Out West...

Aug. 11, 2011

I apologize for the little blog hiatus...my husband and I planned a spontaneous trip out West with our boys so the past few weeks have been a bit of a blur. I must say that all the chaos that went into pulling this trip together was WELL worth it in the end. We had an incredible time and I would highly recommend making a trip to the Black Hills with your kids if you haven't done so already. This very well might go down as one of our boys' favorite family trips!

Because the trip as over 1300 miles round trip we thought it might be fun to rent an RV rather than making the trip by car. The boys couldn't have been more excited when they woke up on the morning of our trip to see the RV waiting outside. They ran out to explore the RV and simply could not wait to take off. I knew the excitement of riding in an RV could very well wear off considering we'd be traveling for over 10 hours so I tried to plan a lot of activities to keep the boys busy. I packed plenty of books, coloring books, and I found a GREAT site for printable road trip games at Mom's Mini Van. The boys LOVED the license plate game and were thrilled to have found all but 9 of the states by the time our trip ended.

The boys were so excited about the idea of eating in the RV so I packed an RV-themed lunch for them to enjoy along the way. The lunch included a peanut butter Lavash Bread sandwich (if peanut allergies are a concern you might try substituting sunbutter), grapes, carrots, chocolate granola bars

When we finally arrived in the Black Hills the boys could hardly wait to get a glimpse of Mount Rushmore. Luckily, our campground was just a few miles past the famous landmark so they got to see it for the first time as we rolled through town!

When we toured Mt. Rushmore a few days into our stay the boys decided to take part in the Junior Ranger program. If you're not familiar with the Junior Park Ranger program, it's basically an educational program provided by the National Park Service. Children are given a booklet of tasks to complete and when they've completed the booklet they are officially sworn in as a park ranger and given a badge showing they've completed the Jr. Ranger program at that specific park. Both of our son's took part in this during our Mount Rushmore visit and they were thrilled when they became official Junior Park Rangers!

Also, if you plan a trip to any National Park in the U.S. be sure to pick up a passport book. This is a great way for your kid's to keep track of when they visited various parks around the country. We bought both of the boys a book and we were able to get three pages stamped on our trip as we visited Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave and Jewel Cave...all part of the National Park system. The boys are already chomping at the bit to visit more National Parks so they can get more pages of their book stamped. Besides visiting National Parks we spent a lot of time exploring other areas of the Black Hills. We spent time at our campground playing, visited Reptile Garden and Bear Country, explored an old mining cave, went horseback riding through Custer State Park, and took scenic drives around Custer State Park including Iron Mountain Road and the Wildlife Loop. The boys loved touring the caves in and around the Black Hills. By the end of our trip we toured a total of three caves for a grand total of 1703 stairs...YOWZERS!

The night before we left we surprised the boys with a Chuckwagon Dinner. Most of the commercial outfits we found on-line were either booked or they were closed for the Sturgis Rally. We were pretty persistent as we really wanted out boys to experience an old-fashioned chuckwagon dinner while we were out there. We were running out of time finding one when we finally came across Spring Valley Ranch. This is a privately owned working cattle ranch just outside of Custer, SD. When Ned, the owner, heard that we wanted our boys to experience an authentic chuckwagon ride before we left the Black Hills he assured us we found just the right place. He invited us to his property the night before we were leaving and promised our boys would be treated to the "real deal". We arrived to find he and his wife busy preparing our meal over the coals outside. They explained that everything being served came from right there on the property...a true "farm to table" experience! Cowboy Casey took us on a wagon ride around the property explaining life on the ranch and showed us some historic sites around the ranch. A quick note to Ned and Doris...thank you for your hospitality and for the delicious meal. And a huge thank you to Cowboy Casey for making our wagon ride such a great experience! This was a great way to end our trip out West! Something tells me our boys will remember this one for many years to come.

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