Sunday, June 5, 2011

If I say I've fallen in love with the Black Hills National Forest, does that make me unfaithful?

I sure hope not, because I have.  Fallen in love with the Black Hills, that is.  They are softer and greener than the Sierra, and the sky seems more generous somehow. My kids are getting mighty tired of my rhapsodies of delight over birches and aspens just coming into pale, leafy sparkle.  OK, I'll stop talking about "clean" after today, but  I wonder if it's the influence of all those Scanda-who-vian immigrants in pioneer days who have preserved their neatnik ways down through the generations.  I mean, we pulled into Keystone, home of dozens of ticky-tacky tee-shirt shops and those uniquely tourist-town eateries emitting oily vapors, at around 9:30 a.m., and every shop keeper was sweeping, window-washing, and one guy was even pressure-washing the boardwalk area in front of his restaurant. (I know, it does sound like I've been standing in the Mount Rushmore sunshine too long, doesn't it? )

(I've despaired of adding photos directly to this blog, but here's a link to a shutterfly site with the slideshow so far:  

Today began with Rhys entertaining an older gentleman in the breakfast area of the hotel with a discussion of the merits of the different colors of Froot Loops (foodies, look away!) and when we could break up that party, we started out on an exploration of Keystone, Rushmore Cavern, Mount Rushmore, and Hill City.  As usual, Calvin and Mark both found the various park rangers, tour guides, and docents to be fascinating buffets of knowledge, and proceeded to pig-out on all the info the experts could offer.  Patti and Calvin both decided to do the Junior Ranger program at Mt. Rushmore, earning their badges after completing a knowledge-quest of various info, and submitting to a short quiz. The examining ranger told Patti that her answers were full of "stuff that I never hear from the kids who do this program"... I hope that means it was good. 

 Meanwhile, Mark, who bought his very first pocketknife at a souvenir stand in Keystone, spent some very happy whittling time while listening to the park rangers, and managed to teach himself one of those small, absolutely necessary lessons about working with a pocket-knife.  Fortunately, the ranger popped off her hat, and produced an antiseptic wipe and a band-aid.  We'll call that a different kind of "badge" for Mark.  Skinned knuckle or not, I'd rather Mark work on his fine-motor dexterity with whittling than have him zone-out with one of those two-thumbed electronic pacifiers that I've some kids carry around.  (And, no, Gramma, I'm not letting the boys whittle in the car.  The knives go into my purse for safe keeping.) 

And at the moment, I'm watching my kids play with half a dozen other travelling kids in the hotel pool... my poor, unsocialized, homeschooled kids, tee-hee.  Tomorrow, we embark on a VERY long one-day run to Chicago.  Yes, I'm crazy.  Prayers would be appreciated.  

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