South Dakota (Part Deux)

Well, we packed it in today. I mean we got our money’s worth. We set out for Mammoth Site and Museum in Hot Springs. Fortunately for us, we were able to drive through Wind Cave National Park on our way.

For bonus points, we came across these guys.

This big fella decided to cross the road and walked right beside us in the parking lot pull off. I thought this was awesome but the boys assured me that I ain’t seen nuttin’ yet.

The herd of females were in one group and the males were in another. We got to watch some of them take a dust bath (that helps keep the bugs off and stuff) and even saw several of them “fight” each other and we could hear them grunting.

After our bison herd viewing, we continued south to see some mammoth bones. The Mammoth Site has the largest collection of Mammoth fossils in the world. They have over 60 mammoths at the site. This is an active paleontology dig site so they are still slowly, very slowly, uncovering more fossils.

We took the guided tour which is included with your admission. During the summer, the site also has a Junior Dig Program and kids are allowed to dig for fossils after an informative lesson on paleontology. They were replica fossils and not the actual ones like above but the kids had a blast. Our boys found the tusk and Mason couldn’t have been happier.

Some of you remember Mason’s very long dinosaur phase. I remember when Mason was about two and we were in Publix and the gentlemen taking our groceries out asked Mason something about dinosaurs (he was probably wearing a dinosaur shirt or something) and Mason looked him square in the eye and said he wanted to be a paleontologist when he grew up. Ha! I still get cracked up thinking about the man’s face. One, because he couldn’t believe such a young fella knew a word that big and could say it so clearly and two, because he had to ask Mason what a paleontologist was. Heehee. Tuck was excited he got to dig in the dirt.

Then it was time for lunch and we set out for Custer State Park. If you are ever in South Dakota and you like animals, you have to stop. The park is beautiful and bison are everywhere!!! Now, the boys still say Yellowstone is better but I have a hard time believing that after driving through the park. I didn’t go with them to Yellowstone so I’m excited to see how they compare when we get out there. The buffalo here were just in herds right along the road, in the road, everywhere.

Tuck is usually fearless but he was pretty cautious with the buffalo. Since Mason got out of the car for a picture, Tuck decided he would too. So it was great. We get this sweet pic of him with the herd in the background (which was closer in person than it appears in the photo) and then Trev yells, “Run Tucker! Hurry!” That poor child took off like grease lighting; jumped back in the car crying. He knew a buffalo HAD to be chasing him for dad to yell like that. I mean, dad wouldn’t lie to his son, right? Trev felt so bad after he saw that Tuck was actually scared. Tuck is usually so brave and cocky, Trev didn’t think it would even phase the little man. I see psychiatry bills in our future.

Several times I could have petted some of them they were so close. The only thing stopping me was I was afraid the buffalo would turn to see what touched it and dent the car with its massive head or horns.

Down the road, there’s a short mile trail around Legion Lake so we got out and stretched our legs.

I love this picture of Mason. He is becoming a sweet young man.

The trail was nice and the lake was pretty but I wasn’t a fan of the beach area. It wasn’t sandy; it was more muddy looking. Didn’t make me want to throw a beach blanket down but plenty of people did.

The park is really beautiful. We had a very full day but while the kids were building a fort (my kids are always building forts it seems like just ask my sweet neighbors) at the Education Center, we checked the weather for the next day and it showed rain.

We didn’t want to see Rushmore in the rain and the weather was wonderful now so we headed over to Mount Rushmore, since it stays open late.

We passed the Crazy Horse Monument on our way. We didn’t stop but we were able to snap some pictures as we drove by.

The boys got excited when we just drove up beside this guy on the side of the road headed up to Rushmore.

The guide at the Lewis and Clark Center had told us that they were renovating parts of the park and parts were closed off. So we weren’t sure what we would be able to see but we had to at least try. I’m glad we did. The Visitor Center, the Avenue of Flags, and a short section of the Presidential Trail are closed until early 2020 but everything else is open.

We had our photo op in front of the construction sign and hit the gift shop looking for pressed pennies. Then off to the information center for yet another Jr. Ranger program. I don’t know if my kids will learn the grade level appropriate topics in history and science this year but I can guarantee they are learning all about our great nation!

After badges, we hiked the Presidential Trail and then hit the road for a late supper. Everyone was ready for bed.

We woke up to a slight drizzle but nothing major. Since we saw Mount Rushmore the day before, we took our time and got some schoolwork done and some rearranging in the car completed before we headed out.

On our way to North Dakota the only stop we had on our list was the Center of the Nation, which was a good thing because there wasn’t much else to see other than wide open thousands of acre ranches. The Center of the Nation is what it sounds like; it’s the geographic center of our nation when you take into account Alaska and Hawaii. Although, technically, the exact center of the nation is marked by pin in the middle of a field about 20 miles away, this is where they were able to put the monument.

Well, I take that back, we did drive through a couple of little towns like Pluma and Deadwood but other than that it was just wide open.

It’s amazing how, in just one state, we went from plains and rolling hills, to the Badlands, to the Black Hills, to the open range.

Absolutely wonderful. America the beautiful!

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