The trip began at 5 a.m. sharp on Father's Day with a stop in Mitchell, SD to visit the Cabela's store and the famous Corn Palace. It was still early in the day and they traveled further west, taking a lunch break at the Missouri River just past Chamberlain. The final stop was the camp site reserved for them at Custer State Park. They pitched their tents, set up camp and were ready to call it home for the whole week.
The scouts had planned out what they were going to do on each day of the trip. Monday presented itself with the opportunity to go to the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. Once there they learned how the site came into existence and toured the facility. The Mammoth Site is an active archeological dig with more and more of it being excavated all the time. While there, the scouts also participated in learning how to use an atlatl, a prehistoric hunting weapon used to throw arrows at prey. The boys found it was a lot harder than it looked.
On Tuesday, their decision was to go see Mount Rushmore traveling the Needles Highway to get there. On the way there they stopped at Sylvan Lake and walked the trail that goes around the beautiful mountain lake. Once at Rushmore they were able to take in the avenue of flags, which is a walkway showing the flags from all 50 states. They also walked the trail which took them underneath the carvings and back down to the bottom. At the bottom they were able to see the sculptor studio and the air compressor used to power the jack hammers during construction. Then it was back up to the top by way of stairs to see the movie presentation about how Rushmore was built.
On Wednesday, the scouts went to Jewel Cave where they took the Historic Lantern tour of the original opening of the cave. The guides were dressed in the authentic historic park ranger uniforms and one real kerosene lantern for every two people was given to the group. The tour took them inside the cave, down some very steep and narrow stairs, through some cave tunnels to the bottom. They experienced what it was like to be in pitch black when all the lanterns were shut off. They also learned how the cave was discovered and capitalized on and how a cave lives. Then it was back up the steep narrow steps, through the tunnels and back outside. Then it was back to Custer State Park for an afternoon of swimming in Sylvan Lake.
There was still time left in their day to go to the Reptile Gardens in Rapid City. They were able to attend three shows, each showcasing animals at the facility. The first show was about snakes where they saw, learned about, and even touched live snakes. The second show was about birds, and the final show was about alligators and crocodiles. At the end of that show they were able to touch and feel a live baby alligator. Inside the dome and around the facility the boys were able to explore many other animals housed at the gardens. Frogs, snakes, lizards, alligators, birds, turtles, tortoise and more are cared for at the Reptile Gardens.
Friday was the goof off day that included traveling the Wildlife Loop at Custer State Park. Some of the wildlife the scouts were able to see throughout the week included: bison, antelope, prairie dogs, wild burros, mule deer, marmots, elk, and big horn sheep. On a daily basis they had visitors to their campsite. Each morning around 5 a.m. a turkey hen would wake them all up while calling for her poults. The regular evening visitor was the same male bison making his rounds. The scouts dubbed him, "Bubbles" the buffalo. On another afternoon a group of five big horn sheep grazed their way through the camp area.
Overall, the scouts and adults had a great time and recognize that none of it would have been possible without the support of the citizens of Cherokee. More pictures of the trip are available on their Facebook page, Boy Scout Troop 107 Cherokee, Iowa.