So we toured the museum for an hour or so, hoping the clouds would start to move out. Ahhh, progress!
Then we hiked the Presidential Trail and by the end... spectacular! Of course, by that time the kids were too tired for a third attempt at a group photo, so it was just George, Tom, Teddy, and Abe.
My photography skills are not advanced enough to capture this view really well, but there is an artist's studio near the base of Mount Rushmore that houses the original model for the monument. It is beautiful how the sculpture and monument visible through the window stand side by side.
After leaving the park, we caught a profile view of George from the road.
Next up was some lunch back at the campground and then we spent the afternoon at Custer State Park.
We drove the Wildlife Loop Road, hoping to see some buffalo. For the first 20 minutes all we saw was beautiful scenery and a prairie dog town. Prairie dogs are fun, but we were starting to lose hope that we'd see something new. And then we drove around one more bend and saw a bunch of cars parked to see a herd of burros. The burros are not native to the area, but are descendants of a herd that once transported tourists, so they are pretty friendly and people were petting them.
Another mile up the road, we saw a herd of pronghorns.
Just before we ended our loop we found the buffalo!
Our last adventure for the day was driving up to the Mount Coolidge Lookout and Fire Tower. You drive up this narrow, winding road, praying you don't meet a car coming down and trying not to look at how steep the slopes are just inches outside your window. Mark joked that there was no need to worry because the trees would break our fall if we drove off the edge. Funny how the kids didn't find that very comforting. Once you get to the top, the view more than makes up the frightening trip up.
But it's still a little nerve-racking to be up that high.
Then it's one more night at camp. Marc's roughing it with the iPad. ; )
The next morning, after surviving storm #2, we packed up camp and made a couple more touristy stops. Grace and I visited a local museum that was having a Carrie Ingalls Day. As an adult Carrie had been a reporter in the town of Keystone. It was a cute museum in a beautiful old school house built during the gold rush days. I accidentally left the camera in the car and Marc had taken the other two kids to wander about town, so no pictures of Carrie Ingalls Day.
Our last stop in the Black Hills was Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns. We drove down, down, down a steep, winding road just as terrifying as the road up to the fire tower the day before. The cave was hiding in a lush forest.
Inside the cave we had to walk down a million stairs, but once we got to the bottom it was amazing.
We thoroughly enjoyed the cave tour, but I will admit the caves I've seen in Missouri and Arkansas do have more variety in formations making them a little more interesting.
What goes down, unfortunately must go up and up and up...
One more trip to Badlands National Park.
I loved the contrast of the prairie against the formations, but what you can't see from here is that there are enormous canyons between the grass and the peaks. It's almost like God just pulled the peaks out of the ground, flipped them over and placed them next to the hole left in the ground.
Something I have not mentioned yet is that South Dakota is home to the famous annual Sturgis Motorcyle Rally. Our trip happened to be the week before Sturgis, but apparently people start showing up a week early and they stay a week after. I have never seen (or heard) so many motorcycles in my life. They truly own the state this time of year. Here's a large group we saw coming through the badlands. They just kept coming and coming...
We ended our trip going back to the spot where the kids enjoyed climbing earlier in the week, but this time we hiked a beautiful trail. We were greeted by this little fellow.
As I went through my photos I learned something about myself. Sometimes I'm a little too caught up in trying to capture the moment with my camera that I don't fully notice what my kids are doing.
Ummm... where is this child's mother?!
So long, South Dakota. We made some wonderful memories with you.