A Big Day in the Black Hills

Tuesday, June 9 was to be a full day.  Could we get it all in?  We hoped so!

We got a late start because of needing to get a rental car, which proved to be more difficult than we had hoped.  While looking at the map, I saw “Wall Drug,” and thought to myself, “I have heard of that before. I think I’ve heard people talk about that being a place to see, with all sorts of things to do.” When this came up in the car, Vence said that, in fact, the woman who took him to get the rental car said that it is quite the place and definitely worth a visit.  After all, it was on our way to the Badlands, so we decided to see what the fuss was all about.  And, sure enough, it is quite the place!  We ate lunch on the “Back Porch” where we found this enormous jack-elope.  Minnie Mouse was fascinated!

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After wandering around a bit, we had to get going.  Remember, lots to do today! We continued west toward the Badlands National Park.

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This was an addition to our itinerary.  Several people suggested we go there, and we also kept reading about the place on other travel blogs, and since on our trip to Rushmore we were going to be so close, we decided to go ahead.  Minnie Mouse could collect another Junior Ranger badge, and we could see yet another wondrous sight in the U.S. We drove through the gate and found ourselves amazed by what we saw.

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Minnie Mouse loved the prospect of many rocks to climb.

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I love the second picture of her because it reminds me of being hidden in the cleft of the rock.

We journeyed on to the visitor’s center, where Minnie Mouse picked up her Junior Ranger book. Now, because of the set up of this park, we weren’t sure we would be back by the visitor’s center, so she worked on her book while we were there, took her pledge, and received her badge.

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The ranger who “swore her in” was a great guy, and he proceeded to tell us about a really neat trail that he loves to hike with that includes a wooden ladder attached to a cliff.  He also mentioned that there have been about 5 big horn sheep hanging out around that trail head.  What was that you said? Big horn sheep?  Suddenly, Minnie Mouse’s ears perked up. She has been fascinated with big horns since she found the little flip book on them at Glacier National Park, and she was hoping to see one in Yellowstone, but we know how that trip went (and if you don’t, see my post on Yellowstone!). The only problem — this trail head was back where we had just been!  But, with hopes of climbing lots of rocks and seeing a few sheep, we set out.

It all started fine.

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But, this day was hotter than the day before at Devils Tower.  And, if you recall, we had a wilting Minnie Mouse that day.  So, imagine what this day did to her! This place is wide open with no shade. And, as I had no idea how long this trail would turn out to be, we left our water in the car.  Oh dear! But, with much coaxing and enticing with a bit of climbing, we made it to the ladder.

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Yes, we all went up it!  It actually wasn’t as bad as it looks.  It really was like climbing a ladder.  We got to the top, then Vence went on ahead to see what the rest of the trail was like.

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He decided that it was too difficult for all of us to do, and it didn’t really lead to anything we hadn’t already seen, so after a rest in a shaded spot, we went back down the ladder, which proved a bit harder than going up, but we all made it.  Some of us may have gotten a few scratches because we thought it was safe to step off the ladder to get down the rest of the way.  I won’t name any names, but surely it couldn’t be the author of this blog. (Side note here: this is all sandstone, so it is very crumbly.  There is a lot of slippery gravel.)

Finally we got to the end, and were almost at the car.  Then, we saw them.  Across the road, grazing on grass.  The sheep!!!  The wilting Minnie Mouse suddenly starts prancing and raced on ahead! I think we saw 6 bighorn altogether.

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After observing the sheep for a few minutes, we decided to keep going around the 30 mile loop of the park.  It was a curious, wondrous, crazy place.

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We came around a curve, and saw a bunch of people and cars along the side of the road.  We have learned that that usually indicates a wildlife sighting, so we all started looking.  Sheep!  And this time, they were all over the road, including right IN the road. This one turned and looked at our car as we drove past, as if letting Minnie Mouse know it was there just for her.

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After leaving the Badlands, we headed west toward the Black Hills, and the place that was really the start of this whole “big trip” idea — Mt. Rushmore.

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We heard from several people that the lighting ceremony in the evening was really worth seeing, so we made the plan to end our day here.  It was truly unbelievable. Pictures cannot capture the beauty of this monument.

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We had dinner with a view!

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As part of her Junior Ranger program, Minnie Mouse had to hug a tree!

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And, she was insistent about looking through the binoculars (that you have to pay to use). It was all she could talk/think about through dinner. It came up again when we found this set on the viewing porch, we finally gave in and let her try them.

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As the sun was setting:

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She finished her Junior Ranger book, and took her pledge!

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Then, we watched the evening program and lighting ceremony.  It was totally worth it!  There was a really great movie that shared the history of Mt. Rushmore and told more about the sculptor. Then, the monument was lit, and they had all of the veterans in the audience approach the front to be part of the retiring of the colors ceremony. It was incredible to see how many were there!

Vence and I both agreed that this was very fitting for the near end of the “big trip.” It was very patriotic, and felt like the proper exclamation point for the end of this excursion to see and celebrate our beautiful country.

We have just a few stops left to make, so we’ll see you there!

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