Today we are off for the Badlands. It is about an hour and a half from where we are staying but a lot of it is on I-90 so it goes by quicker than driving the MH. In the MH we only do 62 mph because that’s the sweet spot for towing for us. But in the car we feel like we are flying because we can go 75 mph. So in no time we are turning off the road on Hwy 240 for the northeast entrance to the Badlands. First we see a sign for Minuteman Missile Site so we stop there knowing it is closed on Sundays. They have very specific hours for this National HS. We check the hours and leave because we know we can stop off on Tuesday as we go through to see it then.
We continue down the road and see the entrance sign for the Badlands. If we had to pay it would be $15, but we bought the annual park pass back in September 2009 because we knew we were coming on this trip and we were at Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine for Labor Day camping.
So we get waved through and head into the park. The first turnout was jammed packed so we skipped it and stopped at the next, which had a boardwalk running uphill to get you closer to the rock formations. These are pretty neat. It is kind of like looking at huge sand sculptures without a beach nearby or what the Grand Canyon would look like if all of the canyon was above ground. The rocks and sand had many varied colors. Today we saw oranges, mustard yellows, pinks, greens, greys, an whites. After a few turnouts to take pictures we stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. PTCC starts working on her Jr Ranger here and we all go in to watch the movie they have. There is also a nice museum with displays explaining how the Badlands were formed and what animals live there. After looking around at everything PTCC has finished her booklet and takes it up to the desk for her badge. We then look in the bookstore for CC’s pin but there is no postcard here. Then we go outside and have our lunch at one of the picnic tables with these strange wind blockers attached to them. After eating we get back in the car to do the Badland Loop Road tour. Parts of it will be bumpy because they are working on the road but not today or tomorrow so we won’t be stopped like at the other National parks we’ve been to. It is very dusty and dry here though so we really can’t keep the windows open for too long taking pictures. PTCC even tried to stand up through the sunroof to take video but the wind was so strong she gave it up.
The road itself is about 35 miles long and we stopped at the Fossil Exhibit Trail and walked the boardwalk here. They have displays of fossils in Plexiglas cases so you can see where they were discovered as you walk along. Then we stopped at the White River Overlook which is the only water around and it isn’t that close by. Some of the rock formations looked similar to the needles we saw yesterday leaving Custer SP. One of the scientists in the movie we watched said it gets to about 112 degrees out here in the summer. It feels warm enough today at 67 degrees as we ride around the loop.
There is lots of prairie grass out here that the pioneers used to make their sod houses from. Now there are bison herds, antelope, foxes, black footed ferrets and prairie dogs all living in the grasslands. We saw the bison herd from far away but didn’t see any other animals here except birds. Wish we had time to spend walking the trails but after 2 days of up and down stairs in caves my knee can’t take the hills here.
We come to the Yellow Mud Overlook and the colors are striated and beautiful. There are gorgeous yellows, greens and oranges all mixed in together in the formations. We finally come to the end of the road at the Pinnacles Overlook. We can walk out here on the rock formations. What is surprising here is as you look down into the canyon you see conifers. They are nowhere else in the park but in this one spot well hidden from the road. If you don’t stop here you would not know they were down there. We then exit the park on Hwy 240 and continue in to the most famous city in South Dakota: Wall.
Of course we have to stop here, everyone does. We’ve been reading the signs since we drove into the state of South Dakota. So here we are. It takes up nearly a city block, with a soda shop, cafe, and too many to name shops. We first stop for a refreshment. CC and PTCC opt for a milkshake and a root beer float but I saw the sign that said pie so I grab a slice of apple pie, and a refreshing glass of ice water. Which is how the owners got people into this small town. They put up signs on the highways advertising free ice water at their drugstore. People came and when they did they bought other stuff. It is now in the 3rd generation of the family.
After we finished out treats we walk around and look at all the shops. PTCC bought a t shirt and we bought some fudge to eat on the way back home. They really seem to have everything you need or never knew you needed. In fact this past winter they added on what they are calling a backyard area. That makes them about 3 blocks deep.
Now we are heading back to Rapid City to pick up a few supplies and eat dinner out. We stop at our favorite place: Walmart. Then we look for a place to eat. CC wants to try something local so we head back towards Hill City. We get into town and need to fill up so he does and then goes in to ask around about a restaurant. We end up in the Slate Grill where I get a sirloin and CC tries Buffalo for the first time. PTCC and I had it before in Washington, DC at the American Indian Museum there. He said my steak was better. The buffalo wasn’t as tender as it could have been.
We arrive back at the Rafter J and take a walk and PTCC heads for the playground. Then we download pictures and find out that both of us are out of room on our hard drives. We are going to have to dump some picture files to CC’s external drive so we can still download more since we have 20 days of travel left to document.