Friday, November 13, 2015

Mount Rushmore - Part 3

After Bear Country, the kids were ready for lunch but we had one more stop we wanted to make before heading back to Rapid City. There really aren't any restaurants between Bear Country and Rapid City.
We made our last stop at Reptile Gardens. We timed our arrival perfectly with the bird show.

We even had two co-stars in our presence. 

After the show, we wandered the gardens enjoying the snakes, prairie dogs and crocs.

Even in mid-October, the gardens were beautiful.

Seeing/touching these old tortoises was a highlight of the trip.

It was funny how they would stretch so that the kids could rub their necks.

We would have spent a bit more time in the garden if the kids weren't hungry. But, it was time to head to Rapid City for lunch. After our late lunch we rested in the hotel for about an hour before going to the adjacent water park. The kids spent HOURS playing at the park. Best $5 spent on the trip. We ended up eating dinner poolside (food was about what you would expect). By 7 am the next morning, we were on our way back to Denver.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Mount Rushmore - Part 2

After leaving Mount Rushmore, we started heading back toward our hotel. We stopped at Bear Country where we learned that these elks are considered the most dangerous animals in the park.

Apparently, it was mating season so the elk were very protective of the herd. Though, none of the animals seemed phased by our presence.

We enjoyed seeing the wolves and marveling how much they look like dogs.

Bear Country is a drive-through zoo. The animals have a nice habitat and seemed content with their surroundings.

A little bit better photo of a cousin of the sheep we saw at Mount Rushmore.

The cats were separated from our cars by cages. But, all other animals were free to roam.

Of course, the most amazing part was the bears.

They really look uncomfortable when they walk. It's hard to believe they can move so quickly. 

The bears were feasting on hamburger buns. If my photoshop skills were better, I would turn that bread into a salmon for a more authentic look.

After the bears, you can visit a mini walking zoo with smaller animals and babies.

These little ones were frolicking happily when we drove by on the way to Mt. Rushmore and were all tuckered out by the time we visited.

The grizzly bear is not part of the drive through experience. Hard to remember that these guys are so much more ferocious than the other bears. We were happy he came out of his cave while we were visiting. We spent a little over an hour at Bear Country and everyone enjoyed the experience. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mount Rushmore - Part 1

The kids recently had a 5 day weekend for fall break. Because these breaks only run through middle school, we wanted to take advantage of the time off.
Mount Rushmore has been on our wish list since we moved to Denver. It's only about a 6 hour drive.

We had grand plans to spend two and a half days exploring South Dakota. 

Then, "the most important soccer game of our season" appeared on the calendar and our trip got cut very short.

So, what can you do near Mount Rushmore in 24 hours? 

As we drove to town, we visited Custer State Park. We really enjoyed driving the Wildlife Loop and would do it again on another visit.

We thought this was a sheep, but were disappointed to discover it was only a mule deer. 

Needles Highway was closed in the park for road repairs. Next visit, that portion of the park (which include Sylvan Lake) will be a priority.

A few other spots we would visit if the time/budget allowed include the Mammoth Hot Springs Site, Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary and the Purple Pie Place. No one was in the mood for pie when we passed the restaurant. 

We spent about an hour in the park and then took Iron Mountain Road toward Mount Rushmore. Loved seeing the mountain through the tunnel.

We enjoyed seeing Mt. Rushmore lighted at night. 

Our fourth graders have free National Parks passes this year.  But, a National Parks Pass doesn't work at Mount Rushmore.  They don't charge admission - just a parking fee. But, your parking pass is good for a week. The trickiest part about visiting at night is avoiding the wild animals on the road.  We passed so many deer & other critters on our drive to the hotel.

We returned bright & early to see the park in daylight. The kids had a lot of fun exploring the park, using binoculars and listening to the Ranger presentations. 

There is a short path that takes you close to the base of the mountain. We spent about an hour and a half at the park. As we were leaving at 10:30, it was starting to get very busy (even in October).

We were very excited to see these two sheep wandering around as we left the park. As you leave Mount Rushmore, you pass through a little town with a number of restaurants and tourist attractions. We ate in the town on Thursday night, but drove through on Saturday to head to our next destination. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Gem Lake Trail

I took the twins on a second hike with the Scouts this summer. 

We tackled the Gem Lake Trail outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Charlie wasn't especially impressed with our early morning adventure.
Eventually, he came around.

The hike felt like it was at a high elevation and included a steady climb. I would guess it was a "moderate" rating of difficulty. My guess is the youngest in our group was about 7.

After all that hard work, I will admit that Gem Lake was a little underwhelming. But, the kids had fun scrambling over the rocks.

The chipmunks were very friendly & ready to grab any snack crumb that was dropped.

On the way down, we enjoyed so many beautiful views.

We packed lunch & had a picnic near the parking area before heading home.

Not a bad way to start the day.