In the juggling act that is life, there are times we all have to set things down in order to give our attention to items of higher priority. Since it’s been nearly a month since my last post here, you can safely assume that for most of the month of April I set down not only this blog, but most of my knitting and spinning. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say there were lots of moving parts & challenges both big and small. As one does, I put one foot in front of the other and made it through all the meetings and events with as much grace as I could. And last week, my family & I were rewarded with a week of vacation. Today I thought I’m come back to this space by telling you the story of our vacation.
Many of you might remember from past posts that my family and I love South Dakota. There was a time, many moons ago, when Mr. Knitting Sarah and I even considered moving there. The moment our commitments for April were fulfilled, we hopped into our family truckster — aptly nicknamed The Adventuremobile — and headed West. Moose, always enthusiastic at the prospect of adventure, spent the entire time we were packing wondering what on Earth was taking so long.
It was around 5pm on Saturday when we headed out and the plan was to drive until we couldn’t and then sleep in the car in order to arrive at the earliest possible moment in The Badlands. This is how Mr. KS likes to roll. I will not comment on how the rest of us feel about the arrangement other than to say we love Mr. KS and it’s the least we can do considering all this guy does for us.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. KS’ coffee consumption and excess of enthusiasm carried us all the way to The Badlands that night. Bear — not a fan of the car to begin with — handled the 12 hours in the car with drool-soaked stoicism that was not always super dignified…
But he emerged with a certain resigned awe…
Or maybe it was exhausted acceptance. We’re not sure which. At the very least, he was very happy to get out of the car for more than a bathroom break.
Our first day there, we took it all in knowing it would be our best day weather-wise. Birdwatching, climbing, and grabbing a glorious hike in the Sage Creek Wilderness filled our day.
Thankfully it was cool enough outside to leave the dogs in the car as they aren’t allowed out hiking on National Park lands and — with them happily napping in the Adventuremobile — we were able to take our time and soak up the landscape. And to quietly walk past this guy…
I’m thankful for optics which mean we don’t have to actually get this close to let Mr. KS take photos like this (a lot of the photos I’ll use from this vacation are from him as he loves to take pictures and I happily handle wrangling/directing kids and/or dogs when need be so he has the freedom to do so). Even at a safe distance, I do not trust bison and spent this portion of our hike attempting (most likely unsuccessfully) to hide my sincere but unfounded panic from our children. This is out of my comfort zone right up there with wading in murky water where fish might touch me, so I’m just proud that I did it and that every time I do, it gets a little easier. Baby steps, you know?!
As we walked along the prairie and I regained by composure as we put distance between ourselves and the bison, I found a lot of this spinny significance…
Bison fiber! All over the place! For those wondering, no, I did not harvest it. In National Park lands, I’m a firm believer in the “take only pictures and leave only footprints” ethos. There are birds and other little critters that’ll need this and I have no shortage of spinning fibers so I left it for the fauna out on the prairie.
Post hike, we enjoyed one of our coldest, windiest, and least comfortable picnics to date out in the Conata Basin. We picnic a lot because I truly love it, but the cutting winds put this particular dining experience on par with a time Mr. KS convinced us to grill out post hike at a local park in a foot of fresh snow while it was still windy… and snowing. We laughed a lot about how uncomfortable it was (I think normal people might move at this time, but we are far from normal) while the kids climbed around to their hearts’ delights to stay warm. We also enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and ate some of the most delicious local aged cheddar cheese I’ve had to date (and I’m from Wisconsin, so I’m kind of a cheese connoisseur who doesn’t say these things lightly). After a few more hours of exploring, we headed to our hotel and turned in early.
The following day was in the 40s and raining, so the kids voted that we take a drive down to the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs.
We visited this spot a few years back and it’s seriously one of the coolest natural history places we’ve been, so we were happy to go back. To distill down what it is for you, basically a sinkhole opened up, filled with water, and — due to the shape and geology of the rocks around it — became a watery trap for many unsuspecting animals thousands of years ago and thus a treasure trove of remnants from the past. Most notably, Columbian & Woolly Mammoth remains are prevalent in astounding numbers along with remnants of at least 2 rarely found Short-Faced Bears.
It is simply incredible and we all learned a ton and enjoyed the hours we spent here.
With weather conditions deteriorating, what else would we do but jet up to Mount Rushmore.
True to form, I was very worried about the weather and hrmphed a bit along the way because it was — in my opinion — a silly risk. It turns out that all you need to get Mount Rushmore to yourself is an impending snowstorm. Who knew?! Basically our only company were a couple mountain goats.
For anyone who has even been to this spot, you’ll understand that it is usually very crowded, so to have it to yourself is a rare thing. And the snow didn’t start in earnest until we were almost back to Wall, so I’ll say it — Mr. KS was right to make this memorable side-trip and I was being ridiculous to worry about it. It’s a special memory that none of us will soon forget.
The following day, our last full day in The Badlands, the views were magnificent.
Oh wait? You can’t see the formations? We couldn’t either on and off through the snow and freezing rain! Maybe this is better?
No worries, that didn’t deter us.
Kids, don’t try this at home…
We’re professionals (not really, but we spend a lot of time doing stuff like this and know our limits).
In all seriousness, the weather brought out a lot of rarely seen beauty in this landscape.
The colors in the Yellow Mounds almost glowed.
And the snow taxing the little Prairie Buckbean plants I found bittersweet in its beauty. I’m so thankful that we were there to see it. I’m also thankful that the previous week when we saw the weather forecasting snow most of the week, we changed plans from camping to staying in hotels. It’s much easier to enjoy — for example — a romp in the National Grasslands for the dogs in driving 30 degree sleet…
Knowing that at the end of the day you can take a hot shower and climb into a warm bed.
With the first half of our week coming to a close, I think normal people would be discouraged by the “poor weather conditions” of this vacation, but we subscribe to the idea that there is no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices. No, the main thing weighing me down was this:
We suffered a couple high speed rock strikes kicked up off the dirt roads which cracked the windshield of the Adventuremobile and then the cracks started to spread. We contacted our insurance agent and made the necessary plans to get it replaced before heading home, but there was a wait involved and I was concerned about the next 2 days of travel with it damaged. It’s safe to say the stress of April’s busy-ness had not yet burned out of my system, so I was more tightly wound that I’d like to admit. Mr. KS assured me everything would work out and if it shattered he would “just kick it out, like a Cowboy” and carry on. I did not find this reassuring nor did it help me relax.
Little did I know, things were going to get a whole lot more interesting on the second leg of this journey…
Stay tuned! I’ll be back with part 2 of this story later this week!