Monday, August 31, 2015

Custer State Park

Wednesday morning was beautiful, so we decided to drive through Custer State Park.  We started in the north section so that we do the wildlife loop then drive through the tunnels to get to Mt. Rushmore.  Mom found a nice hike with some rocks to climb at Sylvan Lake.

All of our kids were excited to get to climb on more rocks.  These rocks were larger, with steep dropoffs into the water, so Ben mostly followed along after the girls while I tried to help Nathaniel.  Megan is fearless around heights, whereas Amelia loves to explore, but is careful to stay well away from edges.  I was a nervous about Megan at one point, especially because when I yell "STOP" she doesn't always listen. 

Nathaniel was determined to try to go everywhere that the girls went.  When I told him I was going to stop helping him, he decided he would try to climb up by himself.

Mom and Amelia found a fun crevasse that the girls could climb up.  I think it was easier for them with their little feet than it was for me, although Megan did need a boost at one point.  Around the corner from the first shot, there was a cool little hole in the rock that everyone had to peek through.

I liked this tree growing between two huge rocks.  The dirt was eroded so that you could see all the tangly roots.

The trail took us below the level of the lake and there were two little waterfalls and a small dam.   The girls found a little canyon to hide in so that they could jump out and surprise everyone.  And then we go to walk through a natural rock tunnel before we made out way back up to the surface of the lake.  The girls lead the way on this part of the trail because Nathaniel wanted to walk all by himself down the steps.  He walked the better part of the mile long trail.

There was a path over to the top of the dam that involved jumping on some big flat rocks.  Jumping on rocks across water is right up the girls' alley, so they must have done that three or four times each.

Does anyone recognize this lake yet?  It's the lake from National Treasure 2, where Nicholas Cage finds the eagle flying under the cloudless rain.  Sadly, we did not find any hidden treasure while we were there.

We found a nice place to take a few family photos.  It was very nice to have Mom and Dad around to get photos of the five of us; I think we have more photos of all five of us from this trip than we have from the last year and a half.  My camera threw them off a little, Mom tried to look at the screen instead of through the viewfinder.  I found that interesting because she used an SLR camera for so much longer than she's used a small digital camera.  Anyway, thanks for taking pictures of all of us!

 I have those photos horizontal, too, if you want to see more of the lake, Mom, but I zoomed them in so that you could see the people better.  I sent this photo of our family to school for Megan's teacher to put up in her classroom, since she asked for a recent family photo.  Let's see, right after this, we got to the end of the scenic trail around the lake, and Dad skipped a few rocks.  The girls wanted to try it themselves, so Dad gave them a short lesson.  Of course they threw all their rocks in overhand, so they didn't skip any at all.  I think Dad got as many as 7 skips one time.

I have no idea where on the trail these photos were taken, but I do remember that Dad spent a lot of time watching Nathaniel while the girls went exploring.  Thanks, Dad!

We walked right past the lodge at Sylvan Lake on our way back to the car, so the girls went inside the store to look for prairie dogs.  Thankfully they had them!  There was a bit of debate because the prairie dogs weren't EXACTLY the same as Natalie and Noah's, but I told them it was these prairie dogs or no prairie dogs, and so of course we got them.  The prairie dogs got a little goofy in the car the rest of the day, and I had to take Megan's away a few times until she could control it's behavior.  Anyway.  We had a nice picnic lunch and then started the wildlife loop in Custer State Park.  We saw one bison all on his own; he was scratching his shaggy head on this pointed stick:

We saw a few prairie dog towns; the girls instructed their prairie dogs to wait in the car every time we got out so that they wouldn't decide to run away to a burrow.

We saw a pronghorn:

We saw the begging burros, although we did not feed them:

And we saw the herd of bison, from very far away.  Mom had brought binoculars, so we used those to try to see them closer.

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