South Dakota - Aug 12 - 15

We arrived in Mitchell, SD around 10pm Monday.  Again, a free night parking thanks to one of the greatest stores on the planet - Cabelas!

Not a bad spot to wake up - they let us park next to the fish pond. And we did abide by the no fishing rule:(

We don't plan to travel at night very often.  There our multiple reasons, but I'd rank this pretty high on the negatives!

If you haven't been to a Cabelas, shame on you.  Take your kids (or at least make that your excuse):

After Cabelas and a Walmart run for food and bug/tar remover (it works!), we were on the road.

We arrived at Rafter J Bar park around 4pm. Just outside of Hill City, SD.  This place is far from free, but it's wonderful.  And, for the first time we have "full hook-ups".  Which means - water, electric,and sewer. Translate: the kids don't have to ask if they can use the bathroom.

They had an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast.

We headed out on our first bike ride -  on the Mickelson trail.

And we ended our first full day visiting heroes of our amazing country:

If you go to Mount Rushmore, take the 1/2 mile trail around the base and visit the sculptors studio building that holds the model from which Gutzon Borglum created the measurements. It also describes the Hall of Records hidden behind the monument. 

Our second full day in the Black Hills was perfect. Better than perfect. We don't deserve a day like this but soaked in every minute. If the quality of the day is ranked by the kids laughter and excitement about their surroundings, we can't imagine it getting any better. 

We started off cooking our home smoked bacon and eggs on the outdoor kitchen:

Then we went for a swim in the very nice pool at Rafter J before loading the jeep.  By 10:30am we were on the road for an hour trip to Nemo, SD and the nearby Dalton lake as recommended by friends.  We had the lake almost to ourselves.  JAK tried his hand at fly fishing while we had a picnic. 

We then headed down the gravel road to try and get the jeep dirty in this wonderful National Forest. 

We quickly found a trail/road that required vehicles to be 62" in width or less…just right for the jeep.  

We drove until the road ended and hiked up the hill to a wonderful vista. On the hike up we told the kids there was no need worry about bears - as long as you were not the slowest in the group, you'll be fine. Katie was not sure if she believed us, but she sure made certain not to be the last one after that!

Now it was Melissa's turn to drive off road!  Look-out. It was a 1-2 mile back track and this 30 seconds of video hopefully gives a sense of the laughter.  

On the way out we stopped and hiked down a path that ran along a creek out of Dalton lake. 

The kids could have spent all day playing in the mini falls and rapids

While driving out of Dalton Lake, we came across our first snake of the trip….and needless to say, did not get out of the car to pet the Rattler.

Thanks again to a recommendation, we went to dinner at the Alpine Inn in Hill City.  We are planning to make at least one "local" meal in each state but with only two full days here, we decided to cheat on this one and get local flair cooked. They have ONE dinner menu item at the Alpine Inn: Bacon wrapped tenderloin.  Oh, but you can get it in two sizes. We opted for the large of course.

And to wrap up the perfect day, we attended mass at St. Rose of Lima.  We have a lot to be thankful for.


While sitting on the shore of Dalton lake Melissa said "What's that noise?"  It was the sound of the wind blowing through the pines....  She claims she knew and it was for the quote list;)

While driving out of the backcountry and being tossed around like popcorn in the back, Anna exclaimed "Dad can you slow down I'm trying to get a sliver out!"

Tomorrow we depart for WY.  We could easily spend a couple weeks here, but need to get north before the weather starts to change.