Epic Adventure: Part Two

Our first stop - Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We didn’t think much about the date. Back to our thinking six weeks is plenty to plan a mammoth adventure, we didn’t consider that we were beginning our trek on the busiest holiday in our country. We landed in the Clingman’s Dome parking lot at the same time as 1,000 other people enjoying our Nation’s great forest on a great holiday. We hiked the paved trail with a sea of people moving up and up into the clouds to a glorious view of the blue hued hills.

After fighting Pigeon Forge traffic, we were finally off to the great wide open. We prepared for an all night drive and drifted off into mini van sleep while George drove us through the night. 

By four the next afternoon, we were in Kennebec, South Dakota at a lovely campground. George’s third grade teacher, Sylvia Ann Marquette met us there for spaghetti and wine and songs and stories before we fell into deep - not in a mini van - sleep.   

After oatmeal for breakfast and a long playground adventure with neighborly campers, we said good-bye to Sylvia Ann and headed West towards the Badlands. Years ago, as newly weds, we had popped into Badlands National Park, but just for a sunset and then off again. We took some time to drive through the park a bit more slowly and to soak in the grand scale of the ancient and strange, dry land as far as the eye could see. As we left the park, we spotted silly prairie dogs and ground owls and a huge great horned sheep. The kids squealed with laughter watching the prairie dogs pop in and out and around.

As we “planned” the trip, I did some research on Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The pictures looked like it would be a unique place to visit. It was glorious! 

This picturesque canyon land covered with conifers and teaming with trout in crystal clear rivers pushed along by cascading falls gave us a cool evening to splash and run and picnic. Amelia spotted two birds she’d never seen and the waterfalls and river quenched and refreshed us from head to toe after scorching in the Badlands. 


It wasn’t a place we could camp, so we had to reload and head out to find camping near Mount Rushmore. On July 4. There would be no camping anywhere close, so we headed west and watched fireworks explode from town to town across America. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so American and so thankful for this land. We were in the middle of it, literally, and in love with her beauty and the freedom to enjoy it.





























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