Bear Country USA

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I have two words for you:

Baby Bears

bear

A dozen baby bears.

We spent our day at Bear Country USA.

All it took was seeing the photos of dozens of scampering and tumbling baby bears in an area of their park called Babyland to know we had to make Bear Country USA one of our stops in Rapid City, South Dakota.

We arrived just as they opened, knowing that  cooler temperatures earlier in the day would result in more active animals.

We made a decision, upon arriving at our RV park and talking to the camp host, to rent a car for our two days in Rapid City. We found a place that rented cars very inexpensively to RVers who might find maneuvering some of the switch backs and narrow tunnels cut into the rocks challenging for larger vehicles.

We are so glad we did. We realized the wisdom in our decision while traveling the narrow roads and low clearance rock tunnels of Custer State Park. We would have never fit in the bus!

Our first opportunity, however, to enjoy our temporary rental car was at Bear Country USA.

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We were a bit nervous as we entered and were told that the Elk were in rut. We were told to not tarry through the Elk enclosure long, as Elks who catch sight of their reflection in your car’s shine might charge it. I could only imagine how we would explain the antler dents in the side of the KIA to the rental car company.

Bear Country USA is a drive thru animal park that winds through the scenic Black Hills, moving you from animal enclosure to animal enclosure.

We were told to drive slowly, keep our windows up, and to under no circumstances exit our vehicle as we would be passing through areas containing wolves, black bear, and brown bear.

We all loved the park. The experience began with tamer animals like deer and sheep,

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and concluded with the wolf and bear enclosure.

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It was absolutely thrilling to have so many bears right outside the car window. There we probably 30 bears strolling around the enclosure and walking around the car as we slowly drove through.

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They were all such laid back, personable things that it was easy to see how humans could foolishly get themselves in trouble when the desire to touch or approach one of these “teddy bear” like animals gets to be too much to resist.

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As we watched them roll around, splash in the water, and sit and scratch their belly we could see how the character of Baloo, in The Jungle Book, was created. All these fellows were very Baloo-like in their mannerisms.

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Then it was onto the walking part of Bear Country. We parked the car and walked into the Discovery Land.

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Here there were small enclosures housing creatures like porcupine and skunk and other smaller animals.

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There was a hands on educational center where the kids could touch, feel, and learn more about the fur, antlers, and prints of the animals found there.

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They had an interesting display laying out the differences between American Black Bears and Brown Bears. While we were there we ran into our friends and RV neighbors from our stay in Mitchell, SD. We were wondering if we would cross paths again since we are traveling a similar route and sure enough, we turn around, and there they are. 🙂

Then it was time for BABYLAND!

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Here, in their own small enclosure, a dozen cubs played, frolicked, climbed, wrestled, swam and generally got into mischief. They were like a pack of puppies chasing each other, tumbling and rolling and chewing on each other’s ears.

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Here cubs are stacked four high as each chews on the ear of the cub in front of them. 🙂

 

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I could have spent all day watching the antics of those bear cubs. As it was ,we spent almost an hour standing at the fence thoroughly entertained by those furry babies.

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It was an AMAZING experience!

From there we drove over to Custer State Park where we spent the afternoon. (More on that in the next post!)

In the evening we headed back into Rapid City for dinner. We have a couple dinners out planned for the duration of our trip. Most of the time we are cooking all our meals in the bus or packing lunches to take with us as we site see, but we did plan a couple special dinners as a treat.

This happened to be one of those few dinners out that we made reservations for.

I was thrilled…not only by the fact I didn’t have to cook dinner, but also because of the dinner we had planned.

 We were going to a cowboy chuck wagon dinner and show at Ft. Hays.

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When we arrived we had 30 minutes to walk around the Ft. Hays old fashioned town before we went in for supper.

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At 6:30 we were seated at long picnic style tables.

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Dinner was a traditional chuck wagon meal of BBQ beef, baked beans, applesauce, baked potato, homemade biscuits with honey, lemon aid to drink and spice cake for dessert.

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We were called up to the kitchen by table.

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The process began with everyone grabbing a tin plate. First food received was our baked potato, which was smashed onto the plate to mash it and keep it from rolling off.

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From there we worked our way down the line getting all our wet foods: beans, meat, and applesauce.

Then another cowboy tossed a piece of wax paper on our plate and we were ready for our next layer of food: biscuits, butter and cake.

The wax paper kept our dry food from getting wet.

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The dinner was delicious! Everyone cleaned their plates but each had a favorite part of the meal. Molly voted the baked beans the best part of the meal. Grace felt the homemade chunky applesauce was the best part. Toby, Rusty, Ozzie and I loved the BBQ beef best. And Tyler voted the spiced carrot cake the winning dish. In fact he liked it so well he asked if I could go ask for the recipe.

After dinner the show part of the evening began. It was a mix of music and comedy. The music played ranged from classic cowboy songs that would have been sung on the prairie to more modern country favorites.

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The band was incredibly talented, particularly the female fiddle player. The best song of the evening was her rendition of “When the Devil went down to Georgia.”

They ended their show, and the evening, with a tribute to all the military and veterans in the room, acknowledging them and showing their appreciation by ending the show with the song, “Proud to be an American.”

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What a fun end to another wonderful day!

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