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

 

 

 

New Mexico

IMG_1626.JPGThe Land of Enchantment. This state line sign was easy to get. It is at the entrance to The Four Corners Monument. We stopped here on our way from Grand Canyon National Park to our Cave hotel nestled in the mountains/rocks of Farmington, New Mexico.

The Four Corners was a great mid point. It had food vendor trucks and lots of booths with handmade jewelry and collectibles. Fun to at least look at all there is to offer. Make sure to stand in line to get your picture at all 4 of the states at one time. Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.

The whole family!

IMG_7122.JPGJust Gunnar.

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IMG_7123You will have plenty of time to choose your pose. The line goes at a steady pace because you are technically only allowed 3 photos per family (we snuck in 4, shhhh).  People are pretty clever with their poses, fun to watch and it keeps you entertained on your wait.

Next up was the high light of my children’s vacation, Kokopellis Cave B&B. This place was AMAZING!!! Don’t believe me?  Check it out!

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The Master Bedroom.
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Complete with its own balcony ❤️❤️
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Leaving Master Bedroom and walking into living room
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The dining area
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The Kitchen from the dining area
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The entry way from the front door
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Waterfall shower in the bathroom.
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The dining room from the front entryway
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Last but not least enjoying a cocktail on the patio.

This place was so much fun that I had a hard time getting the kids out of there the next morning to go to Mesa Verde National Park.  The whole time at Mesa Verde was “when are we going back to the cave”.  We did get back after sunset which I don’t recommend, it’s hard to find in the day light.  We had an origami lesson from Hunter which was very memorable.  We left our origami designs there with a collection of them.  Great times.

I hope you have enjoyed this part of our adventure.

Until next time 🙂

 

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

This place was a BLAST!! Get it? A Blast?? But seriously you won’t want to “miss”ile this historic site. We stopped here before we drove through the Badlands.  The park consists of three different sites along Interstate 90, our first stop was the Visitor Center at Exit 131. The Visitor Center was not very busy at all and the Rangers were great, they were serving chocolate cake to all the visitors to celebrate the end of the cold war.  This site was established in 1999 and is the first national park dedicated exclusively to the Cold War.

We walked around the visitor center and toured the museum for about an hour.  The kids worked on their Junior Ranger program for MMNHS as we drove across South Dakota.  We actually printed it from the website so they could have something to do in the car.  They finished this up in the museum, did their ranger pledge, earned their badges and got our Passport cancellations. Not bad for a day’s work.


We then headed to Badlands National Park, see separate blog for this, for the rest of this day.

I purchased tickets 90 days in advance so we could all do the Delta-01 tour.  Our tour was the next morning at 10 am.  When we got there the Ranger that did our Junior Rangers was our tour guide.  What an absolute riot, this guy was great!  He had jokes, puns and information overload.  My (almost) teenager was given a run for his money with this guy, it was perfect.  He was even able to keep my 10 year old interested.


The underground Launch Control Facility has the same equipment and furnishings it did while it was operational and it shows, reminds me so much of our old government furnished lab facility. The silo at Delta-01 held a missile for 30 years.  This place really preserves opportunities to explore the history of the nuclear arms race.  I was amazed at how much we learned, right down to the pencil sharpener!!

Let me know if you have any questions on this place. It was by far one of our favorites!!

Until next time.

South Dakota

South Dakota!! We made it! The third state we hit on National Park Trip Season 2! The top picture was taken at a rest stop along I-90 westbound, it was at mile marker #362 (Salem Westbound Information Center).  The lower picture we got on the way out of South Dakota, this one located on Hwy 16 Westbound on our way into Wyoming. It was a really nice and easy stop with huge pullovers for both signs.  I highly recommend stopping here.

South Dakota stops we made: (I will post links as I catch up on blogging them)

What South Dakota adventure wouldn’t be complete with a stop off at Wall Drug!

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Get a picture on the Jackelope!

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Annnd can anyone guess what movie I will be showing my kids when we get home from this adventure???????

