|On a hiking trail in South Dakota's Custer State Park|
The vacation was good and desperately needed by The Husband, who I think took one day off to go to Holiday World with the fam this summer, but otherwise had yet to take any vacation time in 2010.
Mommy confession: I found it a little frustrating to travel with a toddler. I missed reading on the airplane, taking the time to read museum and state park exhibits in their entirety, and taking at least one night to drink ourselves a little silly (which for me doesn't take much more than a couple beers!)
Still, I wouldn't trade the Bear for any of these little traveler's luxuries. And besides, The Bear has officially proved herself a super duper little trooper! She spent long hours on airplanes, in car seats, and riding in a backpack child carrier while we hiked. During the trip, she mastered three new phrases: "Get out," "Get down," and "Go home." I'm not sure whether she wanted to go to our house in Louisville or the cabin we rented in Hill City, SD... Her cutest moment was an inexplicable fear of pinecones, which The Husband somehow managed to transform into a love of the objects -- particularly The Bear's own "Baby Piney-Coney" that she carried with her for several miles the day we hiked our way up Harney Peak (which is the highest mountain east of the Rockies and west of the Swiss Alps).
Aside from the large quantities of time we got to spend together, my favorite part of the trip was all the wildlife we saw. There were buffalo from a distance:
|The herd in motion at Custer State Park's Annual Buffalo Roundup.|
Not until this trip to SD had I ever seen so many deer:
|Four deer grazing just a few feet from our cabin doorstep.|
|Deer crossing the road in Keystone, SD.|
The Bear particularly enjoyed these little chipmunk-like things, which were not at all shy around humans! I was terrified that one would bite her and we'd be off in search of a rabies shot. After some quick Internet perusing, I remain uncertain whether these are called least chipmunks or ground squirrels (or both, or neither). They were much smaller than the chipmunks we have in Kentucky and Indiana, so we started calling them "chippy-mice," as in, "Look, there goes another chippy-mouse!"
|The "chippy-mouse" in action|
The Husband and I particularly enjoyed the prairie dog villages. These little critters were super cute and kind of reminded us of meerkats. We are still laughing about an incident we witnessed involving a pair of unleashed dogs that leapt through a fence to investigate a group of prairie dogs. The canines ran around, raising hell, while their owners yelled, "Elvis! Jellybean! Get back here!" Thankfully, no one was hurt, not Elvis or Jellybean, and not one single prairie dog.
|White prairie dogs at Prairie Homestead in Philip, SD.|
All week, I had hoped to see some bighorn sheep, probably because my high school mascot was the Ram. (Go PHS!) The road leading into Hill City had signs alerting drivers that bighorn sheep might be present. We never saw any along this stretch of road, but on our next to last day in South Dakota, we spotted one:
|A male bighorn sheep, grazing roadside at Badlands National Park.|
Our most unique encounter was perhaps the "wild" tiger we photographed on the hiking trail:
In all seriousness, the most unique aspect of this tiger is that he actually made it home with us! There were many, many occasions when The Bear tossed him down onto the trail, and only sometimes did she alert us to this fact: "Ah-oh, Ah-oh! Tider! Tider!"
One of the nerdiest things I started doing when we go on vacation is find the local library and get my picture taken with the sign. Here is my South Dakota shot:
Our week away was fun and memorable, but it was also really good to come home! The Black Hills are beautiful, and I recommend you add them to your travel wish list if you've never seen this part of the United States.
P.S. Most of these photos were taken by The Husband. Some were even edited by The Husband. If you are curious about the identity of the photographer, ask yourself: Does this photo look like crapola? If the answer is yes, then it is probably one of mine. However, if the answer is no, then it is most definitely one of The Husband's.