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Memorial Day Weekend Travels: South Dakota Days 3 and 4

You're About to be Redirected to the New Home of Ground Control to Major Mom: Memorial Day Weekend Travels: South Dakota Days 3 and 4

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Travels: South Dakota Days 3 and 4

This is a continuation of the previous blog post.

During the day Saturday, the sun was peeking in and out of the clouds. It was remarkable what a temperature difference there was when the sun was out vs. not out. Perhaps due to the elevation? It'd be in the mid-50s when it was cloudy, and suddenly when the sun came out, it'd peak up in the mid-to-upper-60s! We were putting on, then taking off our jackets all day. But there was no rain, and we were thankful for that.

But Saturday night it got quite rainy. From dinnertime until bedtime, we were mainly dealing with very light showers...we'd sit under our 10' x 10' shelter and were fine. At bedtime, right when we said "Goodnight" to our boys and zipped them into their own tent, it really started coming down. It was a cold, raw rain. It probably rained for about 30-45 minutes, not super hard. More than anything, raindrops falling on a tent are LOUD. Between that and the creek that was rushing past our tent site, there was plenty of "white noise" to put us all to sleep pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, Dave was pretty cold all night. That damp cool air can really chill you to the bones!

On Sunday we spent the day in Custer State Park. If you ever plan a trip to Mount Rushmore or the Badlands, don't forget to visit this beautiful park! It sits right on the boundary between the Black Hills and the prarielands that are most of South Dakota. We drove the "Wildlife Loop" road around the park, along with some off-roading that took us past some magnificent wildlife views.

From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking

There are several lodges on the park itself, and they all had restaurants. We found one that specialized in buffalo fare and it was great!
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking

After lunch we drove over to the far northwest part of the park, near the Needles rock formations, and did some hiking around Sylvan Lake and Harney Peak. We hiked for nearly 3 hours, the boys were great, and you'd have never known that Howie is now 10 years old...he was running up and down those boulders like a puppy!
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking

After the Sylvan Lake loop, we headed up on the Harney Peak trail, which had much more terrain.
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking

Dave and I brought our ancient trekking poles from home, but each of the boys found walking sticks among the felled ponderosa pine. We even brought the sticks home. The boys want to sand them down and decorate them.
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking

After that big day of hiking, Howie was EXHAUSTED:
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking

On Monday, it was time for an early start -- we had broken camp and were packed up by 7am! We hit the road at about 7:20am. Our plan was to drive through Badlands National Park on a road called the "Badlands Loop Road" and hop right back onto I-90 and continue home. Sort of a "drive by" tour of the park.

You don't know how much we wish we could have spent more time here. We made several stops on the route to admire the scenery, and lamented that we couldn't stop on several of the hiking trails to climb further up on some of the peaks. The geology is fascinating and the colors of the rocks on such a sunny day were breathtaking! As it was, what we planned to be a 45 minute diversion turned into almost 2 hours! We got some beautiful pictures, at least...and Jacob (our science weenie!) had so many questions for us about how the rocks were formed.
From 2010 05 31 Badlands National Park

There were a couple things of note. First of all, we drove past several "prairie dog towns" which are flat areas where the prairie dogs can dig their tunnels and establish communities. We pulled off to the side of the road and caught some close ups of this little guy:
From 2010 05 31 Badlands National Park

I love this picture! We saw several prairie dog towns in Custer State Park the previous day, but none were this close to our truck!

Then Howie started barking out the window...that same prairie dog then did this:
From 2010 05 31 Badlands National Park

Yes! He's playing dead...or at least trying to get low to the ground in hopes that his potential predator can't find him. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world!

I also attempted to capture the many flowers I saw at the park:
From 2010 05 31 Badlands National Park

And finally, we saw a lot of construction on the Badlands Loop road, and a lot of it was to deal with the wind erosion that was taking out some of the roads. It's predicted that the Badlands themselves are only about 500,000 years old, and might only last another 500,000 years more due to the vicious wind erosion. In geologic timescales, that's a pretty short time.
From 2010 05 31 Badlands National Park
From 2010 05 31 Badlands National Park

About 300 miles past the Badlands, we got home. Our plan was to stop at the Chick Fil A at this mall in Sioux City, Iowa for dinner. All 4 of us were SO EXCITED about stopping there, our first Chick Fil A in nearly a year! We get to the mall at about 5:20pm.

The mall was CLOSED. Wait a second, it wasn't Sunday. We made sure of that before we even considered Chick Fil A for dinner on this trip. So why was it closed? Because the mall closed at 5pm for Memorial Day. There were no signs indicating such. I had checked on line and figured that at worst, the mall would have Sunday hours for the holiday, which meant it would have closed at 6pm.

We were all SO MAD. Man...so we had Jimmy John's subs instead. Another fast-food choice we all like.

We got home from our trip at about 7:30pm, which made our return trip just over 11 hours...and that included the Badlands Loop Road.

This was a great trip for us! Dave and I used to take similar overnight road trips routinely before the kids' schedules got too busy. Whether it was to Houston, New Orleans, Cedar Point (Ohio), Ann Arbor, Sorak National Park, or the mountains of North Carolina. Sometimes with friends, sometimes with just the family. We love seeing what our great country has to offer!

I have a pretty big "before I leave Nebraska" to-do list. I know a lot of it won't get done, oh well...such as a trip to Yellowstone National Park, or Winnipeg, Manitoba. But I'm looking forward to trips to Colorado and the Nebraska Sandhills later this summer. Perhaps a weekend Amtrak trip to Chicago this fall?

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