Fourth of July Week - July 2004
Black Hills of South Dakota

Bethany and Taylor in the Black Hills Every summer, Carolyn's sons travel to Colorado to spend a week with us. We always take them somewhere nice so that the visit will be a little more memorable. Places that we have taken them include Yellowstone, Cripple Creek, Durango and Royal Gorge, among others. This year we were headed to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Along with Taylor, Craig's six-year-old daughter, they brought Craig's step-daughter Bethany, who had never been out of Texas and Oklahoma. Bethany is four years older than Taylor.

They left late Friday night and drove straight through, arriving Saturday morning. The girls were excited to be in Colorado. Carolyn took them to get their pictures taken while Craig and James caught up on some sleep.

Bethany at Rocky Mountain National Park Before leaving for South Dakota, we did a daytrip to Rocky Mountain National Park so that Bethany would have an upclose look at the mountains. The Black Hills would be no substitute for the Rockies. The girls played in a snow bank near the continental divide. It didn't take Bethany long to figure out that, while Texas may have a lot, it doesn't have everything - roads that climb to more than 12,000 ft and can be snow-bound year round, for example.

We had a cabin at Hillside Country Cottages, a place that Carolyn and I stayed at for Memorial Day Weekend of the previous year. The location is a good compromise between proximity to Rapid City, with it's grocery stores, etc., and scenic attractions, such as Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park.

One day, Carolyn took Taylor and Bethany to a petting farm. Taylor got chased by a goat, so she will probably remember that day for awhile. Later, she took them to see Mount Rushmore. We have seen it so many times that we almost don't notice it. The first view, however, is one that you don't forget.

That evening, Carolyn took the girls to the Flying T chuckwagon dinner show. The food was unimpressive, as was the music, nor did they care for the Hee Haw-type humor, but they still had a great time, because they were on vacation. A few weeks before, Carolyn bought matching western shirts for her and the girls. It was a nice touch.

Jewel Cave One afternoon, I took the girls rock hunting just a few miles from the cabin. Although Taylor was too young to understand even the simplest explanations of Black Hills geology, Bethany seemed to grasp the concepts pretty well. Taylor wasn't concerned about contact zones and metamorphic grade. She was happy just to carry my rock hammer. We quickly found some very nice garnet-mica schists. The girls heard the word "garnet" and thought they were rich.

When we found out that Bethany wanted to come along this year, the only concern that Carolyn had was that she would have less time to spend with Taylor. For that reason, she attached one non-negotiable condition - she would have Taylor to herself for one day. To accomodate this demand, Craig, James and I took Bethany to Jewel Cave National Monument, one the other side of the Black Hills. This was another first for Bethany - she had never been in a cave before. With more than 130 explored miles, Jewel Cave is one of the largest in the world.

On the way back to the cabin, we took Bethany to one of the ubiquitous Black Hills rock shops. She had gotten the rock collecting bug the day before and thought that a geologic memento of her trip would be perfect. She only had $15 to spend and I assumed it wouldn't take her more than ten minutes to go broke. My mistake. She browsed that rock shop for well over an hour. Even I got bored, and I usually find rock shops very interesting. In the end, she settled on a polished piece of Brazilian amethyst - a nice choice, in my opinion - and she still had $7 left.

We traveled across part of Wyoming on our way to the Black Hills and across the panhandle of Nebraska on the way back. By the time Bethany got back to Texas, she had been to five new states: New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Both girls have told us that the first thing they want to do next year is go rock hunting. We may even take them gold panning.