Monday, July 24, 2017

South Dakota Day 3

Dad looks for rattlesnakes everywhere we go. Mark REALLY wants to see one!
This morning Mom made waffles, and we drove east. Today we were hitting just two sites. The first was Minute Man National Historic Missile Site. The boys completed their Junior Ranger Programs, and we walked around the small museum. This site is dedicated to the history of the Cold War and the missiles that were stockpiled. They had a pretty cool graph that showed the number of bombs that the US and the USSR had since 1945. The boys didn’t understand the history much, but they did like looking into the missile silo that held a replica rocket. It is amazing to think that all across the center of America there were (and in some cases, still are) 1 acre plots surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Inside the fence is a hole, and inside the hole is a rocket with a one megaton payload that can be delivered ten thousand miles away.
Seth used the red phone to call in a nuclear strike.
Mark carried out the strike.
Dax liked the Minute Man motto hanging on the wall.
We've spent a lot of time on the Junior Ranger Program over the years.
This is the entrance to the underground missile right in the middle of nowhere.
The missile is inactive and a glass dome allows you to look inside.
We spent a couple of hours at the silo and the museum and then ventured into Badlands National Park around lunchtime. We haven’t heard great reports about the Badlands, but we loved it. We did four different hikes and saw many animals. The boys earned another Junior Ranger badge, too. It was their third in four days!
The Badlands is pretty unique. It looks a little like Bryce, but the colors are different.
The first hike we did in the Badlands was called The Door. On this hike, we walked out along a trail of rough rock for about half a mile. The land was open, meaning you could really walk anywhere, but we followed a series of twelve yellow poles that were driven into the ground. This trail led to a nice overlook. We paired this hike with a short hike called The Window, which was only a few hundred yards. We walked along a boardwalk to another overlook that took in a long line of red and white striped hills.

Seth enjoyed the open trail to the Door.
Dad enjoyed the bench at the Window!
The mountains in the Badlands all have such unique shapes.
It's a bit like Goblin Valley, too.
There isn't much shade, but the boys found a tiny sliver!
This is the end of the Door Trail.
We even managed a family picture because we had the Alder boys with us.
Dad reenacted the heel click from our wedding video.
The Window Trail followed a boardwalk.
The Window looks out over a pretty valley. Pictures don't really capture the view.
The next hike we did was pretty amazing. It was called The Notch and was the longest of the three at a mile and a half. It climbed steadily among the rocks. In fact, there was a really tall ladder that climbed about thirty yards up the hillside. The boys did great, even though it was a bit difficult as the steps were far apart. We also had Ty, Jason, and Nate along with us. Jason didn’t care for the height much, but he bravely made it, too. There was a pretty good precipice after the ladder, but the trail kept climbing. Finally, it reached a notch and you could overlook the entire valley. There was a drop of hundreds of feet, so we had to be careful with the boys, but the view was really stunning!
The trail to the Notch led into the Badlands.
It was fun hiking with cousins.
Mark spotted a blue grosbeak.
Mom is the prettiest hiker in our group.
The ladder could certainly be intimidating.
The boys rested when they could.
The view was really cool. The Visitor's Center was down in the valley.
Seth didn't mind the ladder at all.
Only the top was steep.
Going back down the ladder was an adventure, but we all made it and only Ty slipped and fell on his behind. Then we took our fourth hike, which was a loop around a nature trail called Cliff Shelf. After the fall, Ty sat this one out with Seth, who fell asleep in the motorhome. This walk was short and easy, but Dax spotted a three foot long rattlesnake gliding easily across the trail. It was a good thing he saw it, because he would have stepped on it if he hadn’t! We were pretty excited because there are signs everywhere saying watch out for rattlesnakes, but the rangers told us people never see them. We made sure to tell them we had seen one when we turned in the Junior Ranger booklets!
The Badlands was one of our favorite national parks.
Mom wasn't afraid of the rattlesnake.
It was the biggest rattlesnake we'd ever seen (but only Dad had seen one before).
That's a little over 3 feet!
Our last hike was a short boardwalk called Fossil Exhibit. There weren’t any real fossils, but everyone walked the loop anyway. The boardwalk was only a few hundred yards and every once in awhile we’d come to a board with a fake fossil. A sign explained the kinds of animals that lived in the Badlands in the past. It was kind of a letdown not to see real fossils, but it was okay because even Laurie and Glen walked this one.
The fossil trail was more like an outdoor museum.
The entire thing was boardwalked so no one had to worry about rattlesnakes.
There were a few scraggly bighorn sheep outside the Visitor's Center.
We stopped at the Visitor’s Center and watched the movie about park. Then we continued down the road, stopping for most of the overlooks. We saw three buffalo in the park, but we saw dozens of bighorn sheep, including a whole herd with babies. Everyone was worried because the babies were walking right below the lip of the precipice, just peeking their heads over to look at us. We may have been worried, but they were doing fine on the steep rocky hillside.
There were at least half a dozen pretty overlooks.
We stopped and watched a prairie dog village for quite awhile.
There were probably 1000 prairie dogs out there!
The Badlands seem to jump right out of the prarie.
You can see a long way on a nice clear day.
The bighorn sheep cling to the steep walls.
We ended up seeing dozens of bighorn sheep, and they were much prettier as we went.
There was even a herd right on the road.
Bighorn sheep siblings probably don't push each other as much as our boys do.
Just a few buffalo were grazing in the park.
It was another full day, and we didn’t get back from the Badlands until 8pm. Mom quickly made her pork burrito salads that everyone loves, and we took the boys swimming. The water was freezing cold, but we stayed for a half an hour and splashed around. Tomorrow should be a much easier day!
The water was cold, and it was almost dark, but you only live once!
Laurie likes to look for pools when scheduling stays because she likes to make the boys happy.
This sunset in the Black Hills capped an awesome day.

