What a fantastic state, South Dakota.
Best. Day. Ever.
Badlands is as exciting as we had hoped and planned for the day to be. The National Park is like a huge playground for outdoor-loving adults. There is a long winding scenic road meandering through its entirety with a dozen or so “overlook” points. Amid the rock formations and canyon landscape are miles of hiking trails. There is a very in-depth explanation of how the landscape formed, but you’ll have to check that out here because I can’t remember it all that well.
We saw the rocks peaking up from the horizon in the distance from I-90 but it didn’t prepare us for what we’d stumble upon at the first overlook point about a mile in.
We spent a good couple hours climbing around the rocky jungle gym, getting back in the car, driving to the next stop, and playing some more. At one overlook point we hiked a small trail (literally, it was maybe a mile in total, but since it was more of a scramble than a ramble, I think it counts) up to the peak of one of the formations.
Can you see me walking across the ridge?
Apparently the park is also home to rattlesnakes; there are warning signs everywhere.
And just as I wondered if they were overreacting, I almost stepped on a poor victim. (I think he belongs to be stuffed and added to the tower of dreams.)
After leaving Badlands, including a 6-mile stint at 18 mph along a gravel farm road, we stumbled upon what became a forever-memorable life experience. At least it is for me.
We visited the “business district” of the town of Scenic so I could use a bathroom.
We passed a couple on a motorcycle as we turned in who smirked and waved at us. Hmmm. I first headed for a building that said Trading Post –– closed. There was a post office –– closed. Hmmmm. A general store with an “open” sign illuminated in the window. Ahhh. I parked, hopped out, went in and was about to ask the 90-year-old looking woman at the counter where the bathroom was when I realized she was in the middle of chatting with an equally old and disheveled looking man smoking cigarettes, and neither of them had any idea I was there –– or they were completely ignoring me.
I used the bathroom and wandered back out through the desolate smoke-stinking store. Neither of them looked or acknowledged my presence. When I walked out, Andrew saw me and I heard the door locks click. “Why did he lock the doors?” I wondered. And then I looked across the street. I felt like I was in a movie plot where visitors get stuck in a no-name town only to discover the townies are all zombies and they can never again leave. It’s easier to show you than try to describe the buildings. Here are the photos Andrew took after I came out because he was “nervous that if they saw him take photos of the town, they might kidnap me inside.”
Umm, yes, those are animal skulls decorating the top of the sign on the saloon, and I don’t think you can see them in the photo, but there are chickens running around in front of the general store. I remind you, there is a national highway sign labeling this as the “business district.” (This is also the entire town. See the dilapidated building next to the store that sells appliances, tools and clothing (third photo)? That’s what the houses looked like on the way out of town.) WOW!
Lucky to not have run into any zombies, our next stop was Mount Rushmore. You think you’ve seen it all from photos and whatnot, and well, you probably have. But it really is soooo much cooler in person. There is a small trail that loops from the observation area under the statue giving you different angles. It is very cool! Personally, I’m impressed with anyone who can sculpt a small statue to resemble an actually person; coordinating 400 workers to do four faces in the side of a mountain is no small feat.
I think my face should be up there too! Whadda ya’ think?
They walk up to the observation area shows all the state flags. Here is Andrew posing with his new home!
With that said and done we headed out to find us a bed to sleep in somewhere in Wyoming. Best part of leaving was driving through Deadwood –– the town infamous for its outlaws and as a result has become a historic landmark. The photos were taken from the car window at night so I’m going to spare you, but it was soooo neat looking. It had such a quaint timeless feel to it. I totally want to go back and stay there.
We ended up staying in Gillette, WY, which is coincidentally the childhood town of a good friend of mine. (Hi JH!) And just when we thought the day’s excitement was over, Andrew caught a glimpse of lightening in the distance. For the next hour or so we watched lightening bolts streak down from the sky in the distance. It lit up the landscape and brought a lot of energy to the air. I happen to be a sucker for thunderstorms; this was as good as it’ll ever get!
The travel gods have been on our side so far –– saving us from danger and error, and showing us some of the America’s best in its brightest light!
Each day gets better than the last; I can only guess what’s waiting for us at Yellowstone. (As long as there are no bears; I refused to camp in the area the bears roam. They seem to be an angry bunch this summer.)
Anyone been to Yellowstone? Any suggestions??