Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Photo Journal: Family Vacation - Custer 2013

Earlier this year, my brothers and I tossed around the idea of going on vacation together. It sounded fun to me - the kids could play together, the grown ups could play together. Win/win. We didn't know where to go this year, but Erik and Kim had already booked a cabin in Custer State Park in South Dakota, so we looked into the rest of us tagging along with them. It worked out that there were cabins available near theirs, so we booked it and looked forward to a fun long weekend in the Black Hills.

The vacation didn't disappoint! Here are some of the highlights:

nati and vali near the ranch store sign

My sister-in-law is due in a little over a month. She was a trooper going along this late in her pregnancy!

zak and molly at the prairie dog stop

Nati thought the prairie dogs were 'kitty cats' and whenever they'd disappear into their tunnels, she'd say, "Kitty cat, where are you?"

nati watching a small group of prairie dogs

Closeup image of a prairie dog eating

Most of our family photos from the trip are like this. Someone's looking away, or I'm wearing a dorky Kermit t-shirt... Oh well.

Reha family in front of prairie dog village

And then we have my goofball brothers:

Keninger boys in front of a prairie dog statue posing like prairie dogs

Here are some magnificent shots of the Badlands. The badlands is a national park where you can see amazing buttes that have been eroded by the wind. It's a stark, desolate view, and so completely different that what we see daily in Iowa that our mouths stood open for a while looking at them.

Reha kids in the Badlands

Brie with the badlands behind her

Zak and Molly Badlands

Our next stop was Wall Drug, which was a huge tourist trap of overpriced shops. The kids loved it, though! I wasn't a huge fan of the crowds there, but I did enjoy the billboards along the interstate before we got there. There were dozens of them, all with a different theme. Homemade pies at Wall Drug! Free Ice Water at Wall Drug! Donuts at Wall Drug! There were so many things advertised on the billboards in colorful cartoons. It's a genius way to market, actually.

Wall Drug Billboard

The kids loved the place:

Vali with a fortune teller machine at Wall Drug

Vali with an Annie Oakley statue at Wall drug

My brothers had some fun there too:


zak and luke posing with a statue of an old time prostitute

Next up was Mt. Rushmore:

Landscape of Mt Rushmore

The kids enjoyed the ice cream just as much as the view:

reha kids eating ice cream at mt rushmore

Family shot:

rehas at mt rushmore

After leaving Mt. Rushmore, we finally made it to our cabins in Custer State Park. Doesn't this look relaxing?

cabins at custer

val and dusty wearing matching hats and sunglasses

In the early mornings, the girls and I got up and sat in the woods exploring and listening to the sounds of nature.

vali showing nati a pinecone in the forest

There were a lot of small pine regrowth and Nati looked like a giant among them!

Nati near a small pine tree

This is one of my favorites:

Nati handing me something she found in the woods

We spent a lot of time driving on twisty, turny mountain roads. The views were amazing, though:

mountain view from the road


These are some shots from our trip up the Needles road. These rock formations are called needles because of how tall and thin they are:

jake at needles

vali in the mountains

brie at needles

Nati was sleeping in the car, so she's not here, but this is a great shot of the older kids:

brie jake and vali at needles

dusty and me in front of mountains

Brie with her Auntie M:

Brie and Molly

This is how narrow some of the roads are in these mountains. Kinda scary in a minivan!

narrow mountain road

One of my favorite parts of the vacation was a chuck wagon dinner that my sister-in-law planned for us. It was so totally cheesy, but I think it might have been my favorite activity of the trip! We took a hay ride through the wildlife loop where our wagon leader had us sing along with her to songs like 'O, Susannah!' and 'Red River Valley'. We drove to a clearing where there were picnic tables set up and had a steak dinner where there was an old time band playing in the background. The group then got together to do the hokey pokey and the chicken dance and we said farewell by screaming "Yahoo!!!" to the mountains and listening to the echo. It sounds so dorky, but it was a blast.

chuckwagon ride

Nati got to sit like a big girl on the wagon ride. She clasps her hands together like this when she's pleased with herself. I love it:

nati on the chuckwagon ride clasping her hands together

brie and nati at the chuckwagon dinner

the chuckwagon band

The guys had to get up and dance to some Elvis:

guys dancing

Here's a little hokey pokey:

hokey pokey at the chuckwagon dinner

This is the only shot I have of the whole crew, but it's a good one. Here we all are (minus my brother Sam and his family since they were unable to join us on the trip):

all of the fam at the chuckwagon dinner

More goofball scenes:

luke and zak dressed up like old time bandits

This is a picture of Legion Lake in Custer, which is where we stayed:

legion lake

vali at the legion lake sign

Got Buffalo? South Dakota does! There were hundreds of bison on the wildlife loop when we drove through:

large bison and a small bison together

bison calf

large male bison

landscape with many bison

They would walk right up to your cars. We spied one of them licking my brother's car in front of us!

bison walking in front of cars on the wildlife loop

We went on a tour of the Cave of the Winds. I love caves and rock formations, and I have memories of caves in SD from when I went there as a kid, so I was excited to do this tour. This is the natural opening of the cave we toured. It's only about the size of a beach ball. The cave acclimates its pressure to the outside pressure, so depending upon whether there's a low or high pressure system going on, the wind in that opening either blows out or sucks into the cave. Very cool.

cave of the winds natural opening

We had the little ones with us on the tour, and so I felt sort of bad for everyone else who chose the tour we were on, because three babies makes it a bit rough at times, but they weren't too terrible down there. Will is enjoying the view here:

will and dani looking at the ceiling

Some of the views from the cave:

spidery rock formations

These natural formations look like animal crackers!

animal cracker ceiling

The rest of the photos I have are from relaxing around the fire at the cabins. The kids got to get together and play, and the grownups had some nice downtime too.

campfire scene

vali and izzy with sparklers

another campfire scene

I started taking pictures of the kids playing with sparklers:

sparkler art

heart shaped sparkler art

My brother suggested that we have the kids spell out "Custer" with sparklers. It turned out great!

Custer Sparkler Art

And then the grownups had to spell out their word too:

keninger boys spelling beer with sparklers

And that about sums up our 2013 vacation to Custer State Park in South Dakota. We had a great time and are hoping to go somewhere together again next year.

1 comment:

Karibean said...

Oh my gosh, that looks awesome! The Black Hills are definitely on our 'family vacation bucket list' for the future. Glad you guys had fun!