This is a good moment to mention again what good travelers my kids are. They are no problem ever on a long drive. It's almost spooky how good they are in the car. They hunker down with their own projects and are happy, and they let me read to them for hours on end. (This trip we finished reading Birds, Beasts and Relatives, and The Black Stallion.)
This was my kids' first trip west of the Mississippi that they are old enough to remember, and certainly their first time driving across the Great Plains or into the Rockies. They were amazed at how different the landscape was, how dry and vast. It was interesting to spend the first part of the day making our way across Minnesota which feels almost tropical by comparison to South Dakota.
South Dakota also means Wall Drug, which I'd seen the billion signs for on other trips but never stopped in. Now seemed the time, and I'm glad we went! It's souvenir heaven, and Quinn was able to stock up on state magnets for his collection, I got a fossil and some salt and pepper shakers, Aden got a necklace and some shot glasses, and Mona found the coolest mug ever. (I'm glad it survived the trip. We tried to keep it safe in the box with our Mold-A-Ramas.) We were able to sit down for an early dinner, admire all the weirdness, and refill our water bottles.
|Aden on a jackalope|
|Mona's mug of awesomeness|
We managed to arrive at our campsite in the Black Hills National Forest before nightfall and get our tent set up. I love that our new tent just sets straight up with the poles included, that you don't have to assemble anything, and I love the view through the top of the tent when we don't need the rain cover. Despite the trees we saw so many stars! And our trip overlapped with the Perseid Meteor Shower so all the kids saw more shooting stars like we did in Door Country.
|selfies in the tent|
|morning view from inside the tent|
Devil's Tower was the first National Monument. Apparently the difference between a National Monument and a National Park is that the President can unilaterally declare something to be a National Monument, but past that point I'm not sure what the distinction might be. It's a beautiful place, jutting out in the midst of a vast landscape. The trail all the way around it was closed halfway for repairs, so we walked as far as we could and walked back. We could see people climbing! We spotted deer, and we enjoyed the view just from where we were, and wondered what it looked like from the top of the tower.
The unexpected thing at Devil's Tower were the prairie dogs. Lots of them! We walked a whole prairie dog trail where they chirped at us in alarm like birds and where Aden stepped in a hole. The ones by the road must be used to being fed because they were pretty brave about approaching people. They were so cute! We never got tired of seeing prairie dogs on our trip.
|Aden and Quinn "on the town"|
After Devil's Tower we spent the day driving across Wyoming. It's just gorgeous. Ian chose some less traveled roads and we saw lots of incredible rock formations. It was fun to show the kids how different a landscape looks when you can't judge the size of things easily. There aren't any tress or homes to base the rocks against, so much of what we are seeing could be huge or small. The perspective out west gets skewed compared to our experience.
We didn't arrive in Yellowstone until about dark, but we got the tent set up easily enough. We were even there in time for the nightly ranger talk about the history of the park system, and during the talk we saw more shooting stars.
Next up: Adventures in Yellowstone!