Day Eleven: Badlands National Park, SD to Custer State Park, SD (Driving for 2.5 hours)
We did this on the way home from Nauvoo 14 years earlier and loved it so much that we bought a giant stuffed bear and stuffed it into the back of our Ford Escort wagon. I don’t know how we fit that thing in! Every year we set that bear out under our Christmas tree and the kids love laying on him while reading at night. Cayden, of course, has no memory of that trip and we were glad to be able to plan this stop into our trip this year!
Bear country has the world’s largest collection of privately owned black bears
It’s a (slow) 3 mile drive
This place takes up 200 acres
It’s pretty much the coolest thing to see bears wondering around
When we first started the drive, we were looking at normal animals- goats, deer, antelope, etc. We didn’t see any wolves, which disappointed Ashlyn. Each “section” is divided by tall fencing so the wolves don’t eat all of the goats and so that no one has to wonder who would win in a bear/wolf battle.
It was fun to see the deer up close!
Cute deer…. but since I’m an amateur deer-noticer, it’s probably actually called something like a buck. I just checked that out, and yes… male deer have the antlers (I knew that) and male deer are called bucks (I was pretty sure that was right too). The exception to that rule are reindeer, because female reindeer can have antlers. Another weird exception- all deer species grow antlers of some kind except for Chinese water deer, who grow tusks (vampire teeth) and have no antlers at all. Crazy! We did not see any of those, although we did see both deer and reindeer!
Our first bear spotting!
It was HOT and you could tell the bears were also HOT! They loved the water, the shade, their caves… and if they were in the sun they were usually lying down.
Some bears were very furry!
The golden bears were beautiful!
Many bears seemed to be in various stages of shedding their fur. It seemed strange to me since it was August. Winter has been over for months!
One of the big rules for Bear Country is that you can never roll down your windows… which is excellent advice. You usually can’t tell that there is a window between that bear and our family, but there is.
Since we were traveling at speeds around 2 miles an hour, we went nuts and let the kids unbuckle so that they could really be looking out of the windows. Living on the edge!
How many bears do you see in this picture? (Above)
We finally, finally got to see some buffalo! Maybe they weren’t grazing near our campsite, but this was great too 🙂
Alison taking Dylan for a walk. It was fun to be a “baby” in Babyland after all!
Group picture! (Sort of) Alison is standing by me, Jackson did not want to pose, Megan is trying to get her stroller back, Dylan is smiling because he is still in the stroller, Cayden is annoyed that Dylan isn’t getting out, and Matt/Ashlyn are giving me the smile I started out to get! Ha! My family is awesome! We have so much fun together, even if people like strollers and don’t like posing!
Megan fell in love withe this rock by the parking lot. Matt had to run back into the gift shop with someone, so Megan got to stay here with me for a while. Nice and shady!
We settled into our camping spot before we headed over to Mount Rushmore. This was by far the hardest camping spot we’ve ever had to park the trailer. We had to practically drive off the road (steep slope downward) to be able to back our trailer into the site. It was like a 50-point turn. We could see ruts in the ground- other people’d had this problem too. We finally got in, climbed out of the van and saw this:
We knew it was going to be great!
Right away the kids set off exploring. This place was magical! The rocks sparkled. If you picked up the rocks, sparkly sheets would flake off. The forest floor was covered with sparkle!
The log didn’t look that high in the first picture, but it was! Alison may not have climbed the log to get to the top, but she was there at the top and a part of everything!
Ashlyn and Jackson, at the top – one of many summits!
Megan and Alison in their “house.”
Their job was to collect these things and grind them into powder to make wolf food. You can see them holding their grinding tools in the picture above!
Here is Jackson’s house. His job was to make weapons!
Of course, a weapons demonstration was needed!
Here’s Dylan’s house. He loved this house and it was the biggest house of everyone’s! His job was the baker and his “secret” job was a rock scientist!
Ashlyn, helping the girls to grind their wolf food!
I love that the tops made little bowls. Cute! Of course, no touching…
After a long time of relaxing and exploring (and not driving) we convinced the kids that it was time to go to Mount Rushmore. We promised them that they could go back outside and explore right after they woke up the next morning, instead of packing up and leaving immediately. Even though it was hard to leave the trips’ best campsite, everyone wanted to check out the giant faces on the mountain! They were intrigued!
It took 14 years to build
They used dynamite to do most of the carving of the four presidents (They had a unique method to get the exact rock removal that they wanted)
At first they were going to carve the presidents down to their waist but they ran out of money… so just the heads!
No one died while building Mount Rushmore. With all of that dynamite, that is amazing!