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South Dakota and Western Minnesota Early Summer Camping Workcation

We came home from the cottage for a few days before it was time to leave again. We drove through the prairies and farm fields of Minnesota to go to South Dakota.

First hotel shoot workcation of the impending summer. We were in a bit of a rush after Brooke finished work to get to Sioux Falls.. I had to shoot twilight shots of the hotel.

After I finished shooting some exteriors, we got our much needed dinner at Gilliberto's near downtown Sioux Falls.
 
You know we love a good hole in the wall taco joint, especially if it's in a former Hardee's.

This place was a weird mishmash of classic American tacos and authentic Mexican.
 
The hotel we were staying at had a mini indoor waterpark. When we got there after breakfast we had the place to ourselves. Theo loved the waterslide. I think we went down at least 20 times. A few more families came in after us but it was never very busy. 

Lucky dogs, I was busy shooting hotel rooms and amenities.

After swimming for a few hours the kids and I went grocery shopping for camp food. I found an easy way to make stir fry. 

We were going to go to a playground but it started to downpour. While waiting for the rain to stop we hung out in the car. Even Baby had a cozy place to wait.
 

After I was done working we checked out the namsake falls before camping for the night. 

Wow a city with Falls in it's name that actually has a waterfall still. 


Pretty cool area for the kids to explore. Anyplace with small-scale bouldering is a good time.

Theo was having a blast climbing on all the rocks. 

We did briefly flirt with the idea of going to the Badlands, but decided to head back over to the Minnesota border instead.

Meadow has a 4th grade National Park pass and South Dakota has quite a few parks. Being that it was already Friday we'd really only have one day to spend before having to make the long drive back. 

Blue Mounds State Park had a cart-in site, so that's where we headed.

Theo has been waiting to go camping for so long. He was pretty excited. 

This park has been on my Minnesota Bucket List so I was okay with getting to stay here.

Our campsite had these cool boulders. The only downside was we were really close to our neighbors. I usually expect the cart in or walk sites to be a little more private. 

Meadow wanted her hammock up asap


Near our campsite was a buffalo viewing area. We had to go check it out before it got dark. 

We need some binoculars. There is in fact a viewing platform, but it was always crowded.

We hung up some rope and used our car blankets as a privacy fence. 

Theo bubby helping make pancakes.

My stomach apparently hadn't recovered from the previous weekend bug. Thus the, ugh, face.

Meadow could sit in her hammock and read books all day. 

Theo also helped me with dishes. It's amazing how much more helpful they are when there's no screens.

Another MN bucket list place for me was Pipestone National Monument. Bonus, it's a national park so that means Junior Ranger books. Theo is big enough now to do them too. 

There may have been some complaining about having to go hiking. 

No hiking, no badges!

I've always seen these clumps of webs in trees, didn't realize they were caterpillars. 



This was a really pretty walk. I didn't know much about this place so was a pleasant surprise. 

The natives use this place as a sacred mining site as they have for generations.


The natives used the pipestone to carve pipes used in prayer and ceremony.





Then out of nowhere there's a small waterfall.




We finished up our booklets. I learn so much from them too.

I thought Theo would have been better about accepting his badge but he was just as shy as Meadow is. 

Another badge earned. I love when they are wooden too. 

Theo's first one!

We noticed in nearby Pipestone, the town had old buildings made from the same Sioux Quartzite. 



Very cool buildings almost reminiscent of the UP's Copper Country.

Then we decided to have lunch at Split Rock Creek State Park. Not to be confused with Split Rock Lighthouse.

I wonder if anyone ever makes that mistake. It's a nice little park with a lake, but definitely no lighthouse.
 
Hello friend.


I thought we would have done the hiking club trail here but the kids were already over hiking. Plus we had other things to see.

We don't have to do a hiking club trail at every park, mom. Plus wasn't this one really long?

Back into South Dakota we went. I had Devil's Gulch Park saved in my places to go. We had to wait out another thunderstorm first. 

There's been patches of rain swirling around the Midwest.

It seems like in the past week there have been these spotty storms all over the state. They come out of no where, downpour then move on. 

 
 
Don't look down when you cross the bridge. Apparently after Jesse James robbed a bank and fled he jumped this spot with his horse to escape. 

This had to be the jankiest bridge I've ever seen, South Dakota.

It was a bit muddy but oh so pretty.


I love places like this.

I'm still not sure about that fence-bridge, but the gulch was indeed cool.




We hiked for a while until we got to a dead end and a snake that I only saw.



Back over the janky bridge one more time.

We were about to leave when we decided to check out where the road goes to. Glad we did because we saw this waterfall. 

Meadow opted out and stayed in the car.

Decent waterfall, great gulch, but back to Minnesota we went.

We passed Tasty Drive In in on the way to our campsite and had to stop. 

That's JJ's Tasty Drive In to be precise.

Theo got a cone of course.

But I got too much of their take on blizzards. So Theo got some more.


Then we stopped for beer and snacks at Take 16 Brewing.

They had a food truck on site, bands playing in their new event space and a really nice patio. I can't remember if the beer was good, but it wasn't bad.

Before heading back to our site we decided to check out the other side of Blue Mounds State Park to see the Eagle Rock Vista.


Sadly this visitor looked like it had been closed for years. 

Then we went over to the quarry site and did the selfie station.

This is the highlight of the park for me. Fenced in bison just doesn't do it for me.

The hiking club trail at this park is 6 miles long. Guess Meadow and I will have to come back ourselves to complete it. 

Oh, that's where the long hike was.

Going at the end of the day, we had this place to ourselves. 

Such strong kids. Already lifting.

I spy cactus.
 
In Minnesota? WTH.


Theo and I tried looking for the buffalo again before the sun set.
 
Theo and I checked out the natural playground. It was honestly kind of sad.


They had a cool patch, but no sticker. So no one will know we ever went here.

We took a different route home and stopped at Lake Shetek State Park to do the short hiking club trail here. 

Once we got on this dike we were being bitten alive.

The bugs were horrible here so we walked through it quickly. I did think it was kind of cool that it circled an island. 

Since we were "nearby" we had to make a stop in Walnut Grove. This is the town Laura Ingalls lived in when her family lived in Minnesota. 

Even I wanted to stop by.

We came through here another time when Meadow was little.

Farmer Theo's beard is epic.

My dad is currently reading On the Banks of Plum Creek. I sent him this photo of the Nelson's store.

Really regretting not getting the sticker of Ma and Pa eating popcorn in bed. 

Reminds me of our 20s eating, sleeping and doing everything in our little room in a punk house. I know, not really.
 
We let the kids each pick something at the gift shop. Meadow got a dress for her American Girl doll. 

Theo wanted a bag of marbles.

Spoiled.

As soon as we got home Meadow had to put on the dress.

Until next time, the great plains.  
 

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