Saturday, July 29, 2023

Mount Rushmore (June 22)

The drive from Devils Tower, WY, to Mount Rushmore, SD, is only 2 hours and 20 minutes (130 miles or so). Alexander, who had been feeling find at Devils Tower began wilting at Mount Rushmore. 

It's been so long now that I can't quite remember which of the children got sick when. Phoebe got sick first. On a Sunday? I feel like it was on a Sunday. Was it on June 18th? Andrew ended up going home from church early with her because we realized part way through sacrament meeting that she had a fever. She was a miserable baby all day Sunday, but woke up feeling better on Monday. 

Zoë was the next child to get sick. I can't quite remember when she got sick, but her illness followed the same trajectory as Phoebe's. She felt sick for a day and then felt better. She must have been sick on Monday because I don't remember her feeling sick while we were traveling and we were counting our lucky stars until Alexander started feeling sick at Yellowstone (June 21). 

At first he attributed his feelings of malaise to breathing in vapours from the geysers and things, so he kept saying that he wanted to "get out of here," away from all the steam. Now, granted, "toxic gases may accumulate to dangerous levels in some hydrothermal areas"so he his assumption wasn't necessarily unwarranted. But everyone else seemed fine, so we were pretty confident it wasn't toxic gasses (and we didn't spend a ton of time at any particular hydrothermal area). 

But, boy, that steam was just blowing into his face and stinging his eyes! And that sulphur smell sure was giving him a headache!

It took us an embarrassing long time to realize that he had, in fact, spiked a fever and was downright miserable. (Fortunately, all our activities were outside, so we felt we were giving others plenty of fresh air around us). 

He was so happy when we finished dragging him in and out of the car at Yellowstone and let him have a big, long rest in the car while we drove through Wyoming!

The next morning he was feeling much better, as we assumed he would be (if his illness followed the same course his sisters had experienced), and was running and climbing all over everything at Devils Tower. As I mentioned, however, he began to wilt at Mount Rushmore.

Here we all are standing in front of the monument (you may also note the thunderstorm gathering behind the hills):


Alexander was not feeling great (though he didn't have a fever or anything at this point). You can see him kind of leaning into me, somewhat clingily (poor guy).

But we got our junior ranger booklets, dutifully filled them out (mostly using knowledge we had acquired by reading in the car beforehand, though there were also a few activities we needed to complete along the trail), and enjoyed our visit, anyway.

While Grandpa, Rachel, Miriam, and I helped the kids with their booklets, Andrew took Phoebe off to enjoy the view by her sweet little self. She thought the empty ampitheatre was fun.

With the sky threatening us the way it was, we decided we should quickly do the hike around the base of the mountain before we got caught in the rain, so we hiked that trail, and we hiked it fast!

Here we are just before hitting the trail:

We were glad we decided to leave the stroller in the car for this excursion because there were so many stairs! We would have been carrying the stroller half the time (as evidence see our post from 2011 when we carried the stroller up and down stairs the whole way)! The stairs weren't really too much of a problem for most of us. Phoebe had to be carried a lot, however, and poor Alexander —with his short little legs—got so tired

But he powered on through his discomfort and we got some wonderful views of the monument.

Benjamin was thrilled to be complimented on his sash by not one but two National Park Rangers.

I loved these weathered rocks in horizontal layers:

And here's the view of the monument from the trail:

Toward the end of the trail, Phoebe had had enough of being Daddy's hiking buddy and insisted that she come to Mommy:

So I finished out the hike with her while sad little Alexander trailed along beside us.

Then I had the audacity to suggest that I take some photographs of the children in front of the monument from this end of the trail, as we had all those years ago when we visited Mount Rushmore with just Rachel and Miriam (and Grandma, Auntie Emily, and Uncle Morgan). 

Phoebe was not a fan of this idea.

So I took Phoebe back and we decided to try to recreate some classics from Rachel and Miriam's first visit. I have to say they were spot on with this shot...

Here are those girls in 2011:

And here they are in 2023:

But they seem to have forgotten who had been trying to hug who up there on the wall. In fact, it was Rachel trying to hug Miriam and Miriam was simply not having it.

