Yellowstone National Park 3

 

Here we are at Day 2 in Yellowstone, we had a great night sleep at our wonderful cabin Sacajawea at Shoshone Lodge and campground, I just wish we would have planned a day to stay here relax and enjoy all the offerings they had, perhaps on another trip.

6 a.m. Rise and Shine.  We were packed up and ready to go at 7 am.  We entered through the east entrance again and took our time enjoying the beautiful drive into the park.

Fishing Bridge

Stopped to fuel up and grab some munchies here. Made a quick stop to the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center to get our Passport Cancellations. This visitor center/gift shop is pretty small, we looked at a few of the exhibits and then proceeded with the itinerary.

West Thumb

Off to find Potts Hot Springs Basin-FAIL we never found it despite driving around the area several times.

We pulled into West Thumb and stopped at the Information Station Bookstore for yet another Yellowstone Passport Cancellation. Did a quick Lake Overlook and ran back to the car, much more exciting things ahead.

Next stop the Continental Divide

 

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There was a huge line of people getting their picture taken at the sign headed west so we just pulled into the eastward sign.   There are plenty of CD signs in the park you won’t miss them.

Kepler Cascades

This place was a beautiful stop on the 17-mile drive from West Thumb heading into the Old Faithful area.  Low crowds and lots of photos.

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Now we are off to Old Faithful area.  It has its own exit, I felt like I was on an interstate, in a National Park??? So weird.

Old Faithful

We parked at the Old Faithful Inn, Grandma hopped on the Old Faithful Inn tour while we went up to the Observation Deck to view the eruption.  Here we waited about 10 minutes before Old Faithful did its job.  That was pretty good timing!

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This must have been around 11 am.  We went downstairs and waited in line for about 2 minutes for the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room, what a beautiful place! We really enjoyed eating here, the atmosphere was amazing and the food was fantastic! We learned a mistake from yesterday and timed our meal so we didn’t waste a minute.

From here we strolled over to the Old Faithful Visitor Center, went through the center, did a Junior Ranger program, strolled through the NP Haynes Photoshop, back to the visitor center and we received our Junior Ranger Patches. Not without first reuniting a poor lost kid with his mother, apparently, she beelined it for the geyser eruption and didn’t pay attention that she lost her 4-year-old, after about 20 minutes she came back for him.

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We were on our way to get Huckleberry ice cream back at the Old Faithful Inn when Old Faithful erupted again for us.  We snapped this quick picture and headed for ice cream to beat the crowd!

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The Huckleberry Ice cream was everything that we dreamed of.  Absolutely worth it and delicious.  We sat outside and enjoyed the scenery and ice cream, the day was perfect for it. I really wanted to rent bikes and ride through upper basin but couldn’t talk my cohorts into it, add it to the list of things to do “next time”, that list is really adding up.

Black Sand Basin

Back to the car and off we go only about 1 mile northwest of Old Faithful. This place was fun; springs, geysers and our first elk sighting! The binoculars we brought finally came in handy, thanks, dad.  The kids were mesmerized by the elk and I was mesmerized by the pools.  So beautiful, the springs and geysers were fun to just watch along with the elk.

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I could have easily stayed here all day!!

Fountain Flat Drive

Grand Prismatic Spring, this is it. This is what we have been waiting to see.  The most famous spot at Yellowstone was it worth it???  Yes, it was.  The only thing I wish we would have done is to walk up to the overlook, but the parking lot was full.  The parking here at this time of day was horrendous, so be prepared! Make sure not to miss this spot it is really amazing.

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Firehole Lake Drive

This was just ok, not too impressive.  Low crowds and pullovers for pictures.  A nice break from not getting in and out of the car, a small road off of the main road.  The kids loved this part because I let them take pictures of this set of geysers while standing in the car and taking the pictures out of the moonroof. A little trick we learned here at Yellowstone National Park.

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Madison

We drove up to Madison to add a cancellation to our passport. To our surprise, it was not crowded and really peaceful.  Not a soul around at the Visitor Center, so we wandered around and enjoyed the silence. A great break from all the crowds and traffic.  So serene and empty. This is how I imagined Yellowstone would be.

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Firehole Canyon Drive

This road, off of the main drag was beautiful, one of the best parts of the park. We were expecting to go swimming at the Firehole swimming area, but as per usual with Yellowstone, it was packed and there was absolutely nowhere to park.  With a little better planning now that we have experience with the park, we will come here earlier and make sure we swim and relax.  It looked amazing, I was a little upset we missed out on this experience.  We just keep adding to our list of things to do next time!

