The night before we left, Sunday, we were up until about Midnight packing the car, prepping the food for the trip, and making sure everything was ready. We only got a few hours of sleep before waking up at 2:30 in the morning to get the kids up and ready to go. The goal was to be on the road by 3 so that the kids could sleep the first half of the trip and we wouldn't need to stop as much. We ended up pulling out of the driveway at 3:15 so we weren't very far behind. I drove the first part of the trip, it was quite peaceful as no one was really on the road and the kids were asleep. They stayed asleep until 6:30 and we stopped an hour later for a bathroom break and to switch drivers. I had made the kids breakfast trailmix (various cereal and dried fruit) so we didn't need to stop and eat. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. Hills and lakes, greenery, trees... It was so beautiful. There were tons of Beaver homes in the lakes we passed, which I found to be amazing.
Chris driving on the way there
We got into South Dakota pretty early, and most of the towns were extremely small. Less than 1000 people small. We stopped at this gas station and everyone kept looking at us and whispering. I think it's because they had no idea who we were!
On the way there we passed through The Badlands. Oh my goodness. They were gorgeous! We paid to go the scenic route and it took us over an hour to drive through the 13.1 mile stretch but it was absolutely worth it.
I took over 200 pictures of the Badlands, and I would have taken more but I feared we'd run out of room on our camera. It was just absolutely beautiful.
We also saw mountain goats on our way through the Black Hills. We were able to get pretty close to them as well. We also numerous deer on our trip. They are all over!
By the time we go to our campsite (Horse Thief Campgrounds) it had begun to rain a little so I sat in the car with the kids while Chris set up our tent.
As he went to go pull our tent taut he ended up ripping the part off that is supposed to be pinned down. We placed our luggage in that corner to weight it down.
It was very very cold, so I tried to keep Charlie on our side of the tent since the door was on the other side and letting in more cold air. He didn't like that so much.
The kids and I blew up the air mattresses while Chris unloaded the car, set up the pavilion tent, and finished staking this one down.
Charlie liked to play with the pump. It was so cold, about 37 degrees, so I was trying to get the bed set up so I could lay down with him and let him sleep.
I had three comforters, sweats, and a cap on trying to keep warm. Originally Chris was in our bed the first night, but it was so cold. David wouldn't remain in his sleeping bag and we were afraid he was going to literally freeze, so we pulled him in our bed, but even then he wouldn't stay under the blankets. Chris ended up going to the kids bed to keep an eye on all of them, and sharing a sleeping bag with David to keep him warm. Charlie didn't sleep well that first night. He hates blankets and he kept trying to get out of them and I had to keep pulling him back so he wouldn't freeze.
The next morning the plan was to wake up and make pancakes and bacon on our campfire cookstove, but the wind was so awful and it was still very cold so we decided to head into town to a local diner and order breakfast. After Breakfast we hit the Wind Cave National Park. Here is the original opening to the Cave.
On that day the wind was blowing inward. The day previous it had been blowing outward. Depending on the barometric pressure determined which way the wind blows. The story goes that two Cowboy brothers came upon this hole and when one stuck his head inside his hat blew off. He came back the next day with some townsfolk and when he tried to show them what his hat did, it blew in instead of out. Neither of the brothers ever explored the cave, but that year a young man named Alvin McDonald began exploring it.
Anastasia wasn't fond of the caves, at all. She dragged me, literally, down over 400 stairs and across the cave as fast as she could. We only managed a few pictures. I tried to get a picture of the box work in the cave, this cave holds 95% of the entire worlds boxwork, but it wasn't easy to snap a picture of it.
This is a marking of when they mapped the cave back in the 20's
After we got out of the caves we were planning on taking a long nature hike but my legs were quite tired and the two younger boys were in desperate need of a nap, so we decided to hit up Crazy Horse instead and let them sleep on the way there.
His face was completed in 2001. They have worked on his fingers a bit, and the white chalkish drawing the horses head mapped out.
This is what he looked like back in 1993, when I saw him as a young child.
This is what its supposed to look like complete
The cultural center was amazing. There was so much history in there. Crazy Horse was by far one of our favorite things to see and the kids loved it too. Anastasia bought herself a necklace and a bracelet from the Lakota. (We gave each child $50 spending money)
After Crazy Horse we went back to camp and then out to eat dinner. This is what our camp looked like.
The pavilion tent was supposed to be so we could have a bug free place to lounge. However, it was left open and became a bug attraction and something out of a horror movie. When Chris first put it up he did it inside out. Made for quite a few laughs.
This is the the area near our campsite. There were three porta-potties near camp, and then a little further away was a bath house. There were places for RV's, and log cabins scattered throughout camp. There were mini playgrounds and a larger one, plus a heated outdoor pool. The view every morning was absolutely gorgeous.
