There were a couple of choices of route from Denver to Keystone, South Dakota. We decided to go through Scotts Bluff, Nebraska for a couple of reasons. First, the National Monument marking the Oregon Trail at Scotts Bluff looked cool and second, it would give us a chance to be in Nebraska. (Surely I'm not the only one that loves to add to my list of "states I have been to...")
Here, the kids are literally walking on the old Oregon Trail. It's easy to see why this was the route of choice in this area. Look at the wide space to pass through the bluffs on either side.
The National Monument had an interesting museum, replica covered wagons to explore, even a period-dressed guide to talk to about the Trail. I found it fascinating to be on the Oregon Trail, thinking about the determination, hardship, and adventures so many people faced as they headed West. I bought a great book in the gift shop called It Happened on the Oregon Trail. It's a collection of interesting stories and events that happened in the lives of the ordinary people who made this extraordinary journey.
We got to do something none of the early travelers did...drive to the top of the large bluff that sits along the Trail. The views were fantastic, and along the way we drove through 3 tunnels in the bluff, which we later found out are the only 3 tunnels in the state of Nebraska. Not hard to believe as we continued our journey across the state to find only rolling fields of grass for as far as the eye could see.
We arrived in Keystone, SD and stayed in a cute, cozy cabin. The next morning we headed out early to see Mount Rushmore. If you visit there, be sure to arrive when the doors first open for an uncrowded, pleasant experience.
This is the hall of flags, one from each state. It's a beautiful walk leading up to the main deal, those 4 famous faces! Which by the way, am I the only one who has a hard time remembering that Thomas Jefferson is on this mountain? I could always list the other 3 without a pause, but when it came to old Jefferson...brain freeze! I had to look it up about 3 times in order to tell the kids who they would see. But after visiting the Monument, I can safely say Jefferson is now embedded in my mind.
I have always wanted to see Mount Rushmore, but I was secretly worried that it might be a letdown. Could a giant carved mountain really be that great? The answer is yes, it can. I was so excited to be there, soaking it in, feeling in awe of the magnitude of it all.
There is a walkway that leads down to the base of the mountain. We enjoyed reading the informative signs about each president and being closer to the carvings.
Nate bought this 500 piece puzzle at the gift shop, and we put it together while hanging out in Montana. It was the hardest puzzle! I didn't think we would ever finish, and when we finally did it was time to tear it up and pack it away.
After Mount Rushmore we visited the Wind Cave about an hour away. Here the guide is showing us the only natural entrance (it's about 2 feet big) to this cave that contains 137 miles of explored cave passageways squeezed into one square mile of land. The tour lasted 1.5 hours and though not as visually stunning as Carlsbad Caverns, it was interesting and a nice cool break from the heat.
That night we ate at the best restaurant in the area, the Alpine Inn. There's only one thing on the dinner menu, a bacon wrapped filet mignon. It comes with a wedge salad with homemade ranch dressing that is to die for. I've never thought of myself as a "wedge salad person" but I would eat one from the Alpine Inn every night. My mouth is watering right now thinking about this meal. It was that good.
Next Up: Custer's Last Stand, a black bear, and days of fun in Montana