With the west side of Yellowstone under our belts, we headed to Flagg Ranch, our destination for the next 2 nights.  The drive through south Yellowstone was absolutely gorgeous, is there any spot here in the park that isn’t??  We did manage to find a prettier setting for another Continental Divide sign.  The picture below was taken on our way back through, this spot had a lovely little pond covered with lily pads and some information about the Continental Divide.  I recommend this stop over the above one.

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We checked into Flagg Ranch and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Ranch as well. Next up is Grand Teton National Park!  Overall we enjoyed Yellowstone immensely.  It was so pretty with so many things to do, it would be impossible not to want to come back!  We really enjoyed the wildlife, the geysers, the springs, the visitor centers, and everything minus the crowds and a few grumpy tourists.  I am already planning our next trip here (in my mind). So with 4 full pages of cancellations, over 300 photos and a lifetime of memories, I will say Yellowstone was a success with our family.  Lots of hours spent researching and planning was not wasted.  I hope with this blog it will help someone out there to plan their trip or just enjoy watching us.  Please let me know if you have any questions at all.  Don’t miss out on my other two blogs on Yellowstone either.  What is your favorite part of this park??  There are so many great ones.

Cancellation Success, we are missing a few. Museum of the National Park Ranger and Snake River Ranger Station.  But, alas we will be back 🙂

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Thanks for visiting.  Don’t miss out on all the other National Park posts I have!! Feel free to send me suggestions on parks I need to visit!!

 

 

Yellowstone National Park 2

Welcome back, everyone.  This blog post will be our afternoon at Yellowstone following blog post, Yellowstone National Park Part 1.  We pick up after a wonderful lunch at Roosevelt Lodge.

We are heading to what will be, my favorite part of the park 🙂  The Mammoth/Norris Country.  First stop, Albright Visitor Center.  This place is its own community!!  It has its own Post Office and looks like a bustling town, it’s absolutely gorgeous I bet even more so in winter.  We managed to find a parking spot near the post office and walked over to the Visitor Center.  This place was great!  We spent about an hour to hour and a half in here getting our cancellations, browsing the gift shop, looking at the exhibits.  I went into the basement to check out more things but my kids were enamored by the buffalo exhibit.  They watched the film of people getting trampled and flung into trees at least a dozen times. Apparently, it never gets old, according to them. Not sure the video was made for entertainment. After we sized ourselves up to the Buffalo we went and rode the bear at the Post Office.  Lol, this kid cracks me up! Our energy is still going strong at this point.

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We wandered our way over to Mammoth Hot Springs. We did the Upper and Lower Terrace Loop.  Lots of people but we found everyone to be extremely friendly and patient.  We took lots of pictures here, it was truly like another planet. We loved it so much that I am convinced if we come back we will stay in this part of the park. It was Fascinating!!  We also enjoyed a drive through the backside for more springs and geysers.

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Off to the Museum of the National Park Ranger, by the time we arrived, it was closed.  We were only off by about 5 minutes so I am putting a timestamp here around 5 pm.  We are 10 hours into our day already. Next stop Porcelain Basin/Emerald Spring in Norris.

Norris is the area of Yellowstone that was a former US Army outpost. It gets its name from the park’s 2nd superintendent Philetus W Norris. We stopped off at the Norris Information Station/Bookstore for a cancellation and possibly a map of the basin, no luck on the map, we are going to wing it. Managed to get our cancellation.😀

A mile of boardwalks loop through the Porcelain Basin.  It’s past 5 pm and the crowds are dying down, we are almost the only ones out here walking the boardwalk. Porcelain Basin is the park’s hottest basin that is exposed.  We walked to the Museum and through it coming down onto the right side of the basins, here we found the following:

Porcelain Terrace Overlook

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Black Growler Steam Vent

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Crackling Lake

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Whales Mouth

Whirligig Geyser and more:

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Now back through the museum and over to the Back Basin area:

Steamboat Geyser

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Emerald Spring

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Back in the car now and heading South. Next up is Artist Paint Pots. We parked the car and went on a nice .7 mile walk with great views, hot springs, and mudpots.  To our surprise, we met some nice folks from Kirkman, Iowa, where one of my best friends grew up. It’s a small world out there, I love it!! Time to head back to our cabin, it has been a long but beautiful day.

