Our perfect plan: Drive to South Dakota towing pop up camper, kayak and Paddle board. Stay 5 nights at Bismark Lake Campground. Day 1- arrive and set up camp before dark (about a 6 hour drive). Day 2- hang at camp, fish, paddle/kayak and relax. Day 3- Jewel Cave tour. Day 4- Mount Rushmore and celebrate Brady’s 11th Birthday! Day 5- Cave if the Winds tour. Day 6- pack up and head home 😭.
As we all know even the perfect plans can throw a curveball. My husband likes to say “luck favors the prepared” so we left as prepared as we could. All sorts of tools, too much food and a few new glamping items we added to our upgraded camping homestead.
We were loaded up and ready to go by 10am. First stop, Big O Tires to check that our wheel bearings were packed properly (losing a trailer wheel can be a very traumatic experience, it’s happened on our boat trailer)…..and we are on our way. Smooth sailing, no traffic getting out of Denver. We easily made it to the Wyoming border and stopped at the South Wyoming Welcome Center for a picnic lunch with pre packed sandwiches. This welcome center is really cool. Highly Recommend stopping there. They have a mini museum inside about the state’s history and a fossil of a giant MAMMOTH! The kids could have spent a lot of time there but we needed to get on the road!
So about 12:45-1:00 we were back on I-25 headed north to Cheyenne and continued to hwy 85 to Torrington. By this time it was about 3:30 and we need to make a decision whether to stop at Fort Laramie National Park or push on straight to camp. We were running a little bit behind schedule but we decided to check it out anyways. After all it was only about 10 minutes off our direct route. Below is a picture of the oldest standing building in Wyoming.
Fort Laramie was originally established as a private fur trading fort in 1834, Fort Laramie evolved into the largest and best known military post on the Northern Plains and was a stop on the Pony Express for 1 year in 1860!
Of course this small detour ended up putting us another hour behind schedule but it was definitely worth it. Both of the boys were sworn in to the national Junior Ranger program and completed their first workbooks to receive their first Junior Ranger pin!
Back on the road again…. and at this point we were just hoping to get to our campsite before dark. We were also a bit concerned about the enormous looking thunderhead in the distance we were to travel. Would it be too much to ask to arrive before dark and be able to set up camp NOT during a storm? Maybe we would be spending the first night sleeping in our car 😂. (Of course Chris would never let that happen)
We continued up HWY 85. The clouds of the storm we were approaching were absolutely amazing. They looked so powerful yet not a drop of rain as we continued under dark clouds with continuous lightning. We were just about through the “storm” when it started to pour. The rain seemed to intensify and come down sideways. About a mile later all of a sudden the direction of the wind changed and rain came quickly from the other direction. It’s a feeling that is hard to explain but I thought TORNADO! Suddenly the rain just stopped. Then we pass a big SUV pulled over on the side of the road and a whole bunch of people set up with cameras filming what looks like to be the event we just drove through. Could those have been storm chasers? Holy cow….all I could think of was drive faster. We turned east onto Highway 18 and dealt with high winds which is pretty scary with the paddleboard strapped to the top of the truck for the next half hour and then all the crazy weather seem to die down. Well that was exciting, and luckily it was the worst weather we saw our entire trip!
We arrived in Custer, South Dakota about 7:30pm. Since we are running so far behind schedule we were nervous to set up camp and cook dinner before dark and in the rain so we picked up Pizza Hut while we were driving through Custer.
Happy to report we made it to camp about 8:00 pm just after it had stopped raining and still had about 30 minutes of daylight to set up camp. And what a camp it is! Please read Part 2 to hear all about our first night and 2nd on the trip! Here is a sneak peak at our view from camp!