Friday, June 24, 2016

Memorial Day Camping 2016: Badlands and the Black Hills

Even though Memorial Day was less than a month ago, posting these pictures feels strange, as if they were taken during another lifetime.  (Packing up your entire house and shipping both your hubby and your belongings cross-country will do that to you.)

Perhaps this surreal sentiment is fitting for the stark terrain of the Badlands, which has been likened to a Moonscape. 

During the drive there, I confess there were a few noisy moments when I wished I could escape this planet.  We crammed seven of us, plus a heck of a lot of camping gear, into my mom's Honda Odyssey.  NomiAnn herself was wise enough to stay put and celebrate the holiday in Washington with Adam, Callie, and Eila.  We certainly missed her, but we weren't exactly sure where we would have stuck one more person in the already stuffed vehicle.

Despite getting away from Omaha around noon, we still arrived in time to set up camp in the daylight.

What's for dinner?

Chicken pot pie.  Delicious!  Nicely done with the dutch oven, Jason.

Dusk falls over the park campground.

The next morning was chilly enough to merit winter hats and gloves.

Given the blistering heat wave of late, that chill also feels like a lifetime ago.

Nothing some hot chocolate can't fix--right, Papa Kay?

A few hours later, and we were digging out sun hats to protect us from the heat as we hiked the nearby "Doors" trail.  Here are Brooklyn and Annika, setting off together.

So fun to be back hiking desert rocks.

Eli enjoyed the hike so much that he asked if we could come back and do it again the next day.

Our big bad troop in the Badlands.

Sure hate to brag, but I think we have some pretty great kids.  They have been amazing during all the chaos of this move.

Eli's very favorite moment from our trip may have been right here.

So what are the kids all looking at?

Prairie dogs!  So adorable.  While everybody loved them, Eli was particularly enamored.

As for myself, I was smitten by the rainbow of colors concealed in these hills.

Hmm, looks like the kids have spotted some more wildlife.

Bighorn sheep!  And lots of them, too.

I think they look best silhouetted at the top of the mountain.

Here's Annika, pre-yawn, as she wakes up to discover what all the commotion is about.

She woke up just in time to experience Wall Drug--a drugstore/cafe/mini-theme park that is nearly impossible to describe, but worth the visit just to say you've been there.

Look, Brianna...

Yay!  Donuts!  And homemade, too.

Jason totally stalked the guy in the mustache until he was able to get a picture.

Where else besides Wall Drug can you mount a giant jack rabbit...

Ride a 50 cent covered wagon...

...or watch a giant T-Rex smoke and snap every 15 minutes?  (Papa Kay enjoyed orchestrating the whole experience.)

Good thing we ran across some bison on the drive home to calm things down.  Such powerful but peaceful animals.

You'd think we would have been all tuckered out once we got back to our campsite, but Jason, the big girls and I set out on another short hike to the "Notch."

After daring a crazy rope ladder, we made it.  I don't know what's more beautiful--the hills or the sky.

Jason and his girls.

Proof that Mom was there too.

One more photo of my handsome hubby, just because I miss him.

On Sunday, we left the campground super early to catch a church service 70 miles away in Rapid City.  After sacrament meeting, we changed clothes and headed to Mt. Rushmore.  The funniest thing is that on our way in, we bumped into friends from Omaha.  Like us, they are moving out of state and also decided to visit Mt. Rushmore before leaving since it will never be closer.

Here's our happy crew in front of the presidential heads.

A close-up of our gang, but poor Washington got cropped off.

It truly is a majestic sight, and inspiring to reflect on the bravery and vision of many great leaders who have gone before us.

I particularly enjoyed walking the Presidential Trail, which allows you to get much closer to the monument and see the sculpture from a variety of different angles. 

After Mount Rushmore, we found this amazing little Breezy Point picnic spot for lunch.  Since our 13th anniversary got a little masked by the move, Jason and I thought it appropriate to indulge in a couple shot.

Our next stop was Crazy Horse.  Jason had been there as a child, and found it really interesting to see how much it has changed, even if there is still so much work left to do.

The scale of the monument is tremendous, with nearly all of Mount Rushmore's sculpture fitting within Crazy Horse's head.

Annika, however, was all worn out from looking.

Before leaving, we had to get a picture of the ancient Buda air compressor that would often go kaput, kaput, kaput just as sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski would reach the top of the long flights of stairs to begin work.

You know, in some ways Ziolkowsi's work feels a bit crazy--how do you even begin to go about carving an entire mountain?  Still, there's something romantic about devoting one's life to an unfinished legacy of rock as opposed to pushing numbers day after day in a cubicle.

We drove a different route home through the Needles in Custer State Park.  Amazing!

This tiny wandering road would suddenly round a corner and you'd find yourself nose to nose with a single-lane tunnel, playing chicken with all the cars coming the other direction.  From there, we drove the scenic Iron Mountain road, which likewise has tunnels that intentionally frame the faces of Rushmore.  So fascinating!

After battling a dinner of spaghetti with a side of flying beetles, we settled in for our last night and woke the next morning to break camp.  I love the fact that most of the kids are old enough to help with the work now.

Annika didn't work much, but she did entertain us all with her tutu and imaginary dance lessons.

Here are Eli and Talia playing four square.  They'd gotten some chalk and a four square ball in a Wendy's kid's meal on the way out, and played with it every spare moment for the whole trip.  Best kid's meal ever!

Our very last stop was a Junior Ranger class where they all excavated individual fossil cakes.

Here's Talia proudly donning her newly earned Junior Ranger badge with a rainbow sky in the background on the ride home.

On the way home, we gave Annika a marshmallow to snack on.  Bad idea.  She decided to wear it instead.

What to do with this child?  If only minivans had bathtubs...

The Memorial Day grand finale included fireworks back in Omaha, as seen from across the river.

And whew!  After mountains of fun and miles of travel, we called Memorial Day a wrap.  All in all, the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota were delightful.  I would genuinely love to go back.  Thank you, Papa Kay, for helping this Memorial Day tradition continue.  We look forward to many more!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems that you (we) did alot in a mere 3.5 days. Fortunately the weather cooperated, and I fulfilled a longstanding goal of visiting the stark Badlands. I too would happily return for another visit.

We saw lots of wildlife on the trip: bison, prairie dogs; big horned sheep; antelope, deer and fox. Somehow we missed seeing a prairie rattlesnake, and there were very few mosquitos. We also sampled some distinctive tasting buffalo jerky.

The Black Hills are stunningly beautiful in many places. South Dakota has much to offer. It is much more than a "fly-over" state --"Great faces, great places, South Dakota" Thanks for the photo momories Milkweed.