Artists Paint Pots

IMG_1916IMG_1914IMG_1915 On the drive home we pulled in to see the Mud Volcano but no one was interested in getting out except for me!  I would say the day was a success!

Mud Volcano

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That is a wrap for this post.  Check back for Yellowstone National Park Part 3!! It gets even better, I promise. 🙂

Bonus:  We caught a Buffalo swimming across the lake on the way back to our cabin that evening!! Highlight of the day 😍😍

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Until next time!!

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

IMG_1801Every year we head down to beautiful Eminence Missouri for the Cross Country Trail Ride with our mules, for a week of trail riding through this gorgeous landscape. This year we decided to venture out of the campground/trail system and see what the National Park system had to offer, we weren’t disappointed!!

The Ozark NSR is 134 miles in length, it contains Karsts, springs , caves and rivers. There are several places to go and we didn’t cover everything. We did enjoy it so much we have decided that next year we are going to pack the kayaks and go out to enjoy what we missed this time.

Here is what we managed to fit in this year.

Alley Spring

The first stop we made was at Alley Spring. Home of the beautiful Alley Mill, old school house, trails, caves to crawl in and an Old General Store/Visitor Center. We headed straight to the Visitor Center to grab our passport cancellations, junior ranger book and information pamphlets. This Visitor Center is really cool, it doubled as an old general store.

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We drove down to the parking lot to walk to Alley Mill. The Mill is gorgeous! It also has its own cancellation! 🙂  Take a walk around to see all the old equipment and machinery. Under the back porch is a turbine pit that holds the turbine. The first floor is where the grain entered the Mill, was put into bins and elevated to chutes connected to milling machines, here you find those machines. The second floor contains a swing sifter.

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Take a walk on the trail around the Mill, it’s not far and it is beautiful!! It even has a few caves for kids to crawl into! Who doesn’t love a good Cave!!

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This spring has an average daily flow of 81 gallons!

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We skipped the school house this trip. A little secret here that not many people know about is the warm springs swimming area. This is found past the campground and down a gravel road into a parking lot and then a short walk to the beach. If you are here in the summer this is a great place to cool off at without many people!! The kids loved jumping off the rock and swimming here when we brought them in the summer.

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Round Spring

This spring was beautiful!! A short walk to this from the parking lot. Round spring was created when a cavern roof collapsed, part of the roof still remains as a natural bridge under the spring.  Round spring has an average daily flow of 26 million gallons.

Fun fact: Spring systems can be thought of as caves in development!

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People have been visiting round spring for 10,000 years! We didn’t get to Round Spring cave on this trip because it is only open in summer months.

Rocky Falls

Rocky Falls is located about 14 miles Southeast of Eminence.  This place is gorgeous in any season. It is an example of a shut-in, a river naturally confined in a narrow channel. In the summer you can swim here. This time we just walked the trail up to explore the top of the falls and enjoyed it from the bottom.

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Blue Spring

This spring was my favorite. There was a great short hike to get back to the spring. This spring is 310 feet deep which boasts that if the Statue of Liberty stood at the bottom her torch would be under water. Wow, that’s deep! The color of this spring comes from dissolving minerals.

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Absolute walk of beauty all the way to the spring and back.

Two Rivers

Two Rivers is exactly what you think it might be, two rivers. This is where the Current River and the Jack Forks River meet up. We actually ride here on our mules every year. This is by far my favorite ride in this area. We pass through Shawnee campground and through a field that houses the Missouri Wild horses. Tons of river crossings and beautiful scenery the whole way! When you get there, this is the view that awaits you, absolutely stunning!

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The rivers here are crystal clear, with a deep green hue where they are deepest. Set against a beautiful blue sky and rolling hills of trees this is a place you just want to keep coming back to!

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We didn’t get to all of the stops along the Ozark Scenic Riverways but we checked a few off. We will be back in the years to come to enjoy all of them. I did happen to get a few cancellations, all of these were located at Alley Springs visitor center besides the Alley Mill.

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I hope you all enjoyed our trip to the Ozark Scenic Riverways. Have you been there? What was your favorite part?

Thanks for visiting, until next time, enjoy your travels.

Yellowstone National Park 1

We have made it to Yellowstone National Park, what a trek across Wyoming, I can’t tell you how beautiful this state is, you must see for yourself.

