Sunday, July 14, 2013

North by Northwest - June/ July Trip - Day 6

When we woke up the next morning, and saw the Missouri River in the distance, we were so glad we hadn't crossed at night!
 It was so beautiful!

We stopped at the rest stop right at the river and took some photos and checked out the Lewis and Clark exhibit.

The tourism attendants at this rest stop were very helpful and we headed toward the Badlands armed with maps, hotel suggestions and more!

When we turned off at the Badlands National Park entrance, we stopped at (the only) gas station, since we knew it was about 30 miles to the park visitors center and then next bathrooms.

Then we stopped at the Prairie Dog facility next to the entrance of the park.  This facility isn't park of the park, but is instead a for profit business where you can buy peanuts to feed to the Prairie Dogs.

Our kids really loved it, but since we arrived at lunch time, most of the Prairie Dogs had already eaten their fill of peanuts and mostly acted like they could care less about the peanuts ML and JR offered them.

We did finally figure out that they liked it if you shelled the peanut for them.  I guess they get so many peanuts, they don't want to do the work of opening the peanut shell anymore.  Ha!

Our next stop on the way to the park entrance was unexpected, but I just had to stop.  They had a state historical landmark - an original pioneer dug out house.

When I was little, my grandmother would send me a Little House on the Prairie book every Christmas.  I LOVED those books and could hardly wait all year until I got to read the next installment in the amazing pioneer life of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  In On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura and her family live in a dugout house, so I was soooooo excited to see what a dugout actually looked like!

This dugout had a boarded front:

Top of the Dugout:

We finished out dug out tour and were finally headed for the Badlands!
We had glimpses of the Badlands as we approached.  We kept saying "Wow.  Check that out!"

But when we finally arrived, we said, "WOW!!!!!!!  CHECK THAT OUT!!!!!!"

It. Is. So. Beautiful.

No picture can capture it.

And the beauty just goes on and on and on and on.  Rob and I laughed because at the first 'overlook' there must have been 100 cars stopped - everyone gaping with mouths wide open just like us.  But as we traveled on and on the Badlands Road (road takes about 1 hour with no stops) there were fewer and fewer cars because everyone spread out.  You knew that if you skipped an overlook, it was okay because there would be another amazing, awe inspiring overlook just up ahead!

I'm not much of a hiker, so much to Big Daddy's disappointment, we only hiked this one trail:

We stopped by the visitor center and got lots of tips from the Park Rangers.  We ate lunch at the only restaurant in the Park, and while our waitress was nice, the service wasn't very good and the food was okay.  I did have a traditional Siox bread/ pancake type dish that was nice, but if I had it to do all over again, I would pack a lunch and bring it with us.  There were tons of shaded picnic tables and lots of families enjoying the beautiful day in the park with a picnic lunch.

Big Horned Sheep in the distance:

Big horned sheep on a 'hill'

Big horned sheep up close:

Just. Amazing.

We ended up driving to the 'South portion' of the park as well.  So very glad we did.  We had to drive over 60 miles of dirt/ gravel road to get there, but it was so beautiful.  We were all alone on the road most of the time and when we stopped and got out to look and listen it was like we'd been transported back in time.  The stillness, and quiet, and wind.  So awesome.

But I was glad we drove the trusty truck!

The entire time, I just kept thinking about how amazing God's creation is - This picture in particular just makes my heart want to sing His praises.

We wanted to stay in the Badlands to see the stars once the sun set, (they say it's one of the darkest places in the USA - so dark you can see the Milky Way!) but two things were working against us.   #1 - we had driven waaaaay south and were far away from the Visitors Center and any source of food for dinner and #2 we needed to find a place to stay for the night.

We ended up heading toward Rapid City and Mount Rushmore.  This was our first glimpse of Mount Rushmore.

I couldn't believe it!  After all the years of just seeing it in pictures, it seemed so surreal to see it in person.

We also drove around the Black Hills for a bit.  So beautiful, but it seems so crazy that these are less than an hour away from the Badlands!

Finally, to close out the night we went over to see the Crazy Horse Memorial.  We'd heard they had a nighttime light show and as it was July 3, the kids were eager to see something since we weren't sure we'd be catching a fireworks show on the 4th.

We enjoyed Crazy Horse, it was interesting.  When it's finished, it will be largest memorial in the world, but - as Big Daddy said - it might be 100 more years before it's finished!
They are building it on donations and money they make on park entrance fees.  They won't accept any government money which is admirable, but makes progress a little slower.

One thing about Crazy Horse - they are in love with the sculptor who designed the memorial.  And they tell you aaaallll about him - even in the night time laser show.  So the show ended up being a little boring, but we still enjoyed it and had a nice time.  We're glad we went - not like we'll be dropping by western South Dakota again anytime soon!