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South Dakota Wrap Up

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This summer, 26 rising seniors alongside 6 teachers went to South Dakota on a summer seminar. The students signed up for the trip back in the fall and had been looking forward to it all year.

On June 8, the students arrived at school with all their clothes and all other supplies for the trip and began packing everything up into their huge backpacks including having their tents, boots, and sleeping bags and mats all attached to their backpacks: let’s just say they were not light or easy to carry. With only three days until they headed out on American Airlines to Rapid City, South Dakota.

The entire group arrived at the airport around 5:30 AM, but no one was even tired because everyone could not wait to get the trip going. After about a three hour flight, they touched down in Rapid City and were ready  to begin their day. After eating Subway in the vans, they started off for the two hour drive to Wounded Knee.

Amanda Espy says, “I thought it was most interesting when we had the group discussions and read the articles about the Native Americans living there. There is so much poverty and sickness in their community, and seeing Wounded Knee only made it sadder.”

After discussion of the devastation at Wounded Knee, they began the one hour drive to the famous Wall Drug Store where the students were able to walk around and explore the small, quirky little town and buy souvenirs. Thomas Schultz says about the town of Wall Drug, “It was decently overwhelming. It was jam packed with different stores- lots of them being really weird. But I did get some pretty cool sunglasses.”

Wall Drug was the students last day of being in real civilization. Once they finished up there, they headed to their campground for the next few days on the edge of the Badlands.

students set up their tents as soon as they arrived and settled in. Next, their guide, Caleb, started preparing hamburgers and hotdogs for the kids. After dinner, the students took a short hike down into the Badlands and then headed back up to the campsite for a campfire. After that, they started getting ready for bed for the first time without bathrooms. It was a tough adjustment for everyone, especially since they were going to have to use the bathroom outside. The first night was tough since it was super windy and the tents made a lot of noise when the wind blew.

The next day, everyone was up and out of bed early to head to Dan O’Brian’s buffalo farm. At the farm the students got to experience seeing buffalo up close and personal. They also got to see something other South Dakota Seminar’s have never experienced: they got to see a buffalo skinned and prepared to be sold for meat.

“It smelled so bad in there, but it was so cool to see. I have never seen anything like that before. I also loved to see buffalo and their babies just freely walking about. It was such a unique experience,” says Molly Andersen.

It was one of the most displeasing smells the kids have never experienced, but it was definitely something different to experience. After eating bison burgers at O’Brian’s house, the students headed back to the vans and off to Mount Rushmore.

After about an hour or so drive, everyone arrived at Mount Rushmore. Many kids were awestruck by the grandness of the monument.

Kiley McKee says about her experience, “I had no idea how truly bigit was until I saw it. It was so much bigger than I could ever imagine. Even though I had always known it was carved into the side of a mountain, I never knew it was actually so huge.”

After all these activities of the day, they headed back to the campsite to prepare for their next long day ahead of them: hiking down into the Badlands.

The kids woke up bright and early and packed up everything they would need for the next two days and packed up their tents and loaded the vans up. Next came the hard part.

Caleb took the students down into the Badlands a very difficult and tricky way, with the second half of the group getting separated and taking a different route down. Both courses were very difficult, but the majority of the teachers were in the second group. Mr. Smith, who has been on the trip for 15 years now, said, “That descent into the Badlands was the most difficult I have ever done. I’ve been on this trip so many times and I’ve never done something that tough before.” The entire descent took almost 2 hours of exhausting work with their 40-50 pounds.

After meeting up with the rest of the group, everyone hiked for another 2 hours to the campsite. Everyone was exhausted, hot and ready to have a nice peaceful evening. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Caleb decided to take the students on a hike up one of the mountains that was completely unstable and risky.

The primitive part in the Badlands was cut short because of excessive heat and water shortage. The students headed out of the Badlands which took about 3 hours to get out of. After they arrived at the top of the Badlands, they loaded back up the vans and headed to a new campground with bathrooms and a volleyball court.

After settling in, they headed to Harney Peak to hike. Mr. Dejong told the students the hike would only take about 45 minutes, when in reality it took 3 ½ to 4 hours.

“I thought I was going to die. We were already exhausted from hiking out of the Badlands and then the Harney Peak hike took way longer than we expected to,” said Kiley McKee.

Following Harney Peak, the students headed back to the campground and began to settle in for the night.

The next day, the students woke up and drove to Caleb’s shop and hang out at the park near it. The day was filled with Spike Ball, Paranoia, and other fun games.

The day following that, the students went kayaking on the Missouri River and had a tough experience, which changed the course of the rest day. Instead of going back to the campground, the students spent the night in a hotel to regroup and recover. The following day was filled with fun activities to keep the kids’ minds off the previous day: mini-golfing, seeing Incredibles 2, swimming at the hotel, and pulling an all nighter since everyone had to be at the airport by 4am.

Schultz says, “My favorite part of that day was going to Denny’s at 2am with Mr. Dejong and a few other students. None of us were even tired because we had been having fun all night doing all sorts of different things.”

And with that, the students headed back to St. Louis, and reflected on the amazing trip they had.

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