Sunday, February 1, 2015

July Trip Out West: Visiting South Dakota

The second half of our week spent with the Perkins' side of the family, we decided to drive to Mt. Rushmore.  Visiting Mt. Rushmore has been on my bucket list for several years now and I was shocked to find out that it's only a 3.5 hour drive from Casper.  Drew and Kristie were so awesome to join us on our road trip, especially with all the back pain Kristie constantly deals with.  As we crossed over into South Dakota we decided to check out the Wind Caves, located about 30 minutes away from Mt. Rushmore.  It turned out to be a really cool tour!
The Wind Caves are some of the longest caves systems found in the United States.  There are miles and miles of tunnels under the surface that have been discovered and are continuing to be found.  There were a few different tour options, but since we had Daxton with us we went with the easiest and safest.  Our tour guide was a bit strict and wasn't into our comical side jokes (go figure!)  But she was very knowledgeable.  She told us some really cool stories about the founders and history of the caves.  Before entering, she first showed us the original entrance to the cave (the hole directly below her hat.)  It was crazy to see how tiny the hole was, there was no way I would ever have the desire to enter through there!

They have since built an additional entrance via airlock doors to preserve the caves.  The tour took us down several stories into the earth with the steepest stairs descending right at the beginning.  I was VERY grateful Daxton was safely being held in Dallas's arms.

I wish I could remember all the little details she told us about the different formations we found in the Wind Cave.  It was all so incredible and the pictures don't do justice to the beauty we saw.

I was REALLY grateful that the close spaces were few and far between.  For the most part it was pretty open and did not feel claustrophobic like I was worried about.  Daxton had a blast being carried by either daddy or Drew.  Grandpa was so sweet and pointed out all sorts of things for him to look at along the way.

It was a really cool tour.  I highly recommend it if you're ever in the area.  It was also crazy when they turned their lights off.  Daxton got pretty nervous when it was pitch black!

This little turkey was amazing during the entire tour.  He had a bit of a meltdown when we got back outside, but overall he was pretty great after all we had been dragging him to do!

We arrived at Mount Rushmore a little after 5pm and checked into our hotel, got dinner, and then headed to the National Memorial.  I wish I could explain what it was like seeing Mount Rushmore in person for the first time.  It's literally so incredible that words don't do it justice.  We got there right as the sun was setting.  Drew and Kristie told us about the nighttime lighting of the memorial and it did not disappoint.  I loved how they called all the veterans or family members of veterans down to the stage for the flag ceremony.  Each were asked to state their name and what part of the military they served.  It was very humbling watching our service men and women as our Nation's flag retreated for the night.

Daxton was pretty funny during the 20 minute movie of Mount Rushmore's history refusing to sit down next to his family.  He was much more content playing on the stairs and swinging on the railing.

Listening to the star spangled banner as the flag in taken down for the night.

The next morning we woke, ate breakfast, and headed back to Mount Rushmore.  The sun hit the mountain beautifully and lit up the faces of our former presidents; Washington, Roosevelt, Jefferson, and Lincoln.

I loved the walkway leading to the Grand Terrace.  It was lined with several columns each representing four different states.  Each column had the different state's name, flag, and when it entered into the Union.  I took pictures of where both Dallas and I are from (Washington and Wyoming) and then where we've lived as a couple (California and Florida.)

This little man was in rare form since he kept running in the opposite direction of the mountain.  He for some reason did not want to go anywhere near Mount Rushmore.  I think it was more to do with him not wanting to do what we asked as opposed to him actually caring about the memorial one way or another.  Maybe by this point of traveling for almost a month, this little man had had it!

It was such a cool experience seeing Mount Rushmore first hand!
Definitely crossed a big one off the bucket list for this one!

After exploring Mount Rushmore, we drove up north a little to Bear Country USA.  You'd think we would be sick of seeing bears at this point since we had gone to Bear World just the week prior, but we LOVED it!  It put Bear World to shame with the size and amount of animals available to observe.  Daxton was in heaven!  He loved climbing from each of our laps to see where the best views of the animals would be.  He also loved that grandpa let him drive!

They had all kinds of bears and they were HUGE.

It was pretty crazy to look ahead and see bear after bear walking in-between cars like it was no big deal.  During this portion of the drive we for sure kept our windows up.

There were also several different enclosure for other animals as well.  We lucked out with getting some awesome shots of this Bison using the tree to scratch his head and horns.  He was super close to the car.  Kind of crazy looking into his scary eye!

After the drive-through portion of Bear Country, they had several more enclosures of different animals we could observe.  Daxton loved the excuse to run free and fast.  He also loved climbing on anything he could get a hold of.

My favorite enclosure was the bear cubs.  There was one who had climbed high up in a tree and fallen asleep!  It was so funny to see him balanced perfectly while taking a nap.  There were a couple other cubs who were wrestling and playing down below the tree which were pretty cute as well.

It was such a fun couple days with Grandma and Grandpa Perkins! We loved seeing the beautiful countryside of South Dakota and Wyoming.  We especially loved the chance to explore Mount Rushmore.  And Bear Country turned out to be a really fun adventure as well.  Basically we had a blast and loved being able to spend quality time with Drew and Kristie.  
I've been blessed with the most amazing in-laws.  I realize that not everyone has the some situation, but I love my in-laws.  They make me feel so loved and a part of their family.  I know that if we need anything at all, they would be there for us.  It breaks my heart that we usually only get to see them once a year.  I love watching Dallas talk about his dad and the admiration I see in his eyes.  I love even more watching Dallas as Daxton plays and interacts with his grandparents.  It makes him so happy to see them play and build a relationship with his son.  
Basically put, we love you, Drew and Kristie. Thanks so much for the fun week at your house!  Give G.G. a big hug for us.  We loved seeing her and eating dinner at her new place.  We also loved the chance to play some cutthroat card games with her :) You are all such a profound blessing in our lives. Love you and thanks again!

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