This time Miriam tried to hug Rachel and, honestly, Rachel kind of nailed the "why are you touching me" face (she's good at that one, though I don't know why she was making that face in the 2011 photo since she's the one who initiated the hug Miriam was trying to get out shoving Rachel).

In 2023, Miriam initiated the hug:

Here's a couple more throw-back pictures of my sweet babies Rachel and Miriam (who didn't both manage to smile sweetly in a single shot...first one and then the other, sure, but never a coordinated effort):

To think that back then I thought getting all two of my children to smile for the camera was an impossible task—like herding cats! If only I knew what was in store for me! I'd like to see 2011-me wrangle six kids. Good luck! (It's a good thing that most often we grow into our life situation and aren't just tossed into so much's like boiling a frog, right, just turn up the heat a little bit at a time...)

With that, we decided it was time to hit the road—we had a long ride ahead of us!—so we headed back to the parking area. 

The parking at Mount Rushmore (which you have to pay for, even if you have a National Parks Pass (but which is worth the $10 (or $5 if you get the senior discount, like Grandpa))) was blissful. After the nightmare we had parking at Yellowstone (specifically—but not limited to—Old Faithful), we were grateful to have a parking lot with attendants telling us precisely where to park!

We were confused, however, when they waved us to park in a different area (and in kind of a tight spot), while Grandpa got waved into a nearly empty level of a parking garage and had plenty of spots to choose from. How was that fair? Could they tell just by looking at him that he needed a senior discount parking spot or something? 

(I jest, I jest...)

When we arrived back at the van, however, it was rather evident why we had been directed to a different parking area:

All the vehicles in our row had luggage on top! 

We were all hungry and ready for lunch, but decided to picnic at our next gas station rather than at Mount Rushmore. We didn't want to walk back up to the plaza with our lunch and our cars were parked so far away from each other, anyway, so we put in the address of a preselected gas station and met there for gas, lunch/dinner, and a potty break.

Here's Phoebe pretending to drive while sitting on Daddy's lap in the parked van:

And here we are enjoying our peanut butter sandwiches in the middle of nowhere, South Dakota:

Best birthday dinner, ever!

But, wait! It gets better!

Here's my sweet boy, Alexander, who needed to put on his sweater because he was feeling a little cold:

And here's Benjamin who, like everyone else in our party, found the temperature to be quite lovely:

It was quite a lovely day (in spite of the impending storm) and Phoebe was having a blast playing in the rocks, but considering how far we still had to drive, we urged the kids to hurry and finish eating, use the bathroom, and load into the van.

I was in the middle of climbing into the van to position the cooler beside Alexander when he said, "Mom...I feel like I need to throw up!"

And with that simple pronouncement he upchucked his entire peanut butter sandwich—fortunately, directly into his hands, which he'd cupped in front of his face.

"Oh, buddy!" I said. "It looks like you needed to throw up!"

I got out of the van and announced to everyone that they could stop packing things up and were free to return to play at the rocks. Our rest stop had been extended...on account of Alexander, whose hands were full of regurgitated sandwich. 

Happy. Birthday. To. Me. 

But, really, though! Happy birthday to me! Andrew stepped right in and carted Alexander off to the bathroom. He washed Alexander off and dealt with all the vomit (save a very little bit that Alexander dribbled on his booster seat, which I wiped up), tasking me with finding a set of fresh clothes for Alexander.

I did have to rearrange the bins in the trunk a little bit in order to get to the "spare" clothes, but that was quite an agreeable task, given the alternative (and I was so glad Andrew volunteered for that particular part of clean up—happy birthday to me!).

That was the only throw up we had to deal with on this trip, though, thank goodness! And after a good night's sleep, Alexander was feeling just perfect when he woke up. Pretty much all we did on June 23 was drive and drive and drive to Nauvoo, so that was a good day of rest for everyone (except for the drivers, I suppose), and it gave us a buffer to see if anyone else was going to get sick (which no one did, thank goodness).

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