Our August 2006 Trip to the Black Hills

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The first week in August, 2006, our family took a trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota. Along the way, we stopped at the Badlands. Our first day (Saturday) we drove from Minneapolis to Kadoka, SD along route 90. We found out that Kadoka is very small (668 people) but has a bunch of motels since it is right on the edge of the Badlands. We found one of the better motels in town that had a pool, and the girls went swimming before we slept.

Kadoka is at the point of the red thing on the left.

Deanna is trying to warm up at the pool's edge.

We were e the only ones swimming at this point. The sun was hot and the water cool. The air temp had reached 110 F on our way out, so swimming felt really good.

There's our white Eurovan near our room. The motel was pretty full (many bikers were on their way to Sturgis)

We ate dinner very late, at one of the 2 restaurants in town. Mmm. Comfort food.

These girls don't want to go to sleep, do they! Note: they didn't stay together in the same bed for long.

Now it is Monday, and we drove into the Badlands. Never having been there, it was a shocking site for all of us.

The wind was absolutely incredible the day we were there. Walking was difficult and we had to shout to be herd.

Deanna liked getting back into the van after being out in the wind. It wasn't too warm outside, but inside it was quiet at least.

We could have spent several days at the Badlands it was so interesting. Greta found out that there isn't really anything 'bad' about the 'lands', so we didn't have to be scared of climbing around.

Once we descended into one of the ravines, the wind was gone and it was very still. Climbing the formations was very challenging because much of it is so loose.

Greta and Daddy climbed up and down these hills for quite a while. Emily said that it seems as if you could kick them and they'd all blow away in the wind.

Up on top - it is a very alien feeling being surrounded by these formations.

They seem to go on for miles and miles in every direction.

Even in this direction!

It is easy to get lost looking out over the landscape.

So we drove through the Badlands park, and stopped up at a rest stop for lunch. We were originally going to eat under those little wooden shelters (there were picnic tables there) but the wind was so strong that we ended up eating in the van.

We had a good lunch after Deanna decided not to be silly. Greta loves her V8s!

Now we've done some more driving, and the climbing urge has struck Greta once more. So we stop the car and see how far we can get without falling and dieing.

From half way up the hill, the van is getting small. Emily and Deanna stayed behind with one of our radios, and Greta and Daddy kept sending back periodic updates with the other.

Now we're even higher up.

She wants to go all the way up to the top of the hill (mountain?) to the left, but we decide to head back to the van since it is beginning to rain in earnest.

On our way out of the park we see some buffalo.

From high atop another hill climb, we see a stark landscape.

Next we head through Rapid City SD and down into the Black Hills proper. Not knowing the area very well, we look up some of the campsites, and choose one on Sheridan Lake. (Very fitting as our first house was on Sheridan Ave. How could we go wrong with that?) Click the picture above to see it in Google Maps. Our campsite was right around where "Sheridan Lake" is on the image above, I think.

Greta is 'helping' set up the campsite. Unfortunately we didn't do enough research. The campsite didn't have flush toilets, and the ones that were there were _very_ primitive. To add to the frustration, there was a serious bee and fly problem, and the day we arrived was the first day of a _total_ fire ban in all of the Black Hills. No campfire, and meals were difficult. We did have a nice family of wild turkeys wake us up in the morning, however.

On Tuesday, we drove to Jewel Cave and went on a 1hour 20minute guided tour of the cave. It was very neat. Deanna fell asleep on Brian's shoulder and he hefted her up and down most of the 700 odd stairs (both down AND up) asleep. Greta really enjoyed the tour of the cave, although we all agreed we don't have 'cave exploring' at the top of our personal goals.

Before Deanna fell asleep, she was enjoying the neat metal walkways that much of the tour took us on.

The many different types of rock formations were interesting to learn about, but we wished that they were given easier to remember names.

Of course, Deanna woke up (grumpy) as soon as Brian deposited her into her car seat.

Back to Rapid City, and to a very nice hotel with a water park for Tuesday night. Deanna fits right in with the fishes.


And while Greta liked the water park, her favorite was the 'real' pool where she did backstroke laps just like her mommy does. She's quite the swimmer.

After a very restful evening, we packed up and headed off for Mount Rushmore. How could you go to SD and not see these four guys! The sun was a bit warm, but there was a nice wind that kept us from getting too hot. We ate a picnic lunch right at Mount Rushmore.

