What A Way To Wake Up
Trip Start Mar 28, 2013
56Trip End Jul 31, 2013
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Where I stayed
Custer State Park
Flintstone's Bedrock City Campground
We drove through our first National Grassland, Buffalo Gap and yet another National Forest, Black Hills. We arrived at the Game Lodge Campground in Custer State Park and were welcomed by a large bison sitting just outside the entrance to the campground! There hasn't been a State Park we've been disappointed with and this one was just as great. We were very close to a river and lake we could fish in, making the boys very happy. Clare had a playground to make her happy and Aimee and Bruce were looking forward to finding and surprising the kids with the large herd of bison that live in the park.
Aimee woke up Bruce the next morning asking him, "do you hear that? I think there might be a bison outside our trailer". Bruce, use to Aimee's nervous nature, rolled back over to try to get some more sleep. A moment later when she woke him again he placated her by opening the curtain and to his surprise saw not just one bison but a gigantic herd walking past the campground. We woke up the kids and joined the other campers emerging from their trailers in pj's to hurry the 100 ft to the fence that surrounded the campground. Hundreds of bison were just slowly walking by. Some came right by the fence within a couple feet and seeing them that close was unbelievable. We assumed we were safe behind the fence with the other campers and most of the bison didn't even seem to notice us. There were babies stopping to nurse from their mothers and we watched a couple of males ramming their heads together in what looked like fierce battle. We watched them for at least an hour and then just when you thought they were all past, more would come running around the corner. We estimate about 400 bison went by. We wondered if this was something that happened often but when we asked the Park Ranger she said they usually go by just a couple times a summer. We totally lucked out! What an absolutely amazing experience.
There is a wildlife loop drive that you can take through the park where you can normally see some bison. Our plan had been to take that to hopefully find some. Just unbelievable to be woken up to these amazing animals. After we thought they had finally stopped we headed back to the trailer to have some breakfast and get ready for the day. To our surprise we heard more coming and we walked back over to the fence. Never thought in my life I would have my morning coffee standing next to a herd of bison! This happened a couple of more times through the day and we think we probably saw a total of about 1000 bison. Very exciting!
Not only did we choose Custer State Park because of the bison but also because of its close proximity to Mount Rushmore. This famous sculpture in the side of a mountain has been something that Aimee has wanted to see for a long time. We took the scenic route from the campground and went through some really neat tunnels that were made through the rock on the way there. We finally arrived at Mount Rushmore and had our first glimpse. We all found it quite remarkable and were eager to get closer! We rented some audio wands so we could hear the history behind the monument as we took the half mile walk to its base. The story of the designer/sculptor, Gutzum Borglam, was very interesting and we were shocked that none of the 400 men that worked with him to sculpt the huge faces into the mountain died while on the job. The visitor center was fantastic and had video interviews with some of the men that worked on the monument who shared their stories and experiences. When you've looked forward to seeing something for a long time you never know if it will be a bit of a letdown when you finally see it. This was definitely not the case with Mount Rushmore. We were all blown away by the magnitude of what those men, who all worked so hard together, actually accomplished. It was inspiring to see and gave us a great opportunity to remind the kids that when you believe in yourself you can accomplish anything you want to!
We drove on the Needles Highway through Custer State Park. It spirals through the Black Hills passing by pine and spruce forests. It is named after the needle like granite formations. The most spectacular rock formation is called the "Needle's Eye" which was formed by the wind, rain, freezing, and thawing. It takes you through rock tunnels our truck could just barely squeeze through. It was a beautiful drive in a beautiful part of the country.
Lots of time was spent fishing and the boys were thrilled to have so much success! They caught quite a few fish but all were too small to keep. They had fun just taking them off the hook and throwing them back in. It was probably the same fish they kept catching over and over!
The park has a few different lodges throughout it and we decided to have a nice dinner at the Game Lodge. Both Bruce and Caleb had bison for dinner (a sirloin steak and a burger) which just didn't seem right to Aimee and Cohen. Although, we are both hypocrites because we did try a little bite! It had been awhile since we ate by candlelight with a nice tablecloth and cloth napkins and it was great to enjoy some "fine dining" even with our entourage!
Looking through the South Dakota magazine we had come across an advertisement for the Flintstone's Bedrock City Campground and Theme Park. We both grew up watching The Flintstones and could not believe we had never heard of this. It was absolutely hilarious and totally old school! The campground did seem like it had been around since the prehistoric ages. The laundry room had washing machines that looked like they were made the same time the Flintstones first aired and the playground was the same! The kids still had fun though and they had a good pool. The restrooms were nicely renovated in a building that looked just like a house from the Flintstones. The theme park was great and Aimee forced the kids to pose with all the characters. The boys had seen the show once or twice but were not nearly as thrilled as us. All of Bedrock City was there with Fred's, Barney's, and Mr. Slate's houses as well as the Water Buffalo Lodge, the Beauty Parlour and so much more. Being in the "Rushmore" area they had made a "Mount Bedrock" and had a drive-in theatre where you could watch episodes of The Flintstones with popcorn and snacks. There was a Flintstone car that you could take a drive in and a great playground. They also had a miniature train that toured you around the park. It was a really fun time and brought us back to our childhoods!
Something we had wanted to do on the trip but hadn't done yet was go horseback riding. Clare wasn't old enough so just Aimee and the boys went. Our guided tour with Blue Bell Stables took us through Custer State Park and was so much fun. The boys had never rode a horse before so this was something they were really excited about. Our horse's names were Hot Sauce (Aimee), Sweet Pea (Caleb), and Stardust (Cohen). Old Stardust was a bit slow and poor Cohen had to keep kicking him to get him to go. We crossed through a beautiful stream and had a chance to hang out together doing something we all really enjoyed. It was an amazing morning!
Custer has a magic show that has really great reviews. Bruce and the boys checked it out and were impressed with the show. Bru said it was comparable to a magic show he's seen in Vegas. It was later in the evening, so Aimee and Clare passed on going, but missed a fun night. The Grand Magic show was very professionally done and the magician had the boys working very hard to try to figure out his illusions. It was a very family friendly show and he also shared some great messages about making good choices in life. They would love to see it again if for no other reason then to try to figure out those illusions!
We were really glad we had allowed for so many days in Custer and it was nice to have a good break from driving. Clare officially makes the move from a toddler to a preschooler as she will be turning 3! We can't possibly imagine where the time has gone but feel so glad that we have made a trip like this happen to spend all this valuable time together!