Hello. Sorry we couldn't make an entry yesterday. No good internet at the campground here in Hill City, SD last night. Lo and behold, tonight it is working.
Yesterday, we left Lake Thompson Recreation Area campground near De Smet, SD on our way to the Mount Rushmore area. The Lake Thompson park was very nice as I think I said in the last post. Anyway, just west of De Smet, we stopped at the site of the former village of Manchester, SD. This was a small hamlet which was wiped from the map by an F-4 tornado back in 2003. The only thing there now are the old streets, foundations, and a memorial to the people who lived there. Luckily no one died, but several were injured. Very eerie feeling being there. There are still tree trunks which are now dead, all the leaves and smaller branches ripped from them in the storm.
We've determined that South Dakota contains some of the straightest stretches of highway with the least amount of traffic. We were pretty much on state highways at the beginning of Wednesday (not interstate) and there were few curves and about one car passing every 15 minutes. Strange to see so little traffic. The other thing is that the houses are about 3-4 miles apart, with little opportunity for shopping, even just milk or bread. Annie said something about just needing to find a gun store if she had to live there. I think purchasing a John Deere something or other is a requirement just to move into town.
After getting back on I-90 and heading West we were soon at Badlands National Park. This is an amazing place to see. Erosion taking an inch a year of the mountains. The kids became Junior Rangers for the Park Service by completing some exercises in booklets they give out. The three younger kids were thrilled while our oldest decided not to finish. After spending some time in the visitor center, we drove a Scenic Byway through the park, stopping many times for photos or videos. The kids of course were scared of any grass because there are Rattle Snakes here and Chris told them to stick to non-grassy areas. It was funny to see them hopping and skipping around! Besides the landscape, we also saw a couple of Prairie Dog towns along the way.
As you leave Badlands, you enter Wall, SD. There is a "drug store" there which advertises on billboards around the world, including a couple of hundred on I-90 the previous 200 miles. We decided to stop since a few of the billboards said they had homemade breakfast buns, ice cream, and donuts.
After shopping a while, we got back on the road, again heading west toward Mount Rushmore. Two hours later we pulled into the Mount Rushmore KOA which is about 6 miles from the Memorial. This place is 1) big, 2) packed with campers, and 3) BIG. There is about everything here: pools, water slides, spray park, horse-back riding, hotel, restaurant, ice cream shop, etc, etc. Unfortunately, on Wednesday the temperature here was in the high-50's, and today was not much warmer. The kids did get to use the bounce-pad, though. This is a big air pillow that the kids can jump on - about as big as our house.
So, to today.
First, today, Mount Rushmore hosted its Fourth of July celebration culminating with a fireworks display over the monument. We were told it was going to be busy. So we decided to get to the park early. When we went outside, it was cloudy with some drizzle. We thought we were cursed by our friend Fedele since he came all the way here and wasn't able to see the faces because of fog. So by 7am, we were at the park. We had breakfast in the cafeteria there, which overlooks the monument. By the way, at that time, there were already people there sitting in their folding chairs, holding their spots for the fireworks. We had an enjoyable visit, hiked a trail, visited a museum, took some great pictures, bought some stuff, and were on our way out by 10am. By that time, the place was absolutely packed. People were coming in with coolers, chairs, handcarts, you name it. As we drove away, there were people walking to the park after parking their cars MILES away. We drove all the way DOWNHILL about 4 miles and there were still people walking UP the hill toward the park hauling all manner of stuff to prepare for their stay in the park until the fireworks, 11 hours later. NO THANKS! Those people are crazy.
We all thought Mount Rushmore was GREAT. It was beautiful and the Park Service does a great job with people around to ask question to; great facilities; etc. (This goes for Badlands also.)
After leaving the park, we drove another Scenic Byway called the Iron Mountain Road. There are some great tunnels (some frame Mount Rushmore in the distance) and some great views. We loved it. The drive on this road culminated in another unexpected adventure that we'll share with you when we see you next...
In any case, we made it back to the campground tonight, had dinner, and pretty much crashed. More tomorrow...