August 02, 2014

Thar's Gold in Them Thar Hills

I now understand now why my parents detested McDonald's with playgrounds attached and hotel pools.  They are road trip time stoppers and they slow you down something terrible. However, I do remember that one of my favorite childhood road trip memories was the one where my parents finally consented to let us swim in the hotel pool after a long day of driving.  So I made sure that memory would be included in this trip for my kids.  Just this once. After a long day of driving through Idaho and Wyoming we pulled into our hotel - just a basic looking Fairfield Inn on the outside, but, this hotel had a secret on the inside - a waterpark! When you are in the middle of nowhere the hotels have to compete somehow, so this is how they drew us in.  

The kids were ecstatic and threw on their swimsuits and enjoyed an evening of wiggling every stiff muscle in their body.  

That put us all in good spirits to commence the long drive across South Dakota the next morning.
You can't go through the Black Hills of South Dakota without panning for gold.  We didn't stop at one of the tourist trap versions of gold panning, but had found an old gold mill on the internet that was still operational and offered lessons.

We rolled up our sleeves and sat down to a thorough and exacting lesson on how to pan for gold.  Eliza was captivated.  Lance was plotting all he could buy with the gold he would find.  Bridger wasn't too thrilled with the lesson so he and Ty just took a stroll while the other kids did this activity.

Following the lesson, the kids dug with their shovels to load their gold pans with dirt.

They went to the stream to start flushing their pans to remove the dirt and rocks.

Then they went to the sluice box to slush and stir the sediment around to pick out some gemstones and then to strain the remains to reveal a precious golden flake or two. Yes, that is what you find.  Flakes. Those gold nuggets are just found in the movies.  Each flake was worth a couple dollars though!

Eliza had her own way of searching her pan.  Not a very effective way, but she enjoyed every dirty minute of her gold search.

I think if we had left the kids there there for another couple hours they would have found enough flakes to buy their own dinner.  Of all of the adventures that we have done, Alan said this was his favorite.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we actually earned money instead of just spending it!