We learned a lot about how the mountain was carved. What a lot of work.

White Puppy (Deanna's favorite animal) really wanted to be part of the sculpture, but he didn't seem to totally fit in for some reason.

Here are the girls on the 'president's path' below the big heads.

For our lodging on Wednesday night, we discovered 'cabins'. Custer State Park in South Dakota (which is huge _and_ beautiful) has a very large lodge, with many cabins just a short distance away. You can rent them just like you would a hotel room, except that you get your own little building! And they're not very expensive either. There was a picnic table outside for our meals. The bees weren't even all that bad.

Our cabin is way off in the distance. This path goes up to the lodge.

Inside the cabin is very cozy. Both girls try to get some reading in before lights out.

Very early in the morning, Greta discovers a nearby dam.

Breakfast is served in front of cabin number 4. Our only regret on the whole trip was that we didn't stay in one place for more than one night. On our next trip, we're going to get a cabin and stay there for several nights - it was so much fun to be there even just one night.

Thursday morning we take a drive in Custer State Park along the Wildlife trail. There are many signs stating that buffalo are dangerous and that you shouldn't approach them. We saw many of them right from our car window. The scenery is beautiful, the weather was perfect, and there were many kinds of animals visible right from the road.

This little one was very hungry and kept smashing it's face into the bottom of it's mom. Maybe the milk wasn't coming out fast enough?

This big guy was sitting all by himself for some reason. They all seemed so hot in the sun - why don't they rest in the shade of nearby trees?

After a picnic lunch, we find out that Custer State Park has another treasure in store for us. There is a lake that has a beach, and a place to rent paddle boats. Since we needed a swim, this was the perfect place for us. If you click on the picture above, you can pull the map up in Google Maps. The beach is on the upper right part of the lake in the image above. Greta and Brian paddled in their boat all around the whole lake.

Emily, Deanna and Greta (just a head) enjoying the a non-chlorinated swim.

Deanna the lake-monster. (She stands up in the shallow part near shore and falls down onto her arms, over and over again, giggling the whole time.)

Brian and Greta beach their craft for a consultation with Emily.

Deanna watches the ducks that have flown in to eat some bread another traveler gave her.

Happy girls means a happy vacation!

Thursday afternoon we drive around through some more of the Black Hills and come across a highway called Needles Highway that took us to the Crazy Horse site. This was one of the most beautiful drives we've ever been on. Slow going, but amazing.

Of course, were there are rocks, there are little girls that need to climb them with their daddies.

There she goes again.

This is a tunnel the 'highway' travels through.

We're standing among some of the 'needles' I think.

Now at Crazy Horse for the evening light show, Greta shows us her smile.

It was not warm, so Deanna took on the shape of a burrito.

See? Almost good enough to eat. Oh, and it rained for awhile before the show started. (Those are raindrops on Brian's shoulders.)

During the music leading up to the light show, Greta decided an 'interpretive dance' was called for.

On the way back to the Lodge, two tired girls 'sleep' on the floor of the van.

Yah, they're 'sleeping' all right.

Friday, we leave the Black Hills and head through Rapid City on route 90 back towards Minneapolis. On the way, one can't help but stop at Mitchell and visit the Corn Palace. Cuz, well, it's corn.

We wanted to get a hotel in Mitchell, but they were _totally_ full. (of bikers) So we drove on to Souix Falls. Unfortunately, almost all of their rooms were full too. Emily got us the last room at a very nice hotel, but we had the hardest time finding it because the city is very large and spread out and there was some crazy construction. We had a wonderful night's rest, and listened to the pouring rain in the morning. The girls swam in the pool, and then we decided we needed to find the 'Corn Maze' before going home. So here we are eating lunch in the parking lot of the Corn Maze.

And here we are in the corn. Note: it is very deceiving from the map they give you how long it will take to travel through the maze. It was also very lucky that there was a nice breeze on Saturday or we would have felt even hotter in the corn. The rain had made the ground muddy, and Emily got quite the workout pushing Deanna's stroller through the maze.

Greta found the answers to all of the questions in the maze and we got a treat at the end. Then, home again after a week of vacation. What a great time. South Dakota was a lot of fun and surprised us with how interesting the landscape and and wildlife could be.