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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

South Dakota

 Things have been pretty busy around here and I was gone with the family (including my in-laws who are in town for most of this month) for a week on a really fun road trip to Mount Rushmore. Here are some highlights of the trip. 

My favorite part of the trip was staying at this beautiful ranch guest house in Hill City (a cute little town full of shops, galleries and Mountains to Prairie Cafe where they make an excellent Chokecherry Latte). The views were beautiful and the animals provided great entertainment for the kids. They had fun petting the gorgeous horses, walking in the pastures, playing with Nikki, the border collie, and the two cats who greeted us every morning. 
The ranch was a little bit pricier than some local hotels, but it paid off because we were able to cook meals in the kitchen and grill outside. We were getting pretty sick of road trip food (you know how it is, everything's brown and vegetables are scarce). 
 Sylvan Lake inside Custer State Park was gorgeous. There was a pretty easy hike that went around the lake and gave us a chance to get moving (we spent a lot of time in the car driving around seeing the sights).

 Then there was Mount Rushmore. None of us had ever been there before, so it was pretty exciting to see up close. Anri and Isla were especially thrilled after seeing the monument on postcard after postcard at all the tourist stops we made on the 13 hour journey out there (13 hours of driving time divided into two days). 
 Western South Dakota is a great place for viewing wildlife. We saw mountain goats (right outside the monument at Mount Rushmore), buffalo, big horn sheep, prairie dogs, antelope, and tons of deer. We found that Wind Cave National Park was the best place for viewing buffalo up close (as close as you'd want to see them). We went to tour the 200' deep caves, but found the buffalo in the park to be just as impressive. 

Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park offered beautiful views. The natural rock tunnels were pretty cool and we spotted a herd of buffalo off in the distance. 
 There was no shortage of interesting little towns, like Pringle (above) and this almost-ghost town (I spotted a couple of still-operating shops and a church) called Scenic which was off a backroad outside the Badlands. The town made headlines a couple of years ago when it was up for sale for $800,000 (the whole town!). 


 We broke up the drive by spending the night in Sioux Falls on the way out and Fairmont, MN on the way back. Lesson learned on this trip: never book the cheapest motel in town. I won't go into the reasons why cheap motels suck, but I will say that the perfectly decent Comfort Inn with complimentary breakfast in Fairmont just about made up for the higher price because we didn't spend $70 for a diner breakfast. 
 There was no shortage of tourist sights along the way. If you ever make the trip going west across South Dakota, you will most definitely not miss Wall Drug. There are about a gazillion billboards starting all the way back in Sioux Falls (Wall, SD is right outside the Badlands National Park). There's also Corn Palace in Mitchell ("Corn-sider Corn Palace"). Deadwood was a scenic town full of old west history, but it's now mostly just a bunch of casinos. Still, it was worth it to stroll around. And if you're a gambling gal, well then you've struck gold!

So that was our trip in a nutshell. We all had a great time and I'm looking forward to doing it again someday. 

 
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