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Forget Wall Drug, dinosaurs, jackelopes, totem poles and Zoltar machines, the kids were most excited about sleeping in a tee pee!!!  My mom and I stayed in a great little cabin right outside of Wall just north of the entrance to Badlands National Park.  Frontier Cabins Motel was our choice of stay, the teepee was located directly outside of our cabin and next to the hot tub. Kids were in heaven that night 🙂  Adults enjoyed the cabin, I would stay again if I was in the area. I like to stay in places like this because one of my pet peeves is disrespectful people at hotels.  They get up at 6 am and feel the need to slam the doors and fill their ice buckets.  These cabins are spaced apart perfectly that noises are rare and you can enjoy the peace and quiet.  Great nights sleep here

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Oh and let’s not forget the famous Crazy Horse statue that I could have saved a bunch of money on and lived happily ever after without seeing!! Hunter wanted to see it so guess what, we paid an ungodly amount of cash to walk into huge tourist trap that really wasn’t impressive at all. Do yourself a favor and keep driving or take a picture from outside.IMG_2642.JPG

Before I end this post, I would like to give a shout out to The Bavarian Inn in Custer, South Dakota.  This is where we stayed while in Custer and it was amazing!  Huge rooms, pool, tennis courts, life size connect 4, games, and the boys loved the Pancake bar!  I can’t wait to get back there to spend more time.  Custer, South Dakota was a great town to visit and will be fun to revisit!  I look forward to bringing back the husband for some R&R.

Until next time. Safe travels.

 

 

Pipestone National Monument


1st National Park/Monument on National Park Trip Season 2 is in Pipestone, Minnesota and boy what a treat this place was. We learned so much here, and it was all very interesting!!


For nearly 2000 years the Plains Indians have prized this soft stone. They use it to make stone pipes for ceremonial smoking. At the visitor center there is a short, 22 minute film on the struggles the Native Americans had to protect their lands and quarries for this precious stone. Very interesting, I highly recommend.

We then walked through the small museum that displayed some of the pipes that the Native Americans made!


We witnessed a demonstration on how to sand the stone and how the pipes were made. The man was very patient with our questions! Very fun to watch. Gunnar couldn’t get enough.


We grabbed our Junior Ranger booklets and took off to the outside trail. We did the Circle trail and stopped to take a lot of pictures. This place is very photogenic. The boys loved finding the faces in the rocks, can you spot them as well??


Next up Winniwissa Falls!! Absolutely Gorgeous!! 


Can’t go wrong here!! Keep walking and you get to enjoy the beautiful pinks and brick reds of the rocks! So pretty! 

And just when you think the walk is over, you get this view, from the bottom of the creek! Wow, what a view!!


Back to the Visitor Center for our Junior Ranger Badges (see below).


Oh and let’s not forget our cancellations and sticker for our National Park Passport books! It wouldn’t be a trip without it!! Do you have yours yet? Our family loves ours!!


Now we are chilling out at The Historic Calumet Inn, in Pipestone! Beautiful hotel, rumor has it, it may be haunted! 👻👻 Game on!! We will let you know if we hear anything going bump in the night 😱 As of now I recommend this place! Reminds me of some hotels we stayed at in Europe. I can’t get enough of those!

Hope you enjoyed our pictures of Day 1 of National Park Trip Season 2! Up next is The Badlands!!

Enjoy your travels!!

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Minnesota 

First stop on National Park Trip Season 2!! The Minnesota State line sign!! This is one of my favorite state line signs, this one found on I-35 North heading into Minnesota from Iowa. There is a tiny spot to pull off to park, but make it quick, tons of traffic and they are very friendly! Just about everyone was honking and waving!! Lol!!

Next stop was for a picnic lunch, we decided it should be in Blue Earth, Minnesota heading west on I-90. Home of the Jolly Green Giant! Kids had fun with this but looked at every adult like they were an alien as we all sang “Ho Ho Ho, Green Giant” as we walked around. Plenty of picnic tables, statue of the green giant, and a cute little gift shop/visitor center.


Picture of the kids with Mr. Jolly Green!


The Stats about the giant! Kids loved his shoe size!


Short little stop and on the road again. Next stop Pipestone National Monument, check out a separate post on that stop!!

Thanks for stopping!

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