop at the Corn Palace. That was pretty neat to see. All the detailed pictures made out of corn. It was a nice rest stop for the kids.
(Cowboy hats the kids found at the Corn Palace gift shop.)
It rained the whole drive out there and when we finally made it to our first motel in Chamberlain, it was just over cast. But we made the most of it and still got out for a nice walk along the pier and took some great pics!
A good nights rest was what we looked forward to. We knew that we were going to be waking up early to get a head start further west.
Sunday morning was more driving in the car but with little stops we made it to the Badlands National Park by 10:00. It was nice that we gained that hour going into mountain time!
I was stunned by the Badlands. I knew it looked like a desert but I didn't realize how beautiful this park was. Seeing it in person was awesome! I could not stop taking pictures because I was just so amazed. The kids kept on thanking hubby and I for taking them on this trip. Little comments like that always makes these things even more perfect. I love how appreciative they were and how much they were able to enjoy their surroundings. Made the trip much more memorable!
We spent most of the day here hiking and climbing along the rock. I could have spent even more time but we all were eager to see more and get to Rapid City.
On our way to Rapid City we made a stop at Wall Drug. There were so many signs for this place and we heard it was a MUST STOP. Well the best thing there was the free water. I filled up my water bottle and was done with that place. I guess it is a good one time stop type of place.
We spent the whole week at the same hotel in Rapid City and it worked out pretty good. Lots of driving but there was lots to do right in the city.
Monday we took the day to head to Mount Rushmore. I was eager to see this monument in person and since I was stunned by the Badlands I was hoping this monument would be the same. And it was... very cool to actually see this in person.
We spent most of the morning/afternoon around the monument. After taking the walk around we went across the street and hiked a little in the Black Hills. Another stunning place to be... it was beautiful!
After finding some geocaches and getting in a good hike we decided to make our way to Crazy Horse. This was another neat place to see. Although, it would have been nice if they were a little further on the project. They are working on the horses head and said it will probably take another 100 years to finish. Crazy!
We still had time before dinner so on our way back to Rapid City we decided to fit in another adventure... going to Bear Country! The kids loved this! Bear Country you actually drive through wildlife. They had lots of animals like elk, deer, sheep, BEARS! The bears were my favorite part. After the drive through you were able to get out of your car and see other animals including baby bears. So cute! This attraction was well worth the stop!
Tuesday was our day to go to Custer State Park. Custer is a HUGE park so we spent all day here. It was another beautiful place and the kids were eager to see some wild buffalo. And that they did see! Along with deer, antelopes, and donkeys! We were able to get out of our car when we saw the donkeys and the kids fed them peanuts.
We did a lot of hiking out in Custer which included a hike on the Gulch Trail. All my photos are on another camera so I posted a link to another persons photos from the trail.
I was shocked that my 9 year old made it the whole way. This was a tough hike down the mountain going over boulders, some stairs, climbing over down trees on the trail, going over streams. Then you had to hike back up the mountain. It was a great hike though and we were very fortunate that it was over cast. If the sun was out we would have been pretty toasty.
On our way down Needle Point Highway we ran into something BIG! 4-5 buffalo walking down the highway in our lane. That was way cool! I was a bit nervous as they walked right next to our car but they just kept to their own business and moved on. The kids were excited to see them so close up. And I was happy that they did not ram our car!
The pool and hot tub was very appreciated after all that hiking.... and all the excitement from the day!
Wednesday we decided to drive out to Wyoming. The kids really wanted to say they have been to that state and we wanted to get out to see Devils Tower. I am very glad that we made the trip. It was another beautiful place with picture perfect spots. We hiked around the whole tower and climbed on the rocks. The kids had a blast!
I thought it was very interesting to hear the story about the bear and the indians. We also were able to see the original rope from the ladder that was on the tower. The indians believe that this tower is a sacred place so they have prayer cloths that people can leave. While we were hiking we found a few. If we had known about this sooner we could have brought something to leave for Matt's dad whom recently passed away.
Thursday was our last day/night in Rapid City so we decided to fit everything else in that we didn't get in earlier in the week. Our first stop was the Reptile Garden. I didn't like the snakes and were glad that most of them were behind glass. But the giant tortoises were very neat and of course the alligators were cool!
They had an exotic flower garden which I loved walking through. (Sorry... pics are on another camera.) And some neat country town for the kids to play in.
After going through the Reptile Garden we made out way to Keystone, SD to go to a gold mine and do some panning for gold. The kids were very excited about this attraction!
The mine tour was very neat but it was freezing in the mine. I am very glad I had a sweatshirt on.... After the tour we were able to do some panning and the kids actually found (very small... very very small) pieces of gold. They were having so much fun panning that they didn't want to leave.
After the mining/panning we spent the rest of the day looking at shops in Keystone and driving around the black hills for one last time.
Friday we were up super early to get a head start on the long ride home. It was bitter sweet to leave. I LOVED South Dakota and all the beauty but I was ready to get back home and to my own bed.
A few things we are taking away from this trip.....
1. Trips definitely bring a family closer together. Especially a big road trip like this. We are a very close family as it is but we had so much laughter and goofing around this past week. Memories that will last a life time!
2. Road trips are FUN! And the kids are finally old enough to do stuff like this. We had such a good experience that we are already planning the next one.
3. Teenagers.... well they are teenagers. Mine has been giving me a headache. But this trip I saw a glimpse of him that I haven't seen in a long time. Spending so much time with him really helped. He was actually hugging me and taking pictures with me. I loved having my little boy back and if it takes a trip... then I guess we are going to be taking a lot of trips!
But seriously... I can't explain it in words but Jacob was different on this trip and it made me feel so good!
(Jacob picking George's nose!)
So that is a little glimpse of our family vacation. Hopefully this blog was not too boring or had too many pics. Thank you for taking the time to read it!