4 days in South Dakota
My son and I, Susan (age 35) and Sean (age 12) left Carbondale, Illinois at 4:00 pm on Wednesday, April 7, 2004. We are driving our Mercury Villiager Minivan. We took out the 2nd row of seats to make it roomier. Sean said,"So far this vacation rocks!" At 6:00 pm, we drove past the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. We entered the state of Missouri feeling alittle bit like modern day Lewis and Clarks heading out on our adventure west. Over the weekend in Iraq, thirty soldiers died for America. We feel very fortunate that we are able to take a vacation like this during a time when poeple are loosing their lives fighting for our freedom. At 7:00 pm, we drove past Jefferson City, the Missouri State Capital. We arrived at Kansas City, Missouri at 9:15 pm. We spent the night at Uncle John's house and continued our exploration the next morning at 8:15 am. The drive out of Missouri and into Iowa was pretty quiet . There were grassy plains with small rolling mountains. Council Bluffs, Iowa was bigger than we expected. A billboard in South Dakota reads, "We South Dakotans reject Animal Activists. Fur and Cattle are our livelyhood. If you don't like it, turn around now!" In Mitchell, South Dakota, we went to the corn palace. It was free!!! And amazing! Sean said, "It looks like an Arabian palace with corn all over it!" It gets new corn decor every year. This year the theme was Lewis and Clark and Sacajewea. The first corn palace was around 1892. The corn colors are all natural and it is called the world's largest bird feeder. At 4:40 pm, we passed the exit for Pierre, the South Dakota state capital. We went to the Antique Auto Show in Murdo, SD. Sean's favorite car was the Dodge Charger called the General Lee. This sign said seventeen cars were made for the Dukes of Hazzard and this is the one surviving car. We started seeing the Badlands at 6:45 pm. We saw a horse scratching his head on a fence post too! We arrived at the Holiday Inn in Keystone at 9:00 pm. A wonderful resting place nestled in the mountains. We went for a swim in the indoor pool. The wall boasts a huge picture of Mount Rushmore and the public rooms were decorated with bears and deer heads creating a woodsy feel. On the morning of April 9, we headed out for Mt. Rushmore at 10:00 am. Sean was impressed with Mt. Rushmore. It was pretty chilly too. We did the hike to get closer. We hiked all around on the catwalks and spied up at the mammoth carvings. Mt. Rushmore is so impressive up close. The visitors center was amazing. Sean blew up some rock in the visitors center which was mimicking the creation of the momument. After that, we went to Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park and did the hike around the lake. The rocks of Sylvan Lake are nestled upto the water and have perfect curves and crevaces. Little squirrels peaked out of the rocks to see who we were. Snow still clung to the ground in the shaddy areas which had not been released by the grips of winter yet. After that, we drove the Needlles highway, an amazing curvy highway which cuts its way right through the heart of the mountains. We then continued on into the wildlife loop. Since this was not quiet the tourist season, most of our company during the day was buffalo, squirrels, birds, prairie dogs and other animals. Sean made Mom climb to the top of a huge bluff. We found something we had never seen before; Native American Prayer Bungles. At the time, we did not know what they were, but found them very mysteriious. At the wildlife loop, we saw over a hundred buffalo, yaks, donkeys, deer and prairie dogs. The prairie dogs came right up to the car. Next, we drove on to Crazy Horse which was still under construction, but both massive and mpressive. Then we went onto the Ramada Inn in Rapid City. They have the most awesome indoor waterslide. After Sean was done with the slide, we went to Flags of Fun to do indoor paintball. Saturday, April 10th, we went back to Custer State Park and drove the Iron Mountain Road. We immediately saw two Buffalo. One was on the side of the road and the other was in the road! We yielded the right of way. Next we did the hike to Harney Peak. It was a six mile rugged round trip and well worth the effort. The whole hike was very beautiful. We saw three deer right away. Harney Peak is at 7,242 feet above sea level. It is the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains and the highest peak in South Dakota. It was built by the CCC (Civil Conservation Core.) Sean found places where there use to be electric and water! It snowed at Harney Peak. As we edged towards the top you could see for miles in all directions and could see the back side of Mt. Rushmore. Four states can been seen from the tower at the summit. That night, we went back to Flags of Fun to play Laser Tag. On Sunday, April 11, we woke to a snow storm. It was beautiful. The Easter Bunny must have had his snow shoes because he still found us at our hotel. We drove to Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming. It snowed all the way there. Wyoming is sparsely populated, except for cattle and deer. It was still snowing there too! We did the one mile hike around the base. Devils Tower is 867 feet from its base to the summit. We learned that it stands 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River and is 5,112 feet above sea level. We continued our exploration onto Spearfish Canyon to Bridal Falls and Roughlock Falls. The snow was beautiful on the huge cliffs, pine trees and the river. We pretended to be in the Dances with Wolves Scene that was filmed there. The snow that was falling was the same fat chunky flakes that were falling during the filming. The Dances with Wolves filming was just down from Roughlock Falls. We went to Deadwood next, and stayed at the Holiday Inn right on Main Street, and ate dinner at the Midnight Star, Kevin Costner's restaurant. Sean was really impressed with all the movie realia and memorablia. We also went to the #10 Saloon where Wild Bill Hickock was shot. Sean said, #10 was cool because it has sawdust on the floor and pics of WildBill and old timers guns. On the morning for our last day, Sean bought a replica of an old western revolver, and then we drove on to Sturgis. We then drove back through Rapid City and went south to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The roads through Buffalo Gap National grasslands were really rustic. We drove all the way south to Wounded Knee. We have been to 45 states and 5 countries and the Native Americans of Wounded Knee seem to be the poorest people we have ever seen. The towns of Red Shirt, Oglala, Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee are the most deperate communities we have ever seen. We travelled all through Badlands National Park. The hills and cracks of the Badlands were fun to climb and explore. We ran out in them as far as we could. We saw a lot of prairie dogs on top. I was surprised that the Badlands are dirt and not rock. We finished our fun at the town of Wall, South Dakota where we got a famous drink of water to quench our thirst. Then..we headed home.