Out West Trip - Day Two: Badlands, Wall Drug, Keystone

Sunday, June 17 - Day 2
Badlands, Wall Drug, Keystone

Rain rain go away!

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday was sunny and we were sweating in shorts. Today was 40 degrees cooler and we wore rain ponchos.

After a hotel continental breakfast - which means biscuits and gravy with flavorless eggs-(but hey it’s free food conveniently located so no complaining here!) we began our journey to the Badlands.

If you see a toilet in the open I guess you need to sit on it!
I started the kids off by reading a legend in how the badlands came to be by the Lakota tribe. I had preprinted junior ranger books to fill in for the kids so that kept them busy for part of our ride.

Our first stop was exit 131 off of I90. To the south is the entrance to the Badlands and to the north is Minuteman Missile Site. We stopped first at the Missile site. It is a very well done museum of sorts with interactive exhibits and a film. I learned a lot and found it very interesting. I can’t imagine living in such a state of constant fear like people did during the Cold War! It is also alarming to hear that twice missiles were almost launched because of computer and human error. Thank goodness there are safe guards in place and human intuition plays a role. A bonus is that the museum is free and indoors! There is an option to actually tour the area where a missile is which has a fee and is 15 miles away, but we chose not to do that.
Learning about the Cold War

Minuteman Missle Site
On our way to the Badlands National Park we stopped at The Ranch which you can’t miss because of the giant prairie dog statue standing in front of it! There is a field there filled with cute little prairie dogs. You can buy food to feed them, but we brought peanuts to give them with us. We saw one or two and the rest stayed in their burrows out of the rain. Which is what we should have done because within 10 seconds of being out of the car the boys had soaked shoes caked in Dakota mud.

That's one big Prairie Dog!

On we went into Badlands. Did you know that fourth graders and their families get in free to all National parks? Tyce is a fourth grader so we saved $80! How awesome is that!? You have to plan ahead and fill in forms online which takes about five seconds.

As we came into the park, the kids were able to fill in more of their jr ranger packets by simply looking around. They were excited to find things to match in their packet and it kept them very engaged. Major win for Mom! Family vacation where the kids are actually learning things!

We stopped at a couple boardwalk trails. There was no way we could have gone on any other kind of trail as everything looked like it was melting in the rain! I put my hands on some wet rock and I came away with hands covered in wet slippery clay.

We had on our rain coats and plastic rain ponchos of all different colors. We looked like a bright rainbow in the gray day against the stark backdrop of the Badlands. I didn’t realize that I had a mix of adult and child sizes in ponchos. Poor Jackson got a child sized one while Sylvia had one down to her calves!

It's a little windy and rainy
Boardwalk Trail

Bundled up in the rain

Mud from the rocks

Yum! - (not really - it is just a pose)
The wind and rain were not fun so spending time in the visitor was a welcome reprieve. This idea was shared by many others so the place was packed!

They had a fantastic display and movie inside. The kids turned in their packets to get a badge and were able to go with a ranger to do a mini activity to become an official Jr Ranger and receive a very cool patch. Another parental win because the activity was all about learning about the ecosystem of the area in a fun way!

Getting a Jr Ranger badge is a big deal!

Our drive through the badlands didn’t disappoint. The scenery is fantastic and we even saw some antelope, but I wish we could have gotten out to do some hiking. On a side note, we were excited to find out that the American proghorn antelope is not related to an antelope at all but to a giraffe! Sylvia thought that was cool since she was born in Africa like a giraffe!

I didn't plan to catch it pooping, but since I did....

We drove straight into Wall and went to Wall Drug. This place is no joke! We had lunch and tried to squeeze through crowds to see all of the stores. Wow.

The kids had earned money to spend so they wanted to shop. Tyce knew what he wanted right away. Lola didn’t find anything that appealed to her. Jackson carefully thought out his purchase. Sylvia- well Sylvia wants everything she sees! I remember a time when she asked for nothing in stores. Those days are gone. Her eyes become big round expressions of awe and she gasps with glee when she sees something she likes which is about every fifth item! Most of the time she chooses things we know she will never touch again so we try to steer her in an appropriate direction. This process takes time, but in the end she was happy to be a cowgirl with two pink toy guns.

My dad pretending to step in a Buffalo Chip like my sister did when I went out west when I was 10 years old!

Only get this close to a stuffed bison!

Tyce picked out a stuffed bison to purchase

When we had our fill of shopping, we went across a court yard and to a mining activity where we all went into a cave to find gems in the dark with hard hats with lights. It was a silly little activity, but it was dry, we all got to do it, we got a cute picture out of it, all of the kids got a small bag of pretty rocks, and it wasn’t expensive!

Our day ended with finding our cabin at the KOA just past Keystone and a dinner there. We would have liked to go see Mount Rushmore since it is just down the road but the rain has brought in fog and you can’t see anything! We even tried stopping at an overlook to see a profile of the presidents and could only see clouds!

Looking for the profile of Mt Rushmore... or preparing for battle if you are going by Sylvia's pose!

Our cozy cabin

So for tonight we will curl up in our cozy little cabin and hope that the rain goes away so we can do more outdoor adventures without wearing plastic tents!


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