We are staying at Shoshone Lodge and Guest Ranch, this is located about 3-4 miles east of The East Entrance of Yellowstone.  What a great place!!  I honestly think this is a place you just come to and stay put, maybe venture to Yellowstone a few days  during a week long trip but this place has tons of things to do or you could just stay and relax, depending on how you like to travel.  Us?? We put in 2, 14 hour days to get everything we wanted done at Yellowstone, and only used our cabin to sleep and shower.  The first evening we arrived we hung out by the campfire, played some baseball with other guests and chatted with some folks hanging out by the fire, relaxing! This is the way to do it.

The next morning we were up and going by 7 am.  I heard that the park gets busy fast and parking lots are usually full by 10 am.  Our first stop was 4 minutes away at the entrance sign. Luckily another family was right there with us and took our photo. It turned out fantastic! Everybody is awake and ready to go!

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We got our map and park newsletter and were off on our 1st adventure.  When you enter the park from this end, it is quite a drive to any of the frequent tourist stops so be prepared to be in the car for a good 30-60 minutes, depending on how well you manage curves and if you get stuck behind RVs.  It is a beautiful drive so just sit back and enjoy. We drove the East Entrance Road all the way to the T intersection and took a right to follow the Grand Loop Road, this follows the Yellowstone River and there are plenty of wildlife to keep you occupied on the long trip.  Our favorite were the buffalo, it was amazing how big these guys were and you were practically on top of them.  We got some great pictures just sitting in the car!! On the way back that night we even got to watch one swim through the water and get out to cross the road!  This was by far one of the coolest things we saw!

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South Rim Drive

Just up the Grand Loop Road was the South Rim Drive.  We turned here to get some pictures of the Artists Points.  This place was starting to get really packed by 10 am and was almost nearly impossible to get a picture.  Be patient, those pictures here are worth it 🙂 See!!

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Next up was Uncle Tom’s Trail, it was closed for construction 😦  Looks like we will have to come back 🙂  LOL!!!

We headed up a little further to the North Rim Drive.  Here we checked a few things off of our Itinerary!  Lots of great viewpoints along the way and interesting educational signs to go with.

Brink of Lower Falls

We hiked down this trail to see the waterfall from the top.  Pretty, but packed, we expected this.  Yellowstone is not for people who don’t like crowds, esp. in July/August.  Just be prepared and plan well.

Lookout Point

Park your car and walk a few steps to this.  Puts in to perspective how gorgeous and huge this park is.

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Grand Viewpoint

Ever wondered why it’s called Yellowstone.  One glimpse of the Grand Viewpoint and I am betting you figure it out!  The kids loved it here! We got to see a golden eagle flying over this, pretty sweet and a memory we won’t soon forget.

Canyon Visitor Center

This place was fantastic.  We watched the short film, wandered around the exhibits, got our Junior Ranger booklet (here it costs $3 but instead of a pin you get a patch).  Visited the gift shop, purchased a few items, including Yellowstone Passport Stickers and got our Canyon Village Cancellation. There are lots of things to do in this village. Shopping, education, and food.  Great place to stop!! We didn’t take too many pictures here because we were busy enjoying 🙂

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Tower Falls

We did the short hike to the top to get an overview of the Tower Falls.  Beautiful as far as the eye can see.  Our pictures don’t do this justice.  We did not do the lower trail to see the falls, this group was getting hangry!

Next up was our lunch stop!

Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room

We got hungry at a bad time, lunch time.  We had about a 45 minute wait until a table was ready.  We wandered over to the gift shop and looked around, then we found a seat on the porch and worked on our Junior Ranger books.  The time went by fast and we were seated.  The food was really good and the wait staff fabulous,.  This place was gorgeous to look at!  In no time at all we were full and on to our fun-filled afternoon!!

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We took a quick stop off at the Tower Junction Ranger Station for yet another cancellation for our passport!  This one had a Tower Falls stamp as well! Kinda hard to see but I love when there are extra stamps. ❤

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I’m going to end here for the day now and do a separate post on the afternoon, otherwise this post will get very long.  We put in 2 very long days here and there is so much information I don’t want to bog you down with.  Let me know if you have been to Yellowstone and have must do’s that I may have missed! We tried to get everything in on this trip.  Check back for Part 2, and Part 3.  This park is huge it will take awhile to get through everything.  Enjoy!

