We left West Yellowstone and headed across Montana, Wyoming, and eventually into South Dakota. Just a few miles down the road on this 544 mile trek, as we wove our way through the Custer Gallatin national forest alongside the Madison and Gallatin Rivers, we witnessed a scene straight out of Field & Stream! Hundreds of anglers spotted the crystal clear waters for miles. They stood knee and waist deep in the rivers casting their flies repeatedly in hopes of catching salmon or trout. It was such a pristine scene that it looked like it was straight out of a movie! I so desperately wanted to camp a night in this magical forest but we needed press on down the road to make our destination before dark. I look forward to coming back with more time to enjoy the. Big Sky area and explore all the beauty that the Gallatin Forest has to offer.
Several hours down the road, we crossed the Little Big Horn River and drove alongside the Little Big Horn battlefield. We were excited to share the historical facts with our kids and soon found out they had no idea who General Custer or Crazy Horse were. Thank you very much standardized testing... So, I googled the battle and started sharing the facts with them to further learn that the battle took place on June 24-25, 1876. Um, hello coincidence! We just so happened to be traveling through on that very day, and couldn’t have planned it better if we had tried to.
After driving across the Northern half of Wyoming, we quickly learned that it looks exactly like Southern, MT…. Green rolling hills and very, very little else to see. By 7:00 PM, we arrived at Elkhorn Ridge Resort in Spearfish, SD. With a 360 degree view of the Black Hills, large wide open grassy spots plenty big enough to not only park our rig, but specifically set up for rigs like ours, a sparkling resort size pool and hot tub, state of the art basketball courts, tennis courts, and volleyball courts, stone fire pits with firewood provided, a coffee bar & bistro, and gift and wine shop, we had found our LUXURY RV park! Hey…I never once claimed to be a “camper” but I do enjoy Glamping! The hubs hopped out onto the concrete pad and exclaimed that all the hookups were in the exact right spot for our hoses and the concrete pad was level! I responded with “Yes Honey, THESE are our people!” The kids grabbed their basketball and excitedly ran off to the basketball court where they proceeded to put the major spank on a couple of 30 somethings from North Dakota while Dad grilled us burgers. After dinner we hopped in the jeep and made the 60 mile trek through the Black Hill forest to visit Mount Rushmore. We had been told the memorial is much more impressive after dark, and we were not disappointed! The lit up memorial was definitely worth the late night drive, even if we weren’t able to capture the experience on film. It was so cool being the only ones up there. We pulled over to the side of the road and just took it all in.
The next morning, we headed out to experience all the Black Hills has to offer (or at least whatever we could cram into a few hours.) We hit up the infamous main street of Sturgis as well as the Harley shop and then headed down the road to the Wild West town of Deadwood for lunch. We were excited to visit the stomping grounds of Outlaws Calamity Jane, Jack McCall, and Wild Bill Hickock. Of course, the kids had no idea who any of these people were until we visited the location where Wild Bill was shot, took them to lunch at a “haunted” hotel (brothel) full of artifacts, and witnessed a rootin tootin shootout reenactment on Main St. This wild and unruly town with historic hotels, saloons, and sites to visit is now their favorite town they've ever visited!
We continued through the forest and up the mountain to the Crazy Horse Memorial where the kids were able to witness the Lakota tribe and Ziolkowski family’s ongoing construction of the memorial to Lakota Leader, Crazy Horse. Here they were not only able to learn about the white man and native American’s fight over the land, but also about the battle of Little Big Horn, General Custer, and Crazy Horse. The kiddos were also able to take home a large chunk of the granite that has been carved out of the mountain. Having only seen Mount Rushmore at night, we decided to revisit the monument and do a walking tour to view it more closely. While the monument itself in impressive, the stories of the construction impressed me the most. Over the course of 14 years of construction, not one death occurred with the 400 men that dangled from ropes while carving the mountain.
On our way back through the Black Hills, we spotted a sign for Bear World “View grizzly bears, black bears, brown bears, wolves, and mountain lions in their own habitat.” With both the boys’ and my husband's number one goal for the trip being to see a bear, we abruptly made a left turned and pulled into Bear World. After safely and securely putting the tops back on the jeep in order to not get eaten, we were ready to drive through the preserve. We took pictures of elk, reindeer, wolves, and mountain lions as we all giggled and crafted a master plan to crop out all fences and share the images on FB like we had seen the animals out in the wild. We made a family pact that no one would ruin the joke.
We made our way to the backside of the property and entered the bear zone where black and brown bears slowly made their way across the road in front of us, walked alongside of us with their large rumps shaking, frolicked in the water holes, and scratched their giant backsides on the edges of their caves. The kids were so excited to finally see bears and the hubs made sure to pull up to a good angle for me to snap pics without any feeding stations or fences in the background. We had finally seen bears! Our trip was made!... or so we thought...
As we approached the exit, there was a large brown bear and smaller black bear playing to our right, while two brown bears on our left started growling at each other. “Alright!” We thought. “We’re gonna see some action!” We were watching these two waiting to see the fight break out, when Dad said “”Uh…. What’s that brown bear gonna do to that black bear? Um….Watch this.” This was quickly followed be the kids stuttering “Um… Mom?” and bursting into uncontrollable laughter and giggles. And…with the car in front of us stopped, leaving nowhere to go, we sat there and watched as the brown bear gave it to the black bear with all the machismo he could muster. As I sat in horror watching the large beasts’ furry brown rump shaking back and forth and his little tail bouncing up and down, all I could think was “Oh God! How do I explain THIS to the little one? He’s innocent! We haven’t had that talk yet! Oh Dear God! Help me! Make it Stop!” But, much to my horror this act seemed to not have a stopping point. He was in it for the good time AND long time. It would speed up, slow down, and speed up again. At this point, I’m recording because…. well, what are you going to do? The Hubs has tears rolling down his cheeks, the kids are laughing hysterically, and we’re all witnessing an act of nature that will become the single most hilarious experience we have ever had as a family! And, just like that, all the historical and educational lessons of Little Big Horn, Wild Bill Hickock, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy horse have just been replaced with Sex Ed class brought to you by The Bears. You’re welcome kids.
With our eventful day coming to a close, we made it back to our oasis, Elkhorn Ridge Resort, where we were serenaded around fire pits under the strawberry moon by the music of local musicians. The kids played basketball and rode their Segways around while we enjoyed the concert and chatted with the other guests. We will most definitely put this on our list of parks to return to and if you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend it.
This morning brought the melancholy feeling of the fun being over as we packed up and started making our way back home. Next stop: Nebraska…. Or Kansas… or if Cool Hand Luke is feeling it, this rig might just make its way all the way back to Texas.
Who am I?
Hi! I'm. Brandi, founder of The Power Project. There are a few things I'm passionate about in life, and one of those happens to be my LOVE of travel! We enjoy traveling the world with our kids as well as the continental United States in our motorhome. I hope you enjoy some of our most memorable adventures!