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Friday, April 21, 2017

Black Hills: Worth every penny - even for the flat tire

"What's the best part of our vacation so far, buddy?" I asked Jacob as we drove back to our hotel on day two of our Black Hills vacation.
"The rock shops!" he said.
That's right. Jacob's favorite part of our amazing vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota was the rock shops. Naturally, I did not take any photos of Jacob with his rocks. So I will first share this classy photo:
Jacob and Frances at Mount Rushmore National Monument -- a trip he's been
begging to take for two years. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Mount Rushmore was a close second, he said, third was the swingset at Mountain View Lodge & Cabins, and then fourth was the cave at Jewel Cave National Monument. And in fifth place, the Museum @ Black Hills Institute (dinosaur skeletons).
"Really? The swingset?" I asked.
"Yes! It's awesome!"
Again, I did not take a picture of him on the swingset, which is goofy, because he spent a LOT of time on the swingset while we were there. But, I did take this shot of the view out or hotel room door:
We woke up to these lovely rocky hills every morning. Mountain View Lodge & Cabins
was amazing! Best stay around! (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
On our last night, we had a bonfire!
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Our first morning in the Hills greeted us with a flat tire. Thankfully, our host, Kirsten, pointed us to Dales Tire in Rapid City - awesome service!
Two hours, two nails, a fixed tire, and $20 later, we were on the road to Mount Rushmore. 
It's still just as amazing as when I first saw it 10 years ago. This year, though, we ventured down the Presidents Trail so Jacob could get the best possible view of the Four Famous Faces, as he kept calling them. 
And he did. Around every turn he got a different view of the monument. This was his favorite: 

(photo by Anna Jauhola)
Until we got to this particular position quite a few miles from Mount Rushmore on day two:

Mount Rushmore from Iron Mountain Road. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

A view of Mount Rushmore through one of the tunnels on Iron Mountain Road
on day two of our trip. (photo by Anna Jauhola)
After a few hours at Mount Rushmore, we stopped through Keystone and took a quick look around. My husband gifted me with a Black Hills Gold ring for Mother's Day and my birthday. Great gift! 
This is where Jacob discovered the joy of filling a pouch with beautiful rocks. From then on he couldn't help but talk about rocks and beg to stop at every rock shop along the way. 
Then we drove back through to Hill City and stopped at the Museum @ Black Hills Institute. It's a great museum full of prehistoric skeletons and fossils, many of which have been unearthed in South Dakota. It's amazingly full of sealife found in South Dakota, too. Why? South Dakota was mostly covered in water during prehistoric times. 
The most impressive piece in the museum is Stan, the most complete male Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. He's an impressive specimin and Jacob was amazed, despite being super tired.
Jacob with Stan the T-rex at the Museum @ Black Hills
Institute in Hill City. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
The Museum is totally worth the admission, which is way cheap, by the way, for a year's pass! Definitely should be on your tour list the next time you go through the Black Hills. 
After the Museum, we went to ..... a ROCK SHOP, just a block from the Museum. So, Jacob spent some money there. 

On day two, we ventured to Jewel Cave National Monument. Bonus - it was free! April 15 happened to be National Parks & Monuments Day, offering free admission to the park and cave tours. 

A close-up of the end of the bacon strip.
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)
My camera skills aren't great, so my pictures from the cave tour aren't awesome, but below are a few I got that are still pretty cool. 
This is the largest strip of bacon formation
within Jewel Cave. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

One of the calcite formations inside Jewel Cave,
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)

Jacob enjoyed the cave, really, despite his
unimpressed expression. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

After the cave, we took a drive along Iron Mountain Road. It is a beautiful drive, which includes three tunnels that frame Mount Rushmore and pigtail bridges that are unique to the area. We saw three deer, five antelope and one bison. 
Then we had enough time left in the day that we drove back into Rapid City and went to Reptile Gardens. It's still super amazing. Jacob wanted to go back on Sunday, but decided not to. Here are a few pics from that excursion: 
Jacob was not excited about this big rock, but about either lizards
or brightly colored birds behind me. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Derek and Jacob enjoying the botanical gardens. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

Bubba the parrot showing off. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Derek eyeballin' a Chinese crocodile. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Gigantic sea turtle skeleton! (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
There's one weird prairie dog in this village. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
He was only crabby because I made him take
this photo. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
On Sunday, after we checked out of our beautiful hotel, we took a quick drive up to Deadwood. It was Easter, so very few businesses were open, and we just walked around. We did take the steep drive up to Mount Moriah Cemetery to see Wild Bill Hickok's and Calamity Jane's gravesites, but did not trek up to Seth Bullock's grave, 700+ feet above the cemetery. 
Jacob observing Wild Bill's gravesite.
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Signs denoting where Wild Bill and Calamity Jane
are buried. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

Perhaps on another trip, we'll go visit Mr. Bullock, but holy crap, that was a steep road and we were tired. 

On our way out of town, we did stop at the Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, but I haven't downloaded those photos yet. I'll add them later. 

For anyone who hasn't been to the Black Hills, it is definitely a trip worth saving for! I can tell you, it's one you should take over and over again, at different times of the year. We went in April because it was cheaper. Despite the fact many of the shops weren't open, it was a great vacation! 


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