Wyoming

The 3rd state line signage stop on National Park Trip Season 2. This sign was right across the highway from our South Dakota sign. Hwy 16 headed west from Custer, SD. Big huge pull offs for both signs and little to no traffic! A great spot to cross off all those state line sign pictures you are collecting. 😜

Our Wyoming stops this year include:

Devils Tower National Monument

Yellowstone National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Please check back on the blog for those, coming soon!


Another great stop for a Wyoming state line sign is on Hwy 22/Hwy 33 to the west of Jackson Hole (shown above). This was a huge pull off spot with plenty of people to take your photo! Either spot is great! Do you have any must do stops in Wyoming? We would love to know! We loved Jackson Hole and can’t wait to go back. ❤️❤️❤️

Until the next time!! Enjoy!!

Jewel Cave National Monument

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Jewel Cave, what can I say, this place was a gem! 💎💎 Just minutes outside of Custer, South Dakota, this is a great morning or afternoon stop.

When we got there we grabbed our Junior Ranger books and set off on one of the hikes that Jewel Cave has to offer. They have 3 hikes to choose from.  We chose the Roof Trail because we didn’t want to miss the ranger program that was starting in 30 minutes.  The Roof Trail was extremely easy, it does a loop around the visitor center and has a viewing deck to stop at.  We stopped and took some photos of the overlook, it is quite nice.

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We continued on the trail. They say to set about 30 minutes for the trail but I think that might be if you are crawling or resting every 2 minutes for 5 minutes.  Not sure but it didn’t take us that long at all.  Below are pictures of the boys on the trail.  Easy, smooth and relaxing.  Very peaceful.  This park didn’t have many people at all, less crowds=happy mom!! We skipped doing a cave tour since we had just done Wind Cave.  So I have no comments on cave tours, sorry.

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Once back to the Visitor Center the Ranger program was starting.  This was a cool program on animal hides.  Kids got to touch, feel, smell many animal hides, and learned what animals could be found in different parks.  My kids were very impressed and excited because we had many of these parks left to visit on this trip.  Yeah for excited kids!!! 😍😍

We then went back to the visitor center to finish the Junior Ranger booklet, this one was a little tough.  We really had to search the center for the answers and use our thinker on this one.  In the end they earned those badges 🤓🤓

We went to the gift shop to get our usual passport stickers and cancellations!  Small gift shop, but lots of goodies! We even got ourselves a new friend to take home with us.

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All in all, this is a great place to stop if you are in the area.  Just a few good hours here will be enough.  3 hikes to choose from,  .25 miles, 3.5 miles or 5.5 miles. Also 3 cave tours to choose from as well; Discovery Talk, Scenic Tour and the Historic Lantern Tour (summer only).  I think we might come back to do the Historic Lantern Tour someday.

I hope you enjoyed our visit to Jewel Cave National Monument, have you been there?  I would love to hear your thoughts or experiences!

Until next time, keep collecting those cancellations ❤️❤️

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Devils Tower 

The next stop on National Park Trip Season 2 was Devils Tower National Monument. A perfect stop between all of the South Dakota landmarks and Yellowstone. 


Devils Tower was the first National Monument to become a National Monument! We were just passing by and stopped to visit for an hour or so. We printed the Junior Ranger booklets beforehand and worked on them during the drive over from South Dakota. It was a pretty boring drive so I’m glad we had something to keep us occupied and looking forward to at the next stop.

When we got there, there were a few items that we needed to find in the visitor center. We walked around a little and visited the gift shop. Tiny gift shop but they had everything we needed, so we loaded up! Gunnar managed to find an alien at the store 👽👽 We love aliens!


Stopped over to the information desk and received our Junior Ranger badges and Passport cancellation stamps. Great stop to break up the drive! Neat little visitor center!



I would say plan anywhere from 1-3 hours here. There is a trail around the tower you can walk on. We didn’t do it, it was really crowded there the day we went. We stuck to the visitor center, it seemed less crowded to us. Not much to do here, but it’s a must see, America’s first National Monument. Now on our way to Yellowstone National Park! I can’t wait. Check back for more adventures!!

