Touring Badlands National Park and travel to Custer, South Dakota
Started our morning with pancakes & bacon at the KOA. Drove into BNP to the visitor's center. Rachel & Luke became Jr. Rangers--watch a movie, fill out a booklet, check out the displays & talk to a Ranger. They were very excited to take their pledge & wear their badges for the rest of the day.
Back to the campsite to hook up the camper then off on the Badlands Scenic Byway. Stopped along the way at overlooks & trails. Our big hike of the day was Saddle Pass Overlook. A quarter mile trail that went up the side of a large rock formation. Luke was a little scared and Rachel thought it was great! Good hikers! The increase in altitude was steep, but they weathered it well with 3 out of 4 of us wiping out on the way down. The hike was Luke's favorite part of the day.
We took LOTS of pictures of rocks. You can see them when we get back! Stopped at Conata basin to grab a geocache just outside BNP. Met cachers from Canada & one from Australia--first international cachers we've met. Mama had to hike in for this one because the kiddos were sleeping and daddy had to turn around on the road! Whew!
In the Conata basin, we cooked burgers & hotdogs for lunch and then visited the "Pig Dig". This is an archeological dig site--the only active dig in a national park--manned by students from South Dakota State University. This was Rachel's favorite part of the day. They were in a pit about 3' deep that the diggers estimated had 10-12 fossilized animals in it.
After this we continued on the Scenic Byway & encountered much wildlife. We enjoyed watching the prairie dogs--so many of them! We spied a bison that had wandered into a scenic overlook and was up close & personal to the parking area. Got some good pics of this 'as big as your car mama' animal.
This road looped us around to continue on to Wall, South Dakota home of Wall Drug store. Wall Drug is famous for it's free ice water (been giving it out for over 100 years) and 5 cent coffee. We had some of both! The street in Wall is an amazing tourist trap. We purchase obligatory South Dakota Tshirts & actually made a drug store purchase in the famous store (kid toothpaste). There is a new Wall's Backyard with lots of fun stuff. Luke & Rachel posed for many pictures--2 six foot rabbits, driving a covered wagon, with a gigantic jackalope, in a teepee, on the back of a caboose, with a bison, on a bucking horse, with an indian...you get the picture. We'll share when we get home. They also got 30 seconds to play in the spraying water playground before heading out.
Onto Custer, South Dakota...came through Custer State Park--where a forest fire burned approx. 3000 acres YESTERDAY! It's out & the drive through the park was beautiful. Saw many deer & something we weren't sure what it was--some sort of goat maybe. (All the wildlife was Mama's favorite part of the day.)
Custer is an interesting little town. We'd like to explore it some more. The population is currently 1,800, but was as high as 10,000 before gold was struck in Deadwood to the north. Big Pine Campground is beautiful. We are camped in the midst of very tall pine trees. We watched the moon come out through the trees. Luke & Rachel met some friends at the playground while we cooked dinner.
License plate update: 7 to go & we've spotted them all!
Tomorrow is the day we see Rushmore!
Liz & family