If you are wondering why I’m MIA for the next week or so, it’s because I will be pretending to be a camp counselor and sending 12 young wizards and witches into what I call SURVIVOR HOGWARTS. It is no secret that I’m a huge HP fan and before we hit the very LAST movie of the series, I was begged into creating the EPIC Survivor challenge for my nieces, nephews, cousins and daughters to play while we are on vacation with the theme Harry Potter. (When we go on vacation, it’s not to a hotel somewhere, it’s basically to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, I need them to do something without going crazy!) My ridiculous treasure hunts have been an annual thing for us and even though they are all getting older, everyone seems to be pretty excited for it.
I’m completely okay with this because I’m ALSO a freak when it comes to scavenger hunts, crazy relay races and ridiculous puzzles. I have to figure out a way to patent it or something! I usually put on a normal Survivor or Ultimate Scavenger Hunt during our family trips or over a holiday like Easter. We’ve played Survivor James Bond where everyone was named after Bond characters, Survivor Fraggle Rock although only I got the joke (I’m old) and the ever popular “The Search for Yam’s Treasure” where all the clues were hidden in songs that the kids had to listen to and decipher the location (IE. “Hey Mr. Postman…” clue was in the mailbox.) The winners got huge chocolate bunnies and the losers got small Cadbury eggs. The photo was hilarious. It was also the hardest game I’ve ever created.
So I’ve been working on and off for the last couple months gathering items and prizes, writing up clues, task and questions, drawing maps, packing up horcruxes and overall going totally overboard on what will be a 6 day overload on everything Harry Potter. It’s going to be great.
When we are back I’ll post photos as well as the tasks and you’ll wish you came with us.
So over the night, a mama snapping turtle decided to make our driveway her incubation chamber. Of course the idiot thought the tire tread channel would be the perfect place to lay her eggs. Needless to say we put some flags out and a barrier around the nest to see if her eggs hatch. Hopefully the neighbor dog won’t dig them up first.
She was hunkered down all morning. Seriously, I don't do well with wildlife. Look at all that moss and weed on her back.
Um, couldn't you have moved just a shade to the left?
I’m so excited for this. You have no idea.
If you like everything prehistoric, which I do, this is your place. The Black Hills Institute in Hill City, SD has a large collection of cast replica dinosaur bones, fossils, fish and sea creatures as well as minerals and rocks all in one place. And while it isn’t very big, I found we spent a ton of time there just LOOKING at everything. My daughters loved digging up bones in the sand table. It keeps the little kids busy while you get to stroll around museum. Also kudos to the staff for choosing great music to listen to as well. It was surreal listening to Nora Jones while looking at a T-rex! This is also the place that I think I took the most photos.
The Black Hills Institute
My daughter about to get her hand bit off.
So much to look at right as you walk in the door.
One of my favorites.
Another favorite. Crocodile jaws.
Check out the prehistoric fish. Apparently everything prehistoric is supersized.
Again, I couldn't get over the colors or the size.
Fossilized palm leaf
Even the youngest loved the sand table.
They took their work very seriously.
This is why I don't have pets.
Don't these just creep you out!?
They had a huge Fairburn Agate collection which ultimately turned me into a rock hound.
I should have taken a large scale photo of their rock/mineral collection. It was impressive.
My daughter wanted me to take this photo since she loves elephants.
The weather was turning wonderful on Day 4 so we decided to surprise my daughter with a trip to Pirate’s Cove. This was right up her alley. She likes pirates about as much as she likes princesses and who can pass up mini-golf!? Also, whomever does the landscaping on this needs to come to my house. This was the “prettiest” mini golf course I have ever seen, the flowers and trees around this are perfect. I am pleased to say I got a hole-in-one on number 7 but I also took an 8 on a par 2 so I’m hoping they just cancel each other out. I’m not telling you my daughter’s score, she TOTALLY is a cheater.
Ahoy! Pirate's Cove!
Line up towards the cannon and bank it off the second tombstone.
Showing off her golf skills.
There were a few other land lovers on the course as well.
It wasn't until hole 3 that she really started to cheat.
My daughter wanted to know if these bones were "real".
Totally fun course. Waterfalls, bridges and a shark. Perfect.
