A little over a week ago Spencer and I took the boys out to Mount Rushmore to go camping and see what the area had to offer. I had been there once before about half my life ago so it was a trip of discovery for us all.
Peter's favorite President was Teddy Roosevelt (because his bear has the same first name) and Eliot said that Teddy Roosevelt was his favorite as well (because he's going through a phase where everything Peter has/does, Eliot must have/do as well). This was a couple of days into our trip and, I'm not going to lie, it was a little rough. Both boys were exhausted (both parents were a little tired as well) and let's just say I photographed whatever smiles I could.
On the way out we stopped for the night in Sioux Falls. The falls were fun to explore and the hotel had a swimming pool so the boys could burn off the pent-up energy from the day's drive.
We also stopped at the Corn Palace to have a look. I felt a brief pang of childish disappointment to find that it really wasn't made of corn so much as decorated with corn (I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting) but it was still fun to have a look around.
The boys were a little creeped out by "Cornelius" at first but eventually opted for a photo. It didn't help that he was first ever costumed figure to speak to us.
And finally, the Black Hills!
Peter was still a little small for some of the hiking, though he did give it his best shot when he was in the mood. Eliot really got into it and enjoyed exploring some of the hikes. It would be fun to do this trip with them again when they're a bit older.
Our campsite, situated on Horsethief Lake within the Black Hills National Forest, was a cozy little spot which looked better in close-ups.
I crossed the little road to take a picture to give a better sense of the close proximity of our neighbors. It was still fun though and we had some really nice neighbors. The neighbors to our right had two children a few years older than our boys and one night I could hear the mother reading "Mary Poppins" to them. To our left, on the last evening there, a nice family showed up with one teenage daughter and a little dog named Rocky. They introduced Rocky to the boys and let them give him each a treat (they didn't realize what they could have been starting) and later brought some S'mores over to share.
We ate all of our evening meals at the campsite and everyone was a good sport. Our first night we had hot dogs (a favorite of Eliot's) and baked beans (a favorite of Peter's) cooked over the fire.
In the evening the bats would come out and swoop over the lake and above our heads, eating up bugs. The boys would take a walk around the lake every day with one or both of us and enjoyed seeing our little campsite from across the water.
The sign said that you had to be at least six years old to ride. It was as though Eliot and I had exchanged places. I was the little kid, "Let's go for a ride! Don't you want to go for a ride?" and he was the collected adult, "No. I don't." Oh well, maybe next time. He was taking baby steps. Patting them on the nose and feeding them hay was enough for him this time around.
Peter got in on the action too, which was impressive since huge animals haven't really been his thing up to this point. I suppose it helped that they were penned in.
We visited a wildlife park called Bear Country to get our animal fix. It was one of those drive-through parks where the animals wander free all around you. Pretty up close and personal, but again, I think Spencer and I were the more enthusiastic participants.
We visited a cave which the boys really enjoyed. They were delighted that there were sections in which the grown-ups had to crouch down while they could walk through up-right.
We took a ride on an 1880's train that took us from the town of Keystone to Hill City and back. It was a half-hour ride each way (in theory) but when you're riding behind a steam engine on a hot summer's afternoon you have to be prepared to roll with the punches, or at least that's what the tour guide reminded us each time we stopped to let the engine cool down. We didn't mind, there was a lot to look at.
Peter was exhausted before we even boarded, and the breezy rocking of the train was a little too much for him.
On the ride back both boys had been refreshed by a soft pretzels purchased in Hill City and we had a nice ride back to Keystone.
Saying good-bye to the train.
What's a vacation without a few souvenirs? And what better place to find a souvenir than a quaint shop own and run by a local? This little place was called "Earth Treasures" and we discovered it when we stopped at a small grocery store to buy some water. Not only did it sport a really cool fence made up of tools and farm implements, it also sold rocks most of which were from South Dakota and neighboring Wyoming.
We gave the boys each a dollar to buy something with and they both left with two rocks each. Eliot chose a chunk of petrified wood while Peter found a rock from Australia with the fun-sounding name of mookite. The shop keeper was a local woman who added up all of the prices and tax by hand and was full of information. For example, the piece of serpentine that I purchased apparently contains asbestos. Never fear, though, it won't do you any harm unless you try to cut or polish it, in which case you'd need special protective equipment. It was a fun little shop, and I thought well worth the stop.
On the way home we drove through the Bad Lands National Park. The boys got out at the first stop and took a look around. But as we continued to snake our way through the park they were just as happy to stay in the back seat and play. So when we came to a spot that was worth having a look at Spencer and I would take turns running up and taking it in before moving on.
During the trip Peter decided that he was going to be a rock climber when he grew up. He even came up with things that he would need for his climbs (a jug of water and a jug of milk). Here he's doing his best rock climber pose.
We spent the night in Sioux Falls again before the long drive across Minnesota and most of Wisconsin. We took the boys for a swim and then rented a movie on demand to watch with them and help them wind down. I had assumed that they would fall asleep in the middle of the movie but they hung on until the end. When they finally did fall asleep they slept like a couple of little mookite rocks. I wonder what they were dreaming about.