The next morning we took an 1880's train to the town of Keystone. We shopped there for a few hours, and had lunch at an amazing restaurant. The train is the only one left of it's model still running, and every car attached came from the 1880's. It was about an hour long ride and the kids were so excited. Especially David!
Here is the train and one of the cars
Here is the Engine getting filled with water
The kids waiting to go and me wearing the baby. There were open and closed cars, so we got a closed car there and an open one on the way home.
The car was beautifully maintained.
From the window we saw many neat things. This is a telegraph pole that is still standing!
The staff were all dressed in the cutest little train outfits, and the kids absolutely loved it.
And this poor biker kept getting cut off from the train. I felt awful for him! We sat in the caboose and waved at him every time.
In Keystone we ate lunch at this amazing restaurant called "The Ruby House". It had tons of historical photos and the staff were dressed like floozys and the like. I loved it.
After lunch we went to some candy shops and got handmade taffy, and fudge and then we checked out an Old Tyme Photo place and had our family pictures done! Perhaps this is why I haven't gotten pregnant yet. We have a system of family photos, and if I had a pregnant one this year it would throw it off. Hopefully this means we'll get knocked up!
This is not the one we bought, but I love Anthony in this picture.
We got a CD with all the photo shoots, a copyright release, and the two pictures we chose came in old wooden frames.
Chris and I did a couples shot too... that one was a lot of fun! Supposedly, I'm only worth $2.
These were pictures from the train ride back.
caught off guard, nursing the baby
It was quite chilly and I was trying to keep Charlie warm.
The next morning we made pancakes and bacon on the outside cooker. It was really warm that day, about 82 degrees! It was the only really warm day the whole week.
I didn't realize how awful my arm looked until this picture. This is the position it's permanently in. It doesn't close, or open much more than this.
After that we went to Story Book Island. The first morning here a sweet lady in the diner we were eating in told us about this place. She thought we'd love it. We did! I got tons and tons of pictures of this place, but it was absolutely massive. I think it's 7 acres of just every single story ever come to life, I loved it as an adult and the kids were in awe. And it was completely free! We just bought ice cream!
You can tell how warm it was by Anthony's flushed (not sunburn) face.
Charlie began running a fever the day before we left. It lasted two days. This is the day David started running one. His lasted two days too.
We would have spent longer there but the kids were HOT so we loaded them up for naps and drove back to Keystone to pick up our pictures and then back to Rapid City to meet Elaine and her family (who were also in town on vacation) for dinner. We went by the Walmart there and then went to the restaurant that they chose. However, there were two in town by the same name and we went to the wrong one (on Elaines orders!) and the right one was right by Walmart!
The next day was our last full day there so we went on a nature scenic drive, and then to Mount Rushmore!
The scenic drive is called Needles Point, which is obvious why when there are rocks like this everywhere!
Fun fact - the guy who commissioned for Mount Rushmore to be built actually wanted the Needles to be sculpted into Western Hero's like Calamity Jane. The sculptor decided against that and chose Mount Rushmore instead and Presidents for the subject.
We met some donkeys, or mules (I can't tell them apart) on the drive. They were very fun. They kept coming up to me and backing off, but they followed me back to the car and poked their heads in at Chris and myself!
And this was a Buffalo reserve, and we saw hoards of Buffalo! We think they must be shedding their winter coat.
We were so close to them that we could have reached outside the car and touched them, but there were numerous signs saying that was a bad idea.
View from the Hall of Flags
On our Presidential Trail Hike. I always feel bad for Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt.
My little (and Big) South Carolinians! Minus Charlie who was on me at the time.
What it was supposed to look like
Family in front of the mountain
After Mount Rushmore we went back to the campsite to pack up everything non-essential and went to "The Alpine Inn" for dinner. Amazing food! For dinner there is only one meal for adults - steak, baked potato, wedge salad, and garlic bread. It was so good!
On the way home we were going to stop at Wall Drug and Laura Ingalls house in De Smet, but sadly decided against Laura Ingalls as we would have gotten there an hour before close and had to pay $30 and all the "attractions" close an hour before close so they would have been closed. I was very upset, but have been promised a weekend trip there! We did go to Wall Drug and were not very impressed at all, but we ran into Elaine and family coming home from their trip!
This dinosaur sent Anastasia into a full blown panic attack and she flipped out and ran away. The rest of the time there if we mentioned the dinosaur she began screaming and crying. He was a bit scary :)
We got home about midnight on Saturday night. It was an amazing trip, even if it was super cold. Loads more has happened since we've gotten home, but thats another post!
If you want to see ALL the pictures from the trip they are here!