Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota 6/29/13
Westward Vacation 2013
Days 1 and 2 (June 28 and 29)
Our drive from Kansas City to Mt. Rushmore was a long one! I can’t remember ever taking a road trip with sooooooo many potty stops. At one point, I actually had to tell Craig, “You can’t be mad at her for having to go to the bathroom.” I would guess we stopped 6 times along the way, including a longer stop to eat lunch. We left our house at about 7 A.M. and arrived at our campsite around 7:30 P.M. — 13.5 hours with the time change. Meanwhile, ironically, the child with the bitty bladder was also the one who never stopped asking, “Okay, how many hours NOWWW???”
Our campground, Echo Valley, is actually in Custer, SD, right next to the Crazy Horse Memorial (you can actually see Crazy Horse from the top of the hill, here). I chose it because I liked the location, it looked pretty (non-commercial, privately owned, woodsy), and because I had read several very good reviews on Yelp. We have definitely been pleased! There are probably 15-20 RV’s over in an RV section, but it is nicely separated from where we are in the tent section. Last night there was one other tent here, and today we are the only tent.
After arriving last night, we got settled pretty quickly and then had a quick and easy (but yummy!) dinner of Frito pie. Both of the kids actually ate it happily, even with (gasp!) canned chili. Always love to find a new food my kids will eat, but I suppose I shouldn’t celebrate TOO much about canned chili, should I? With a zero percent chance for precipitation according to The Weather Channel, we were able to leave the rain fly off of the tent, and the view of the moon and stars was incredible. The low was only around 56 degrees, and Cooper and I agreed that we had possibly our best camping sleep ever. Our brand new tent, the Kelty Hula House 6, is awesome. The “hula” is an interesting halo-type feature which makes the tent roomy and allows an adult to fully stand up. The hula also allows for an excellent view of the sky. 🙂
We all slept pretty late — probably 8:00 A.M. (felt like 9, though). Not sure why, but I just don’t think I’ve ever been so comfortable camping! And, it really was nice and quiet here — no noisy kids yapping to wake us up. Soooo nice. After a nice, lazy morning, we headed out to see The Presidents.
I should mention that while this is Craig’s very first trip to Mt. Rushmore, the kids and I, strangely, have been here twice. So, some of our sightseeing was “old hat”. I made sure Craig knew that he was welcome to call the shots as to where we went, but he is very flexible — very “go with the flow” — so we repeated some of the same fun things we have done here before.
The Mount Rushmore Memorial was fairly crowded, but that is to be expected in June. We took the mandatory photos and then walked the Presidents’ Trail. I really like the Presidents’ Trail; it is well-maintained but “natural,” and provides some really neat views of the memorial. It is a somewhat strenuous trail, and we did hear a wee bit of complaining out of Emmie. I felt sorry for the folks with kids in strollers; carrying a stroller up the stairs did not look fun. Oh, and a poor little girl with a broken leg who was on crutches… she looked tired!
Next, we went to the Presidents’ Alpine Slide, which we have been to previously. The “slide” is like bobsledding on concrete. It is SO fun, but it absolutely ROCKED today. First, we got to relax and eat lunch at the top (you take a chairlift to the top); then, after sliding down, we decided to try their new attraction — ziplining! Ohmygosh, it was so so soooooo much fun! I have wanted to try ziplining for some time, but I have just never had the opportunity. It felt like I got to check something off the ol’ bucket list. When you get “locked on” to the line, you have to climb some booster steps to a slightly precarious position. The view is halting, and it is NOT for the faint of heart. And, I gotta say, watching my two kids totally embrace the idea of harnessing up and speeding down that mountain without hesitation made me extremely proud! If you come to Mt. Rushmore, do NOT miss the Presidents’ Alpine Slide (and Ziplining Adventures).
We gave Craig some ideas for other sights we could see, and we were so glad he chose Bear Country U.S.A., which I remembered fondly from our first trip back in 2007. (I will never forget seeing 6 bear cubs in a single tree!) Craig thought the cost ($52 for our family of four) was a bit steep, but I thought it was absolutely worth it. First, you take a leisurely 3-mile drive through the animal park which features lots more than “just” bears. We saw huge elk (with velvet on their antlers), arctic wolves, reindeer, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and many more animals, as well as TONS of bears. I know it sounds hokey, but it is so much fun to see these huge bears (and there are a bazillion, it seems) walking right near your car. The bears are, by far, the most fun to watch. They were very active, and we enjoyed seeing them cooling themselves in the water, scratching themselves on the timber, and otherwise acting entertaining.
Another fun part of Bear Country U.S.A. is “Babyland,” where you get to walk around a path and see bear cubs and other small animals like badgers, bobcats, foxes, and, again, many others.
Tonight, we are going to make a more elaborate dinner of marinated pork chops. The weather feels a bit cooler right now than it did yesterday evening, but it really is pleasant — and no humidity! Hopefully we can leave the tent open again tonight.
We will be leaving tomorrow after breakfast for an 8-hour drive to Yellowstone. After our action-packed adventures here today, I hope the kids won’t be disappointed in Yellowstone!