Today we decided that Mount Rushmore was the top thing to do on our list. After an oatmeal breakfast (or bacon and fruit and nuts for Charlie and I), we drove over there. It was a bright, beautiful day and was already quite warm, so we tried to be prepared for that kind of weather. We made sure that everyone had hats, and we actually brought sunscreen with us.
Mount Rushmore was different than many of the things we have done so far. I was trying to decide why it felt so different, and I believe that I arrived at the conclusion that this is one of the few man-made creations that we have seen. We learned a little about its creation, saw the monument, and took a trail that led us a little closer (that trail was a good workout – there were lots of steps). After the trail, we saw no reason to do much else. Everything was SO busy. We did stop by the gift shop of course, but after that we hurried back to the car so that we could go find a place for a picnic. We all decided that we were glad that we saw Mt. Rushmore, but it isn’t something we feel like we would ever need to come back and see again. The highlight of the day, at least for Charlie and I, was speaking with a Native American park ranger. He explained to us that he was a member of the Lakota Sioux and that he had just begun working with the National Park. His job with Mt. Rushmore was primarily to help educate visitors about the Native Americans. He is also working with the park system to put in some kind of outdoor Native American exhibit there at Mount Rushmore. He spoke with us about some of the history of his tribe and their difficulties with the American government in the past not sticking to the treaties that were made between the government and the Native Americans. He even mentioned that his tribe had been given the Black Hills in one of the treaties, but the government came and stole it from them. I do pray that one day our government can find a way to do right be the Native Americans.
We had our picnic and drove around for a little while (I even took a nap – no caffeine this morning). It was pretty warm, so we stopped to treat the kids to an ice cream. We eventually ended up at Wind Cave National Park and decided, despite our past experiences, to do a 1 ½ hour cave tour. We love to see caves, but in the past we have had several experiences where one of us has taken a baby out of the cave because they were too fussy. However, we decided to try again. All kids, except AnaClaire, did great in the cave. Poor Charlie ended up carrying Damien, asleep in his arms, through a large part of the cave, but while Damien was awake, he did well going up and down the stairs and was just amazed at so much of what he saw. AnaClaire fussed throughout much of the cave, simply because she did not want to be in the backpack or carried; she just wanted to get down and move. I did the whole tour with her anyway, but as soon as we were finished I put her down so that she could walk around, which she was much happier about. The cave is considered to be a dry cave, so you don’t have the stalactites and stalagmites that you often see in other caves. However, it did have something called boxwork formations that really looked like thin spider webs. It was very unusual, and the ranger told us that 95% of the box formations in caves throughout the world are found in Wind Cave. After the tour the older kids were asking the ranger all kinds of questions, so he ended up taking them to see the natural entrance of the cave. How special that was for them!
Back to the campground we went to fix dinner and settle in for a quiet evening. Ryon and I worked on a paper that he needs to turn in, and we all headed off for an earlier bedtime than we have been having.