South Dakota: Black Hills and the Badlands


This is my second visit to South Dakota and I am once again amazed at how gorgeous the Black Hills are. It shows my ignorance but I never realized what lovely landscapes this state has.

We started off our visit by heading straight to Mt. Rushmore, where we were joined by thousands of people at this monument to the presidents. There were so many people everywhere, it was hard to just sit back and enjoy this impressive sight. It reminded me of when I made the mistake of taking my family to Yosemite National Park on 4th of July weekend. What I took them to was a Los Angeles-like traffic jam.

IMG_4001Then it was off to the unfinished Crazy Horse Monument, which has been under  construction for more than 60 years. It didn’t look a lot different to me than when I first visited in 2009. You can see the full head and the beginnings of Crazy Horse’s arm but his horse has a long way to go. It was a treat that there happened to be a performance of Native American dancing when we were there. Arthur, at 2, was too wiggly to attend, but Theo stayed with Lee for the whole show and even participated in a snake dance.

We made a brief stop in Rapid City, where we had mind-blowingly good pitas at Pita Pit. Lee in particular is so in love with this Canadian-based company that he wanted me to research franchise information.

IMG_4012Finally we arrived in our home for the next two nights – Hot Springs, a stunning Black Hills town filled with red cliffs, a hot brook, waterfalls and quaint stores. The kids adored Evan’s Plunge, an old fashioned mineral pool that dates back to the 1890s and includes a 3-foot-pool with a slide in the shape of a frog and a 1-foot pool with a whale fountain. IMG_4016We scored with our accommodations booked from a vintage Dolphin RV on private property looking over a cliff. For $87 per night, we also got a private hot tub, fire pit and a picnic table. Camping without all the work- also called glamping!

IMG_4009During our stay, we made the long drive to the Badlands National Park. I kind of regretted the decision since we left our lush oasis for a super hot desert. However, the otherworldly rock formations were definitely different than anything I’d ever seen before, and Theo enjoyed earning yet another junior ranger badge. The kind rangers gave him a bonus of a sticker and a tiny magnifying glass.

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