South Dakota Day 2

Happy Father's Day!
We left Casper around 8:30 and drove to Devil’s Tower National Monument. Before we headed out, we gave our Father's Day gifts to Dad. We wanted to let Dad know we loved him even if we were on the road for Father's Day.

It was a pretty long drive, but we passed hundreds of antelope and a few white-tailed deer along the way. When we arrived, the boys already had their Junior Rangers done except for a hike so we started around the tower. It’s 1.3 miles, and it took us nearly an hour to get all the way around. The monument is pretty cool, though, and we enjoyed the walk and the nice pine forest. At one point, we saw a five foot long bull snake slither off the path into the rocks.  There were chipmunks and rock climbers to spot, too.
Devil's Tower is the first National Monument ever created.
Mark couldn't believe the cracks the rock climbers use were so small.
The railroad wanted to use dynamite to blow up Devil's Tower.
That's the reason it was protected.
This was one of the prettiest snakes wer've seen.
The bull snake hurried under a rock.
Seth wanted to hold up this rock.
The tower stands out with nothing like it anywhere nearby.
We took a picture in front of the Visitor's Center.
After Devil’s Tower we drove into Spearfish and turned south. It was our plan to stop and visit three waterfalls on SR-14A. We didn’t know we’d be winding through some steep canyons. The drive was really beautiful through the Black Hills, though. The motorhome (and Glen) did all right on narrow winding road, too. The first falls we stopped at was called Bridal Veil Falls. We looked at it from the overlook at the road and then climbed down and crossed the river to see it from the bottom. The river was really just a stream, but we had to tightrope it on two narrow logs. Luckily, nobody ended up with feet that were too wet.

Dad doesn't like phones, but on a 6 hour drive, he might play a word game or two.
The wildflowers were really pretty.
This is the overlook for Bridal Veil Falls.
Mom with most of her boys.
Tyler thought he could do the walk without the logs.
Dad helped Nate (and everyone else) keep feet dry.
We love waterfalls, and this one was a beauty!
The second waterfall was up another narrow canyon a mile off the road. We unhooked the truck and drove to a beautiful park. This waterfall is called Roughlock Falls. It was difficult to get a picture, because we were above the falls. It was pretty neat, though. The river cascaded down a narrow sort of grotto about 50 feet. There wasn’t much of a walk to this one, either. It was only about a hundred yards from the road.

That's about the best picture we could get of Roughlock Falls.
Mark spotted this bird in the tree.
Roughlock was a pretty waterfall, too.
The final waterfall, called Spearfish Falls was much trickier. We parked right at the top and looked down on it. It was a pretty tall cascade, but standing right above it, we really couldn’t see anything. There was a one and half mile hike to the bottom that we really would’ve liked to do, but it was already 6 pm, and we still had another hour into Sturgis, where we planned to eat. So we hooked the truck back up and went into eat at Dairy Queen.

This is just the tiptop of Spearfish Falls. It is much taller.
The Black Hills of South Dakota were really gorgeous.
That night we camped in Rapid City. We got in pretty late, but at least we finished most of the driving is done for a few days. We stayed around this area for most of the next few days.

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