Saturday, July 27, 2013

Summer Vacation - day four

Day One, Day Two, Day Three

This fourth & final full day of our summer vacation started off on an interesting note. I had a pop-tart for breakfast, a diet coke, took my vitamins & was feeling a wee bit queasy. We left the front office of the Horse Thief campground & my husband started taking some of those turns (Horse Thief is on the road that goes straight into Custer & Needles Highway). I told him he'd better pull over - I was going to throw up - and sure 'nuff! We're right on the other side of a curve in the road, sitting 3/4 on the gravel, 1/4 on the road & I'm barfing all in the weeds. It was quite interesting. We carried on & eventually I felt fine, but that was a first for me. Our first stop for the day was going to be Devil's Tower in Wyoming, so we were in the for the long haul. We hit the road - next stop - Devil's Tower! I'm SO thankful that we did NOT listen to the people who said "it's not worth it" (said in a whiny voice, just so you know). 

I highly HIGHLY recommend the hike all the way around the base of the tower. It was awesome with some phenomenal views. It's longer than you think it's going to be & sometimes I thought it was never going to end, but it was worth the fatigue! 

We ate lunch at the little store right outside the entrance (there's nothing else in the area & we were turning north). It's a great little place to stop for a snack. We turned left outside of the park to head north towards Montana. I wanted my husband to be able to say he'd been 'to' Montana!  I got to go in May/June when my mom had her stroke & we try to keep our tally pretty even ;) Let me just say... Oh. My. Lord. that was the most amazingly beautiful drive we've ever EVER taken. If you happen to find yourself at Devil's Tower on a awesome sunshiny day, turn north & head for Montana via back roads. You will NOT regret it. EVER.

After entering back into South Dakota, we stopped off in Belle Fourche at the Center of the Nation Monument. This was really interesting & there's a little cabin there that has a lot of history itself. We walked through it & spoke with the woman working, learned a few things & then began to make our way back towards the Black Hills. 

We detoured across the Spearfish Canyon , through Deadwood & then Sturgis. After that, we hopped onto the interstate & made our way back to camp. 

Literally within minutes of building our fire it began raining. We had to eat under our dining canopy & then run for cover in the tent. It rained ALL night & flooded the entire floor of our tent. We had drips coming through the screen at the top, even though the rain fly was on. It was adventurous, but I'm glad that we can keep a good attitude about things like that. Even though our tent threatened to blow away a few times, we slept like rocks! LOL :) 

Hope you've enjoyed hearing about our amazing summer vacation! I hope you can make it to the Black Hills sometime. I really would love to make it back before we move back to the South, but that's just not going to happen. Next trip: Chicago. Tenth wedding anniversary! Yay!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer Vacation - day three

If you're just catching up, I'm documenting our 2013 summer vacation to the Black Hills & the Badlands areas of South Dakota. On day one, we traveled from Omaha first to Badlands National Park & then on to Hill City, SD. On day two, we experienced Mt. Rushmore, the Needles Highway, Custer State Park, and a fireworks extravaganza in Custer, SD. 

Alright! On to day three. We kind of took this opportunity to relax a bit. We slept in {as much as you can sleep in when the sun begins rising & peeking into your tent at 4:30am}, made a decent breakfast at the campsite, took hot showers & finally packed up and hit the road. We first went to Wind Cave National Park. If there were anything, ANYthing, on this trip that I would have nixed {in hindsight} it'd be WCNP. And I only say that because the line for the cave tours was very long & the wait was 2-4 hours for the next tour(s). We didn't have that time available (or were we really prepared to wait that long if we could), so we visited the gift shop, drove straight through the park & were done. It was pretty boring because the best parts of Wind Cave are underground

And that was about it.... 

We exited out the southern entrance of the park and made our way to Hot Springs, SD. We ate lunch at a little Chinese buffet that was recommended by someone to my husband (it was okay). And then we made our way around some back roads back to Custer, got another full tank of gas & headed back to camp. We napped, swam in the pool, cooked lunch & simply relaxed {I was worried we weren't going to have time to enjoy our campsite at all!} Once refreshed, we headed to Sylvan Lake to take a hike around it & look for that famous "where he stuck his hand in" rock {which we never found}. But Sylvan Lake is amazing. I wish we'd had more time to just go & sit, hang out, swim, jump off rocks, kayak or canoe, and simply just 'be'. Those are  the things that vacations like this don't leave enough time for. 

