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