Giving me her "Yo Ho Ho, a Pirate's Life for me" with her take-home pirate patch, Jolly Rogers flag and hat.
If you read my previous post, you know that I bribed my daughter with ice cream to finish the cave. And I wasn’t lying. If you go to Custer you need to stop at Bobcats and get ice cream or rhubarb pie or both. Seriously, how can you not stop at this place.
Look for this sign and stop.
This is "Cotton Candy", she ate it in 34 seconds.
I got a Toffee Coffee Espresso and mom got Strawberry, YUM
This just screams sweet treats.
Alright, HERE are some cave photos. Although it’s funny, without any scale to go off of, they are a little abstract and lackluster. In person, the cave itself is amazing and again, I will say my photos don’t do it justice. The scenic tour we went on took about an hour and 15 minutes with stairs going up and down multiple stories. My 3 year old got a little tired so I had to bribe her halfway with ice cream as her treat for completing the cave. Once you start the tour, there really is no going back! Also Jewel Cave is different from Wind in the fact that it is VERY wet. We were “rained” on multiple times and you had to really watch your step on the the stairs so you didn’t slip. Halfway through the tour, our park ranger turns off all the artificial light and we are completely blind. I’ve never seen “darkness” like this in my life. It’s like your eyes are just straining for ANY small light source. Totally cool.
Jewel Cave National Monument
A close up of the Jewel Cave popcorn structure
This is actually a shot of the ceiling as you first walk into the cave.
Some of the artificial light came out "green" in the cave.
The lights they used to light the cave were well hidden and perfectly set.
This is just awesome.
She compared this to a what soda does to your teeth, we were standing in a big cavity.
Here you can see some scale with the stairs there. Bring your walking shoes.
Our Park Ranger was great, here she is telling us about the "Big Duh" and the "Cave of Misery" as well as her own adventures exploring the cave.
You are not allowed to touch the cave, at all.
Check out those colors. Amazing. By the time I finally figured out the settings I needed on my camera to get good "cave" shots, we were already walking up to the elevators. Booooo.
This looked like Cthulu's tentacles to me.
Wind Cave National Park was our next stop and unfortunately I didn’t get to go into the cave. #WhatALetDown Why you ask? Mostly because I didn’t think it was a good idea to take my baby girl into an enclosed space screaming her lungs out. (You’re welcome group-of-40-strangers that would have strangled me!) My oldest daughter DID get to go on the tour with my mom and we made a pact that I would get to go into Jewel Cave so I would at least experience one of them. At Wind Cave you will learn the term “Boxwork” and you will also enter the cave through a revolving door taking steps down the whole way. At the end you will
crawl on your hands and kneestake an elevator to the top, no worries. I’d advise you to get their early since tours DO sell out. Here are photos of the Visitor Center at least.
The Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center
A piece of the Boxwork
The upstairs gallery.
The downstairs gallery, you will wait here before you go on the tour.
The timeline, I found this a cool way to read the history.
Clara touching part of the "sacrificial" boxwork
A map of the "known" parts of the cave.
After seeing the Badlands, going to the Needles is your next “out of this world” scenic drive. Also, do NOT drive the Needles backwards like we did. We started at Custer State Park and drove north to Sylvan Lake. Now, if you are a daring, want to always be on the “outside” lane, love taking your life in your hands and playing chicken with oncoming cars, then yes, choose this route. There are no guard rails and at times I found myself exclaiming “WHY ISN’T THIS DRIVE A ONE WAY!!”. #WIMP Heck they don’t even paint a middle line once you go through your first tunnel! Also, it’s much more fun being the passenger than the driver if you are wanting to the see the view. Okay, I’m exaggerating. The Needles drive IS exhilarating at times but is well worth it. Rent a small car or motorcycle, you can’t drive a camper or motor-home through them because of the tunnels. Also, take heed of the signs, yes, there IS falling rock.
Our first real look at the Needles
No motor-homes or campers on this route, rent a Jetta.
There are two levels of parking here, you can see the "man made" retaining wall in the corner.
The Needles from afar
The "EYE", unfortunately I got a side shot, a ton of people were on this road and it was congested.
Very overcast and COLD. Also do you see the UFO?
Alot of people were fishing around the lake which was surprising to me