After leaving Sylvan (where we saw a really neat wedding on the beach), I knew I wanted to take a trip over to the Wildlife Loop one last time. Saturday was going to be a very busy day & I knew this was our last chance. They sure don't make anything easy - especially getting from one place to another. There's no real direct routes, so we did spend more time driving than I ever could have anticipated. But we made it to the 'other' end of the Wildlife Loop than where we'd entered previously & boy was it worth it. We came upon a buffalo herd and everyone was stopped just watching. It was probably larger than the herd we'd seen previously, but this one seemed to have more babies. It was so fun to see! We saw one lick another vehicle's headlight. So cute!

Then we made our way back to camp & I think, yet again, got back after dark! We went to bed early in preparation for our long day on Saturday!! 

You can easily find Day Four here

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Vacation - day two

If you're just looking for Day One, you can find it here

After waking up in our motel & taking nice hot showers, not having to pack away a wet tent and camping supplies, we were able to get a pretty early start on the day. We decided it would be wise to go ahead and tackle Mt. Rushmore. Of course as soon as we get all of our things packed back into the car, it starts POURING. And I mean raining cats and dogs, severe thunder & lightning. It was crazy intense. But we forged on & I had remembered my dad saying something about somewhere to eat inside the 'park'. We drove to the memorial, parked, waited out some pretty intense lightning & finally made our way inside. We went into Carvers Cafe, grabbed some {really good!} breakfast & sat with an amazing view of some amazing Presidents. I mean what better breakfast view could you ask for!? After awhile, we were able to make our way outside, still using an umbrella, but the rain had slowed to a light mist. And what a sight to behold, no matter how wet it was, no matter that George looked as if he'd been crying.... it was simply amazing! I went in to Mt Rushmore thinking "it's going to be 'less' than I'm expecting," but it wasn't. It simply wasn't. 

I highly, HIGHLY, encourage you to take the hike around the base. We said going into this trip that we would take every mild-moderate hike that we could. So even in the drizzle, we began working our way around the base of Mt. Rushmore. I was hesitant at first because I didn't want to slip & I was absolutely EX.HAU.STED. (see previous photo of me), but I try to not allow that to get in the way of LIFE. And this is something I wanted to be a part of mine. I wanted to experience it. So I pushed on..... and boy, was I glad that I did! 

After our hike, we of course had to stop in the Visitor's Center and gift shop to buy the things we collect - a thimble, a shot glass, a car sticker, a NP coin, and stamps for our Passport. After that, we began making our way towards the exit while trying to figure out which direction to head in next! 

We decided to go straight to our campground so that we wouldn't run out of time later in the day. Once we arrived, we went ahead & set up camp. Let's just say there was lots of cursing the tent stakes, the size of the tent, and Murphy. 

We were on site number 72 at Horse Thief Campground & RV park right outside of Hill City. This place is awesome with great rates! The bath house is NICE, the sites are large & roomy (your neighbors can't hear you snore & you can't hear them pass gas!). We loved the campground as soon as we entered it. I was so thankful I'd made the right choice. It's so hard to know just by a small amount of reviews online & some scarce photos. I highly recommend site 72 if you have a medium-large size tent! 

Once camp was set, we decided to just take off for a drive. Did I mention it was Independence Day!? So we just started driving, we drove the Needles Highway, fed some chipmunks, drove through parts of Custer State Park, and finally drove in to Custer around 9pm for fireworks. 

It was while I was feeding the chipmunks with some other people that my husband was on the phone finding out he would be deploying for six months in January 2014. We found out it was official & where he'd be going. You always remember where you were for phone calls like that! {his deployment has since been canceled}. After getting lost trying to find a road (to cut across) that we NEVER EVER EVER found, we made our way over to the Wildlife Loop. SO worth it. It was about 6pm & we stopped in the Visitor's Center on the Loop to ask where any herds were. He told us exactly where to go! So we hit another dirt road to hunt a buffalo herd. Was it worth it? Oh. My. Goodness. It was amazing. A sight to behold! These are just a few of my favorite photos. 

 I like to think the one on the right just passed some nasty gas & the one on the 
left is letting him/her know what he/she thinks about that! ;) 

And there we have it! Our Fourth of July 2013! 
It was pretty darn amazing if I do say so myself. 

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