Monday, July 28, 2014

south dakota with nana.

Last week my mom took Ethnie and I on a three generations trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota. It was really fun and we made some great memories to take home with us. I didn't know the western part of SD was so beautiful. I liked it more than I had anticipated. I would love to come back again someday. Enjoy the photos! There are a ton. :)

day one.
Driving, driving, driving. It was a long day, but we made some stops to break it up. We crossed over into the northern part of SD and stopped at Storybook Land in Aberdeen. It's filled with nursery rhyme stories and other popular storybook characters. This place is great for kids and worth the stop! Ethnie really enjoyed it.
Rapunzel's castle
cute Jack and the Beanstalk in the background
ride with Nana.
This place also has a mini Land of Oz, including Dorothy's house, a tornado, the yellow-brick road, and the haunted forest. Ethnie has recently been exposed to this movie and loves it, especially the songs. She got scared a few times, but overall did fine.
did I mention it was a long drive? 
Our temporary palace. We stayed right in Custer, at the mouth of Custer State Park. This place was exactly what we needed. Clean. Cool. Quiet. Convenient. And the couple who owns it is super sweet. There was also a pool one block away that Ethnie swam in while we were there.

day two.
It was sunny and 90+ degrees the entire time we were here. It got hot, but I'd rather have the heat than be limited by rain. I was so grateful to have nice weather during our trip. We drank a ton of water and tried to get out of the sun when we could.
Crazy Horse Monument. When it's finished it will be the world's largest sculpture.
on our way to Mount Rushmore!
here it is! this was a highlight for me. really impressive. 

in the gift shop there was a man there who actually worked on the monument! he was in his 90s and was telling stories about his experience working on Mt. Rushmore.
a little hot

We took a break from the heat and headed to Rushmore Cave. This was a fun experience. Ethnie thought it was so cool and loved exploring around. This limestone cave stays 58 degrees all the time, regardless of the season.
lots of steep stairs.
mom had to duck a lot. :) and you are not allowed to touch anything; it turns the limestone black.
looking like a tourist
 We took Ethnie to a horse stable so she could hang out with her favorite animal. We wanted to go horseback riding, but it was really hot and there was no breeze or shade where they ride.

 This girl is in love with horses. Sigh. Not the easiest animal to love when you live in the city...
 playing ring around the boots ?

 day three.
We headed to Bear Country in the morning, which is this great drive-through zoo. The animals will walk right next to your car. It was huge and very clean.

arctic wolf
big horned sheep

 bears! these guys were roaming all over the place.
cubs. so fun to watch.
 We took a long, winding drive through Custer State Park. This is all along Needles Hwy, which is pretty narrow with many hairpin turns. It is very pretty. We also went through the Wildlife Loop in the park. Unfortunately, we did not come across any buffalo herds. :( The park has a huge network of roads and it would take hours to drive through all of them. However, we did see many deer and wild donkeys. The donkeys were actually very friendly and beg for food.

We stopped at Lake Sylvan to swim, which was by far my favorite part of the trip. This is the prettiest lake I have ever been to.
Ethnie and I swimming. We are the two tiny heads in front of the rock. The water was freezing!
 hot, but having fun.
 such a little fish

 day four.
breakfast is serious stuff around here. 

After our massive, amazing pancakes we went to the Reptile Gardens. This is the largest reptile zoo in the world. It's even in the Guinness Book of World Records. They also have other kinds of animals. Once again, very clean and all the animals looked happy and healthy. Ethnie had a blast here.
 bird show
 this is Queenie. She will take a dollar bill out of your hand and put it in the donation box. :)
 holding a two-year-old croc.
 this guy taught us the proper way to man handle an alligator, just in case you land yourself in that situation. ;)
 giant tortoise! the older they get, the softer their skin becomes. wouldn't that be nice! they love getting their necks rubbed.
this croc was in the old James Bond movie Live and Let Die from the 70s.
 this was in a big tropical dome where all of the animals and reptiles roam free.
 boa constrictor right above my head.
 lots of birds!
 The top floor of the dome had tons of venomous snakes. I think I counted at least 30 (not roaming free!). Ethnie is standing next to an anaconda here. It was massive and gross. I was afraid.

Everywhere we went there were these painted buffalo. Ethnie had to get a picture in front of each one she spotted. :)
 this one was her favorite.

day 5.
We got up really early, packed up and started the journey home. We took a different route so we could drive through the Badlands.
so beautiful and peaceful
sad to leave. it was a great trip!
our last stop was Falls Park in Sioux Falls
Ethnie loved roaming around on the rocks

We made it home after dark and were exhausted. Emmett was so happy to see me. This was the longest I had ever been away from him. When he saw me he hugged me for about 15 minutes straight, burrowing into my shoulder. I think he loves me. :) Ethnie cried for about an hour after Nana left; she was heartbroken that our trip came to an end. We look forward to continuing this new tradition with my mom.

Have a great week!