The whole fam (minus the photographer) on the Presidential Trail at Mount Rushmore
None of us had ever been to South Dakota before. And now we wonder why! It's kind of funny that it's mostly known for Mount Rushmore because the Black Hills are seriously breathtaking!
As we left our hotel and headed toward Mount Rushmore we passed herds of buffalo just grazing on the rolling hills off the sides of the road. So of course we did the touristy thing and took a few pictures.
On the road to Rushmore we passed a sign for Custer State Park. Allen had read about a picturesque lake there and decided we should go check it out, so we did. And HOLY COW was it gorgeous!
We parked the car and braved the rain to snap a few photos of Sylvan Lake. The thing is, the pictures just don't convey the true beauty of this place. I kept looking at the actual lake and its amazing rock formations, then looking at the picture I'd take of what I saw and the snapshots never seemed the same as what I saw in real life. (That was kind of a tongue twister but I'm not sure how else to say it.)
We continued to drive through Custer State Park just to marvel in the awesome scenery. This place easily compares to Goblin Valley or Zion National Park. I'm surprised we don't hear more about it. Everywhere we looked these fingers of rock pointed heavenward. (A quick Google search let me know that these rocks are known as The Needles. I like Rock Fingers better.)
We eventually came to this cool little tunnel that only one vehicle can fit through at a time. We all held our breath, sucked in, and the van barely squeezed through.
The view from the other side of the tunnel
We probably took more time than we had allowed for in Custer State Park, but I think it was a good thing because the skies began to clear up as we headed toward Mount Rushmore.
My brother Chip told me that if we were going to be in South Dakota we might as well go check out the Crazy Horse Memorial, too. It is a work in progress, but we went to take a look. It cost $28 to get into the park there and we weren't planning to stay, so we were happy to just snap a photo from the van and head to Rushmore.
This was our first view of Mount Rushmore. Pretty cool.
It only cost us $11 to park here, and it was well worth the money simply for the number of license plates in the parking lot that helped us get a whole bunch of states crossed off our list for the License Plate Game. We took quite a few group pictures in the park.
Of all the places we could travel that are east of our home state, Hubba's dream destination was Rushmore. I took individual pictures of each of the kids with the four stone-faced presidents in the background, but Hubba's was my favorite. He can now cross 'pick George Washington's nose' off of his bucket list. (This was completely intentional. I am all about fulfilling dreams.)
We did the walk along the Presidential Trail, which loops around the park and gets you up a little closer to each of the faces carved into the mountain. As we were headed back to the entrance I saw this great photo spot and was taking a picture of the family when a sweet older gentleman asked if he could take the picture for me, "because they wouldn't all be here if not for you!" So here's the whole crew.
Little X rode on Allen's shoulders a good amount of the time. Isn't he a cutie?
Much later than planned we hit the road again and headed for Allen's brother's house in Minnesota. Just as we left Rushmore the rain started again so we had the perfect window of opportunity during our visit. As Allen drove I fell asleep, and after a while he woke me because he knows how much I love clouds and storms. Check out this beauty that was lingering over us...
As it started to get dark that evening we were treated to yet another amazing lightning storm all around us. I tried (in vain) to get a picture of the lightning as it would shoot across the sky and ended up with the following picture, which I think is one of my favorites from our trip.
You're probably wondering what's so fantastic about a blurry picture taken through the window of a moving vehicle. The thing I love is those flecks of light in that funnel-ish cloud. I would watch as the lightning would travel from the base of the funnel, up to the cloud, and then explode in a burst of light. It was like Mother Nature was giving us a firework show and the way the lightning traveled up the funnel was just awesome, like watching a firework travel into the sky before exploding. It's probably one of those you-had-to-be-there kind of moments, but I'm glad I was able to capture a teensy bit of the magic.