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:
My sister-in-law is due in a little over a month. She was a trooper going along this late in her pregnancy!
Nati thought the prairie dogs were 'kitty cats' and whenever they'd disappear into their tunnels, she'd say, "Kitty cat, where are you?"
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.
And then we have my goofball brothers:
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.
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.
The kids loved the place:
My brothers had some fun there too:
Next up was Mt. Rushmore:
The kids enjoyed the ice cream just as much as the view:
After leaving Mt. Rushmore, we finally made it to our cabins in Custer State Park. Doesn't this look relaxing?
In the early mornings, the girls and I got up and sat in the woods exploring and listening to the sounds of nature.
There were a lot of small pine regrowth and Nati looked like a giant among them!
This is one of my favorites:
We spent a lot of time driving on twisty, turny mountain roads. The views were amazing, though:
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:
Nati was sleeping in the car, so she's not here, but this is a great shot of the older kids:
Brie with her Auntie M:
This is how narrow some of the roads are in these mountains. Kinda scary in a minivan!
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.
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:
The guys had to get up and dance to some Elvis:
Here's a little hokey pokey:
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):
More goofball scenes:
This is a picture of Legion Lake in Custer, which is where we stayed:
Got Buffalo? South Dakota does! There were hundreds of bison on the wildlife loop when we drove through:
They would walk right up to your cars. We spied one of them licking my brother's car in front of us!
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.
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:
Some of the views from the cave:
These natural formations look like animal crackers!
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.
I started taking pictures of the kids playing with sparklers:
My brother suggested that we have the kids spell out "Custer" with sparklers. It turned out great!
And then the grownups had to spell out their word too:
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.