Thursday, June 22, 2017

Vacation Day 1 & 2: Badlands, Wall, Mt. Rushmore, Devils Tower

Yes, we fit ALL of that in a 24 hour period! We started vacation out with a bang that's for sure! We left late on a Friday night and spent the night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was an easy drive from Des Moines and the minis slept most of the way. The next morning we woke up and made our way west. Our final destination was Big Sky, Montana so we could enjoy Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We didn't want to make the 17 hour drive all at once, so we found things to do along the way.

I am soooooo proud of our minis. They were champs in the car and had no issues what so ever with all of the driving. I actually got more bored than they did! They also slept quite a bit in the car, which made their late (like, extremely late) bedtimes bearable. 

Looking out hotel windows and waving at people.

This is filed under: things we saw on the interstate.

Our first stop was Mitchell, SD to take a look at the Corn Palace. We didn't tour it, but instead walked around their cute downtown area and got ice cream and chai teas at a cafe across the street.

We had to have a talk about the appropriate ways to smile for pictures....

Superman and birthday cake ice creams.....for lunch!!! #vacation

Hubs and I were rather shocked to see the Corn Palace because we remember it with these (pictured below) on the Palace. Imagine our surprise when we spotted one sitting in someone's front yard. Apparently it's changed a few times.

The next three hours were spent in no-man's land South Dakota. There's not many places for stops or food. Luckily I had stocked up on snacks (Cliff bars, applesauce pouches, carrot cups, apples, and bananas saved us this trip), but it was a pretty uneventful three hours.

Our second big stop was Badlands National Park. I had driven through once before (years ago) but never got out to explore. We made it into a 3 hour adventure, getting out to hike and climb a bit, stop in the visitors center, and take the scenic loop through the Park. There was one trail I really wanted to do (the Notch Trail) but I wasn't quite sure our children's climbing abilities were up to par (as it turns out, they probably would have been fine, but we didn't discover that until the last day of vacay). Regardless, we loved our time in the Badlands, even with the hot sun beating down on us nonstop.

They insisted upon no sunglasses at the beginning, but quickly changed their minds. Also, we had another talk about taking decent photos.

The middle mini was the only one not terrified of "going off the side!" He looked straight down and hiked on the tops. He was fearless!

Meanwhile, mini 1 and mini 3 stayed a safe distance and watched the action with binoculars.

We heard a rattle snake.

Sunscreen break.

At the end of the Badlands loop, we came to Wall Drug. The minis got to play for a bit and we ate at the cafe, enjoying our free water and .5 cent coffee (read the story behind this here).

At the back of Wall Drug was a kids area, with mechanical horses to ride, fountains to run through, and much more.

The original pharmacy, that has a current working pharmacy inside (that is not open on the weekends). The front windows were filled with medicine bottles, prescriptions, and other medical needs from the 1930's (when Wall Drug opened).

After our time at Wall Drug, our plan was to check into the hotel and get some rest. Yet dinner left us with renewed energy, so we put Hey Dude on (because it only seemed appropriate for a trip out west) and went to Mount Rushmore. Not only did we get to see it in daylight, but we stayed for the nightly ceremony as well and got to see the lights hitting it. 

The entire thing was amazing and made a lasting impression on my minis. Mount Rushmore was actually the youngest mini's favorite part of our trip. She can now tell you all about "the one with the mustache," how Mount Rushmore was made ("they blowed it up! Exploded it!"), and the workers that made it ("they had to climb the mountain to get to work first").

A storm rolled in just as the lighting ceremony began. We were treated to a spectacular light show (that we somehow missed in every picture).

So, as we were leaving, we were in a crowd of people and I heard a sneeze directly behind me (and slightly to my left). I assumed it was my husband and reached over to pat his shoulder and gave him a sincere "bless you." Turns out it was NOT my husband at all, but a very confused gentleman who gave me a look as I pulled my hand away from him. Oops!

The moon looked awesome as we made our way to our car.

The minis promptly fell asleep in the car while we drove through the storm to our hotel.

We spent the night in Lead, SD so that we could spend our morning exploring Deadwood. The history of Deadwood was interesting. We walked around historic main street and did some learning in the visitors center. The one thing I wish we had time to do was Broken Boot Gold Mine. I think the minis would have loved it and learned a lot. Unfortunately, we didn't have the time, as we had a LONG drive ahead of us to reach Big Sky.

From Deadwood, SD, we made the easy drive to Devils Tower. Devils Tower was one of my favorite places we visited on this trip. It was unlike anything else we saw, we got to do hiking (without the threat of wild animals), the minis were able to climb, plus we had an all around good time.

 It was soooo cool to see Devils Tower come into sight.

There were pull off points along the way to get pictures with the Tower in the background. We took advantage of them.

Despite reading that Devils Tower is in the middle of nowhere, I was still surprised that it was truly, the middle of nowhere. We took two lane highways to get there, a campground sat just outside the Monument, and then two lane highways to get back to the interstate to continue our journey to Montana.

 You can barely see the little girl in the huge boulders!

 I had to capture the picture set up because it was hilarious. We tried to tell the minis what we wanted them to do and somehow they did the exact opposite. Hubs had to get up there too and place them.

There are several trails with amazing views of Devils Towers. We chose to do the popular Tower Trail which is a 1.3 mile, paved trail that goes around the Tower. We had amazing views of the Tower, the valley, and were able to climb the boulders to the very base of the tower. The trail was crowded, but we were still able to easily stop and pose for pictures. We also took some time out to watch climbers reach the top and ascend down.

A time out to watch the wildlife graze and climbers ascending down from the top. 

Once our hike was completed and one last potty break taken, we began the 8 hour trip to our condo in Big Sky, Montana. The minis were AMAZING in the car; taking naps, reading books, and playing games. On this long leg of the trip, they napped and sang along to our playlist we made. I read up on Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons as we drove.

I was fascinated by the changing landscapes: flat, to hilly, to snow capped mountains.

We made a stop in Billings, MT for groceries for the week and got into Big Sky late on a dark night. We could hardly see anything around us as we drove through the mountains. Props to Montana for having well marked road signs and wide lanes on the mountain roads. 

We all fell into our beds when we reached our condo for the week. We were excited to see how things looked in the daylight, rather in the dead of night. I had planned for us to have an easy going day around Big Sky, but we decided to jump right into things. Stay tuned for our next post on Big Sky and Yellowstone!