Wind Cave National Park

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The next stop on National Park Trip Season 2 is Wind Cave.  Wind Cave is one of the oldest national parks in the U.S. it was the 8th National Park and the 1st National Park to protect a cave.  With 143 miles of caves explored and found here, you can’t go wrong.  We spent about 5 hours at Wind Cave.  When we arrived we signed up for The Natural Entrance Cave Tour.  Gunnar’s 4th grade pass got all of us in for free (except Grandma but she had her senior pass with her).  Good thing we brought him 😉  We only had to wait about 20 minutes until our tour started.  Gave us plenty of time to take our packs back to the car because they aren’t allowed in the cave, and visit the bookstore.  Bookstore/gift shop is small but excellent, we bought our Passport stickers and got our cancellations.

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The Natural Entrance tour was perfect for us.  It lasted about 1.5 hours and our Ranger was very patient and funny.  She let Gunnar lead us down into the cave and took turns assigning kids as mini-ranger guides.  We picked up an extra kid along the way, apparently he grew tired of his own family and attached himself to us.  Him and Grandma hit it off!!

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We saw lots of cave formations: Boxwork, dripstone and popcorn were the most abundant on this tour.  Wind cave has more boxwork than all other caves combined, it holds the record with having 95% of all known boxwork in the world found here.  In South Dakota, can you believe that??  Who knew South Dakota held a record. LOL.

We enjoyed our tour, went to the picnic area and enjoyed a picnic lunch.  I suggest bringing food, Wind Cave is in the middle of nowhere, no food close by that we saw.  We worked on our Junior Rangers while we ate and then headed back to the Visitor Center for our badges.

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This Ranger was rough!  He wasn’t going to give out these badges to just anyone. He grilled these kids like it was the MCATs.  He even asked Gunnar if he opened the book when Gunnar couldn’t tell him how limestone was made.  😂😂😂 After much lecturing he finally let them pass and we were off to Jewel Cave.🤓🤓

We really tried not to have a good time here but in the end, we caved.

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I hope you enjoyed Wind Cave National Park with us.  Check back for our next stop!

 

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

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Next stop, Mount Rushmore!!  This is the first visit I have ever made here.  I am 41 years old and I think that it pretty darn pathetic!!  I didn’t want the kids to be like that, so when planning this trip, this stop was a must.  We headed over here from the South Unit of The Badlands National Park.  Keystone, SD was packed to the gills with tourists, bikes and people.  The first thing I thought was Thank God we aren’t staying here!!  I wondered if Mount Rushmore was going to be elbow to elbow like this.  To our surprise it wasn’t that bad.  Parking was really easy and not far from the entrance. Everything went very smooth.

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Once we got inside we headed straight for the Information Center for our Passport Stamp and Stickers.  Park Rangers were very helpful and gave us a map of the property.  We headed into the avenue of flags, which was pretty sweet to see all of them in a pathway leading up to Mount Rushmore.

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Once we got through the flags, then came the wait in line for your perfect picture in the front of Mount Rushmore.  We waited a few minutes, everyone was really nice and courteous which is fantastic, I love the Midwest!!! Here is what we got for a picture!

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Not very impressive?? LOL!!  Love when the kids have their darn eyes closed.  I’m going to buy them sunglasses for next year so they can knock themselves out with the closed eyes thing and nobody will know! After this fantastic photo shoot, we headed down the stairs to the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center to work on our Junior Rangers. Talk about information!  This place was awesome!  We learned so much here.  Did you know that the Hall of Records is found behind Teddy Roosevelt?  Did you know that there once was a Mount Rushmore baseball team??  Did you know that the rock is Harney Peak Granite?  Do you know why these presidents were portrayed?  Birth, Expansion, Development and Preservation.  Man I love learning.  I had no idea we would enjoy this place as much as we did!

The Junior Ranger booklet was so much fun and so was the Park Ranger that gave the boys their badges and made them take the pledge. What a hoot! It was hard to leave!

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We wandered out and decided to go to the sculpture’s studio for another Passport Cancellation.  We ended up with this beautiful view of the Memorial!  I would suggest taking your family photo from here. Better picture and less crowds.  This one turned out pretty good 🙂

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The Sculptor’s Studio was neat.  I had no clue that they were suppose to be carved in suits.  Obviously I have not done my research on this place.  Cute little gift shop here but not very big.  Off on the Presidential Trail we went.  This hike was beautiful, especially through all the Ponderosa Pine trees!  Lots of steps so be prepared, relatively easy, of course my kids ran it.  Good photo ops along the way.

