Summer 2021 Vaca Part 1

Last year’s summer vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota was so much fun, we decided to do it again. And this time, tack on a few days at the end for an adventure in Yellowstone National Park.

We stayed at Under Canvas both times. Being able to be outside as much as possible just makes everything so much more enjoyable. Hotels are fine, but staying in a fabulous tent is hard to beat. Especially with our own personal bathrooms, ha!

As requested by many, here is our itinerary for South Dakota. I will do a separate post for Yellowstone!  (Here is a link for our trip last year)

Day 1 – We left Fargo at 5:30am. Regret sank in at that 4:30am alarm clock, but we were so happy with our decision once we hit Bismarck. 2/4 kids fell back to sleep, and the other two were perfectly fine just looking out the window. 

I had premade an entire loaf of PB&J’s to eat for lunch, and had muffins premade for breakfast in the car. Well, our kids were apparently gearing up for a full 7 days of hiking because we ate through the muffins AND the PB&J’s by the time we hit Dickinson. There, we stopped for gas and bathrooms, and I grabbed lunch meat and a second loaf of bread from the trunk to make sandwiches for lunch.

Once again, we stopped in Spearfish, SD. This is such an incredibly beautiful town. We stumbled upon a playground right next to a fish hatchery. 10/10 would do this again. {note:  we wanted to go to an ice cream place but it is closed one day a week… Tuesdays… which of course it was!)

After playing and handing out snacks, we headed to Spearfish Canyon. Hikes: Bridal Veil Falls and Roughlock Falls. Both 10/10. The weather and hiking were perfect. It was so fun to see how far Claire has come physically in just a year – she was able to walk a full mile by herself with no stops or carrying.

We got into Under Canvas around 5:30pm, and we ate dinner at their restaurant as we were too tired to grill. We did two tents again this year: I had Eli and Claire with me, and Adam had the twins. I think next year we could do a suite + kids tent combo.

Day 2 – We left UC at 7:20am with the intent to do Wind Cave National Park. Unfortunately, we got there too late and all of the morning tours had sold out. {Next time: we definitely plan to do this, so we should plan to leave at 6:30am. We theorized that a great day after the Cave would be: Cave, do a few hikes in the Park, eat lunch and have ice cream in Custer}

Instead of the Cave, we went back to Keystone and had gelato (Grapes & Grinds) and Claire played on their playground. As luck would have it, we met a family from St. Cloud, MN who have 2 kids with DS! The two girls had a great time together. 

While Claire played, Eli and Adam walked across the street to an adventure park and did a zip line, ropes course, and alpine slide. 

I took Sam, Jack, and Claire back to UC and we had ham and mustards for lunch. I had also premade several smoothies so Sam had a bunch of that. (When you have a kid who has severe gut issues, you make sure to plan food well.) 

After picking up Adam and Eli from the adventure park, we went hiking at Horse Thief Lake. While this was beautiful, our kids were just exhausted by late afternoon so we headed back to UC.

We grilled burgers for dinner, and it was perfect. Our trip coincided with our best friends’ trip to UC, so the kids played together all night. 

Day 3 Custer State Park! The best day. Last year we did the Wildlife Loop and the Scenic Byway, but this year we just played at Sylvan Lake. Or at least that was our intention…. Claire took off from the car, Eli went after her, and then I went after them – leaving the other three boys with all the stuff. However, they might have gotten the better end of the deal as the three of us were unknowingly setting off in the opposite direction of the lake and starting the beginning of a super hike. 

Was it exhausting? Yes. Beautiful? Also yes. Worth it? Jury’s out. 

Our time at Sylvan Lake was cut short as we had intended to buy lunch at the General Store. Much to our surprise, they didn’t sell anything close to resembling lunch supplies, so our kids were stuck with snacks. Also to our surprise, kids can apparently get sick of snacks. 

Around 1:30pm we left the lake and headed to the city of Custer. We ate lunch at a brewery and then had ice cream at the cutest shop ever. {Note: pack lunch next time!}

It was such a gorgeous day, and aside from our lunch fail, we had an absolute blast. 

That night, we also grilled dinner – however, Claire was too annoying at the campground, so I made everyone get in the car and we brought dinner to a picnic area nearby. Adam and Eli hiked to their hearts content.

Day 4: We woke up early, loaded the golf carts, and headed off for Yellowstone! But first we stopped for breakfast at Grapes & Grinds. 

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