Last week Lucy and I joined my sister and her family on a camping trip to South Dakota. This was certainly the most exciting (and longest) field trip Lucy and I have taken so far. And we both experienced and learned all sorts of interesting things! Too many things to talk about here, but I'll mention some of the highlights. According to Lucy, the best part of the trip was holding and petting kitties in the barn at the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota. (This is the setting for most of the Little House on the Prairie books). We encountered many other interesting, and perhaps more exotic animals along the way as well, including prairie dogs (which we fed peanuts), bison, antelope, mountain goats, and wild burros. Luckily, despite the plethora of signs warning us, we didn't see a single rattlesnake. The picture to the left shows Lucy with her cousins Lily and Jesse.
We also saw all sorts of different types of land, including tons of prairie land, the Black Hills, the Bad Lands, and forests, and we crossed two major rives: the Mississippi and the Missouri. Our camping spot was right in the Black Hills, at Custer State Park, and the kids could do a bit of rock climbing behind our campsite. The kids named one rock "Mt. Unclimbable" because they couldn't climb it. While camping we experienced bad weather up-close, with loud thunderstorms at night. In the picture at the right, Lucy is climbing a rock in the Bad Lands.
And let's not forget all the American history we experienced! A rest area in Minnesota along the Missouri River was an important historical site for the Lewis and Clark journey (of course, I can't remember which!). We had a picnic lunch there on our way out to South Dakota, and visited the Lewis and Clark museum, which had artifacts from the journey and a replica of their boat. We also learned lots more about the pioneers, including what sorts of chores they would have done (picture, left), the hardships they encountered, where they went to school (many were homeschooled because school was either too far away, or bad weather kept them from getting there), how they traveled, and the kinds of houses they lived in.
We also experienced some ancient history at a Mammoth dig in Hot Springs, SD. There was a Junior Paleontologist program that the kids participated in there. They were able to dig for real Mammoth bones at one of the most important Mammoth dig sites in the world! Of course, we also saw Mt. Rushmore (many times, from various vantage points). We even got to take a chair lift up a tall hill, and look at Mt. Rushmore while we ate lunch at the top.
The whole trip was amazing, but my favorite part was the Ingalls Homestead, which is the actual 160 acres that Charles Ingalls bought as part of the Homestead Act. The kitties weren't necessarily my favorite part (since I'm allergic to them), but the whole place was a great experience, since I've loved Little House on the Prairie since I was a kid. We saw various Ingalls artifacts and photos, visited a one-room schoolhouse, took a covered wagon ride, rode ponies, went inside a dugout house, and slept overnight in a covered wagon bunkhouse. The stars at night on the prairie were fantastic! Lucy bought an apron and a bonnet at the gift shop, and she wore it around there the whole time. The wagon to the left is the one we slept in overnight.
Lucy wants me to talk about the wild burros some more. These burros are descendants of burros that used to take tourists on rides through Custer State Park. Now they roam around the park (somewhat) wild. We got out of the car and petted them and fed them. Also one stuck its head in our car (picture, right).