Monday, August 31, 2015

Mount Rushmore

After the wildlife loop in Custer State Park, we drove through the tunnels towards Mount Rushmore.  We didn't stop to take photos of the tunnels or of Mount Rushmore, because it was getting late in the afternoon already (we crammed a lot into some of these days), so you'll just have to deal with this photo taken out the window while Ben was driving.

Both of the girls were very excited to see Mt. Rushmore, Amelia especially so.

Megan wanted to take some photos of Mount Rushmore, so here are her shots.  I like Nathaniel photobombing the first one.  I had to crop and edit them because it was really bright out, but I think her second photo is really nice!

The girls did the Junior Ranger program right away.  Megan is hard at work drawing a picture of our family looking at Mount Rushmore.  She even drew glasses on Roosevelt and a cute beard on Lincoln.  Mom helped the girls with most of the questions, because I had to head back to the car for some reason (was it to get Nathaniel's diaper changing thing?  Maybe so.)

Both of them said that their favorite thing in the visitor's center was pushing the dynamite handle to make part of the rock explode.  Nathaniel really liked that part, too, and must have done it ten times in a row.

Then the girls said they wanted to walk the presidential trail.  Dad stayed with Nathaniel while the rest of us did the walk.  There was a path down to what the girls thought was going to be a cave, but it turned out to be a little view of Mount Rushmore between two big rocks.

At one of the viewing platforms, the man next to us pointed out a cute little baby mountain goat:

In addition to seeing the immensity of the rocks that were blasted away from the mountain, you really get an interesting look up the presidents' noses from down here:

 Megan had so much energy that she hopped up and down most of the stairs.  I believe National Treasure 2 was also filmed on these stairs.

And we went inside the artist's studio, which had a large model of what Borglum wanted Mount Rushmore to look like.  It would have been a lot of extra work to carve the mountain down to Washington's waist!

Ben took a lot of other very lovely photos of Mount Rushmore, but I am sure you all have seen it already, right?

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.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Black Hills Institute of Geological Research

On Tuesday, we went to the dinosaur museum in Hill City.  When we drove up, it looked like this small storefront in a touristy strip mall on Main Street, and I think we all were wondering if it was really going to be worth it.  We got inside, and this is what we saw:

There was only one room (well, with a small side room for gems and fancy rocks) but it was CRAMMED full of dinosaur fossils.  The docent told me that this museum has more dinosaur bones per square inch than any other museum in the world, and I would believe it.  It was really cool!  Here is Megan standing by Stan, the second most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever found, and here is Amelia standing by a reproduction of Stan's head, so that you can see how big his teeth were.

I thought this was very interesting; it's the skeleton of a dinosaur's skull, right next to a model of what paleontologists think the head would have actually looked.  I forget what type of dinosaur this was, perhaps I should ask Megan.  She took these photos, because she wanted to get a photo of everyone by their favorite thing.

Stan was Grandpa's favorite, too:

But Grandma liked the plesiosaur, which Megan said was an Elasmosaurus.  It was impossible to get his entire skeleton in one photo, but Megan did a great job trying!  Next to the plesiosaur was a gigantic prehistoric turtle.

We took turns watching Nathaniel so that everyone could see the museum.  Grandma took him over to look at dinosaur teeth:

And Megan showed Grandma some of her favorite things and taught her about them.  I believe she is pointing out the baby pachycephalosaurus in the first picture, and noting that babies did not have large smooth lumps on their heads, while adults did.  Instead, the babies had a bunch of spikes.

Mom and Dad spent some time looking at other fossils, but the kids and I mostly looked at the dinosaurs and other prehistoric reptiles.

I believe this photo was showing how paleontologists put plaster casts on fossils before they remove them from the dig sites.  You can see some lovely ammonites in the background.

And they had a pteranodon skeleton handing from the ceiling.  It was huge.

This museum had a fossil dig area for kids, too.  Megan spent a long time scrupulously cleaning all the rubber "dirt" off this fossil.

It was really nice that the museum had a few touch fossils that kids could actually put their hands on, especially because most of the dinosaur skeletons were within reach of the kids.  I'm not sure if these were actual bones, or if they were casts of bones, but the kids didn't know the difference.

When we got back to our rental house, it was time for Nathaniel to take a nap:

So Mom and I took the girls into Custer to see if we could find any stuffed prairie dogs in the numerous gift shops.  Sadly, not a single prairie dog could be found.  But we got to see quite a few of the painted bison on parade:

Mom, I think we have more photos just of the dinosaurs and fossils (with no kids), so if you want any of those, I can look through my collection and see what I can find for you.