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Back to the main area and we were craving ice cream!  Probably because everyone within 40 feet of us had ice cream in their hands.  We strolled over to Carver’s Cafe and Ice Cream to get the scoop (get it, the scoop??).  It was absolutely delicious!  While kids were enjoying their ice cream I ran over to the main gift shop, Holy Moly this place was huge and had just about anything you would want!!  Gifts galore!  I picked up what I needed and left before I found other crap that I really don’t need (I’m really good at finding crap I don’t need).  Boys finished up and we were off.  Mixed with a half day at Badlands and a half day at Mount Rushmore, we decided to go check in at our hotel in Custer.  Boy am I glad this is where we decided to stay.  I highly recommend staying in Custer if you are doing Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave or Jewel Cave, what a great town.  Low crowds and excellent choices of hotels and restaurants.

We stayed at The Bavarian Inn.  Kids loved it, pool, tennis courts, lots of games to borrow and a life size connect 4.  Rooms were big and our neighbors were fantastic.  I will be back to visit this place again. I can’t recommend it enough!

4th stop on National Park Trip Season 2 and we aren’t anywhere close to stopping.  Come back and check out our next stops soon!! Gotta fill up our National Park Passport Book. 🙂IMG_1310[1]

Badlands National Park

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This was the first National Park on our National Park Trip Season 2.  No disappointment here at all.  From the time you pull up to the entrance sign until the time you leave, there is 360 degrees of beauty all around. Pinnacles, spires, canyons, prairies and grasslands. This place has it all.  The layers of depositing sediments have created a natural beauty that you need to see for yourself, just amazing.  It is so peaceful and serene, this is why we loved this park.

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Prairie and Grasslands butted up against a beautiful back drop of geological formations.

Another reason to love Badlands, Wildlife galore!  We saw bighorn sheep, a porcupine, prairie dogs and much much more.  We kept our eyes out for the black footed ferret but unfortunately didn’t get to see any.  What really impressed us was the Fossil Museum and Paleontology lab at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.  You could sit and watch the paleontologist work on fossils.  The fossils they have on display blew us away as well!

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Here is a bighorn sheep on the side of the road, photo courtesy of my 10 year old!

We always try to attend a ranger program at every National Park we visit.  This time we went with the Night Sky Viewing Program at the Amphitheatre behind the visitor center.  We actually lucked out and got a Geology talk all about how the Badlands formed (I won’t ruin it here, you will need to go and find out for yourself), and the sea that covered the area millions of years ago which explains all of the cool fossils they have found there.  When that program was done it was dark enough to get out the telescopes, I have never seen a telescope like these before!  Absolutely amazing!  The kids and I were able to see the moon, Jupiter, Saturn and The International Space Station as it went by.  Totally impressed with this program, and the kids talked about Jupiter and Saturn all the way back to the hotel. I suggest hitting this program if it works into your schedule. Awesome!

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Another reason to love the Badlands is that there are very few hiking trails to overwhelm you and you do have time for all of them.  We went on a few, most are on boardwalks to where you can then get off on foot paths and explore the formations on your own.  Here are a few pics of The Door Trail to give you an idea and feel for the trail system. Perfect for day explorers to the park.

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Kids earned their Junior Rangers while we were here and we got our cancellations in our Passport books.  The Rangers at the Visitor Center were all really helpful and full of information.  Great little gift shop here, where we picked up a few items and then we were off to the next stop. We did swing by the South Unit visitor center.  Spent about 30 minutes there.  A few neat exhibits but if you are short on time I would skip.

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Passport Book – Badlands Cancellations

I allocated about 1 1/2 days here and intermixed with Minuteman Missile (see blog for that here).  That gave us plenty of time to hike, drive through, attend a ranger program, get our Jr. Rangers and visit both of the visitor centers.   After much thought and research we decided not to stay in the lodging inside of the park.  We chose Frontier Cabins, located just North of the North Entrance to the park in Wall, South Dakota.  We were able to get our own cabin and the kids slept in their own tee pee.  Also able to enjoy a hot tub, free breakfast and it was minutes from Wall Drug.  I would recommend this hotel, very quiet and peaceful hard to believe it is right off the Interstate.  It worked perfect for us to commute between Wall, The Badlands, Minuteman Missile and the Delta 01 Launch site.

That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed my post on Badlands National Park. Let me know if you have any questions!  National Park Trip Season 2 is off to a great start.

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The South Entrance Sign