Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Presidents and Tetons and Bears (Oh My)

First bears.

This is a picture of my 12 year old father approaching a Yellowstone grizzly bear in 1956.

And behind that bear is her CUB. So, no - not at all dangerous or anything. Epilogue: he lived to tell the tale. And the bears ate the food he offered instead of HIS HAND. While I am really looking forward to following my grandmother's footsteps by taking my own three children on a cross country road trip, bear feeding will not be on our agenda.

We will be spending some time in National Parks though - specifically, Grand Teton National Park and Mount Rushmore National Park. We'll only have a full day in each so I'm going to have a set itinerary for both.

Luckily, a high school classmate saw my posts and sent me some great information about her own family trip to South Dakota. They had a lot more people involved and rented a cabin, but we'll probably just find a hotel/motel for a couple of nights (any suggestions?) The activities she listed included three days worth of scenic drives, towns to explore and monuments. Here are some of the options I'm considering for our one day.

Mount Rushmore - obviously. I think we'll leave that for the end of the day though, as I keep hearing that you HAVE to view it at night. I've also heard that you HAVE to view it at sunrise. But if I had to pick, getting my three children up before dawn would not be my first choice.

I got that image from the Visit Rapid City website. As a past meeting planner, I like to start with the Convention and Visitor Bureau websites for basic location information (and, in this case images, as I assume they won't sue me for using them to promote their city and send traffic to their site...hopefully). I find that a combination of CVB websites, word of mouth suggestions and random Google searches generally gets me all the information I need. I also like the Visit Rapid City Things to Do page. Perfect for clueless South Dakota travelers like me!

I think we'll drive along the Needles Highway (Highway 87) as we make our way to Mount Rushmore.

Another borrowed image from Visit Rapid City, of course. Sadly, our car looks more like this:

Minus the reindeer antlers.

Back to the trip... I think my kids would also really like to see the Crazy Horse Memorial. So that might be a morning activity. My friend said they did a horseback ride there that took them past the memorial. So that's another option. She recommended the company they used, Rockin R Rides, saying they were great for beginners (which would be us!)

One last image from Visit Rapid City. This website certainly has been good to me...maybe we'll stay there!

If I had to add anything else (though two monuments, a scenic drive and a potential horseback ride does seem like a lot), I'd also like to check out Deadwood (once home to Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane). Apparently, they do a Western reenactment for kids in the middle of Main Street. Me from 10+ years ago doesn't understand this at all. But she doesn't have children who LOVE hokey tourist attractions!

Another scenic drive would be the Wildlife Loop Road. The actual "wildlife" we might see includes bison, deer, elk, coyotes, burros, prairie dogs and eagles. I think I'll just have to map all of this out to see what itinerary makes the most sense!

I may know very little about the Mount Rushmore area, but I know EVEN LESS about Grand Teton.

Thorough research (i.e. one Google search) brought me to a Top 10 Summer Activities list on Jackson Hole Traveler. So many outdoorsy possibilities...but I think I can immediately rule out anything involving rafts or fishing. While I'm willing to go outside my comfort zone to give the kids some new experiences, I draw the line at anything that may conclude with me falling into a lake. So rafts, canoes and kayaks are definitely out. I might brave a sturdier vessel though. Boats do make me nervous, but last summer I managed to enjoy myself on a  pontoon ride around San Diego bay. This lake looks pretty placid right?

Image courtesy of (surprise!) Jackson Hole Traveler. Of course a boat ride would be much better if this was involved...

...but something tells me it won't be that kind of boat.

The scene in that first (nonalcoholic) image is of Jenny Lake and a boat from Jenny Lake Boating. I'm sure there are a lot of other locations and boat company options to investigate - but this certainly looks nice. AND affordable at $19/adult and $11/child for an hour cruise around the lake.

Wildlife tours also look fun - but the one that Jackson Hole Traveler mentions (Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris) is $130/person for a half day. That's definitely not in our Grand Teton budget. We could always just go for a hike and take our chances with the bears... The Grand Teton National Park website has a page that lists a number of hiking options (all FREE!)

There is another GTNP page for horseback riding. Funny how this activity keeps coming up in my idea lists, as I have never before expressed a minute of interest in riding horses. Must be those Grand Canyon mules. I will have my picture taken on a large animal if it's the last thing I do! Or more likely, not.

I think that's more than enough to consider. But feel free to tell me if you've been to either of these areas and have fabulous recommendations to make! I will only draw the line at bears. And small boats. But if a glass of wine is offered in either scenario, I may be persuaded...

1 comment:

  1. Kate you are a much better and braver Mom than I ever was. Not only were our family trips much tamer but I had a partner to depend on. Our group contained only two kids much more sedate. I wish you luck on your adventure. Love, Mom