Exploring the Badlands – Mysterious and Beautiful

Badlands National Park in South Dakota is a wondrous delight and truly a spectacle of nature.  This park features rugged scenery of layered and weathered rock formations, buttes, steep canyons and towering spires.  Over many, many years, water has cut through the rock layers carving fantastic shapes and eroding the rock.  A variety of colors can be seen in the Badlands which also adds to the immense beauty.

We had a three day stay in the Badlands area.  From the weather forecast I feared we were in for cloudy, rainy weather most of the time.  After checking in to our camp site several miles from the Badlands, we drove over to the park to drive the scenic roads before the weather turned wet.  The first order of business though was lunch at Cedar Pass Lodge located at the park entrance.  I was looking forward to an Indian Taco which is a specialty served here.  For those that are not in the know, the bread dough for the taco is deep fried and puffs to a golden brown.  At this restaurant they called it a Sioux Indian taco and the bread is topped with refried beans, buffalo meat, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, olives, salsa and sour cream.

When we were done eating, I was so pleased to see that the sky was clearing and turning blue.  We had a beautiful drive on the park loop road, stopping at all the overlooks, walking on a few trails and exploring the eroded landscape.  With the clearing skies, we were treated to far ranging views of stretching for miles.

The area in the picture below was one of my favorite stops.  I really liked the pink and mustard colored hues together!

The Badlands has extensive prairie grass which supports an array of wildlife.  During our drive we saw deer, big horn sheep, prairie dog towns, pronghorn antelope and even a coyote carrying off a poor prairie dog for supper.  Below is a picture of a group of bighorn sheep near the road.

The next day found us enjoying a quiet day in our trailer with no trips planned to explore.  It was rainy and a perfect time for catching up on emails, writing blog posts, researching on the internet places to visit and stay, texting family and friends.   Unfortunately, due to the remote location and staying in a campground that was down in a river valley, internet and phone service was intermittent at best.  This was the worst connection we had experienced since being on the road.  Although we were disappointed to be without technology for a few days, we used our time to do other things we enjoyed and it was probably a good break for us to be cut off from the internet.  It was nice to do some walks (damp and chilly) around our beautiful and large campground filled with cottonwood and other mature trees.  We also had a chance to do some reading, knitting and cooking up our meals.  Some how the days go by so fast that we are never bored.

This was the most remote location of any place we have stayed so far.  The closest town to our campground is named Interior and boasts a population of about 94 people.  The town has from what we could see a motel, campground, a church, school, a store, a few bars and to our relief, one gas station.  The gas station also has a mini store and several tables inside.  This place has small town charm that I love to come across on trips.  We had a little chat with the lady who owns the Cowboy Corner.  She said she enjoys running the place.  When I mentioned that I had read that meals were served she said she fixes a daily special at lunch, chicken fried steak on Friday nights and prime rib on Saturday nights.  She also said that in the mornings she will “rustle up” some biscuits and gravy for anyone who stops by wanting them.  Below is a picture of Mark at the Cowboy Corner pumps.

We were able to have another half day exploring the Badlands before leaving the area.  Although it was gray and cloudy, we enjoyed seeing some different areas of the park and I got to get in a little wandering.  The park has a great trail called the “Cliff Shelf Trail” which has an elaborate set of stairways that you climb up to the side of a large butte.  From the top there are expansive views and you get to walk back through a lovely juniper forest.  Below is a picture of Mark enjoying the views.

I will close with our mysterious cabbage story.  Before coming to our campsite near the Badlands we bought some food including a cabbage.  Getting up on our first morning Mark found the cabbage on the floor next to his side of the bed.

I was very surprised as I remember clearly putting that cabbage in the refrigerator with the rest of the vegetables.  How did it end up rolling into the bedroom and us not seeing it before we went to bed the night before?  My thought was that the cabbage had fallen out of the refrigerator while we were driving here and somehow escaped our notice the evening before.  It was mysterious though that nothing else had fallen out and the refrigerator door was shut when we checked the trailer while setting up our camp.  Mark said he doubted the cabbage fell out, so the mystery of the rolling cabbage remains.  The cabbage was subsequently cooked with a few other vegetables in our handy Instant Pot.  I have to say I like cooked cabbage!

Thanks as always for reading.  In my next blog we are on our way to the state of Nebraska!

Lighting Ceremony at Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore can probably be considered South Dakota’s most popular tourist attraction.  The creator of Mount Rushmore, Sculptor Gutzon Borglum selected four presidents because from his perspective, they represented the most important events in the history of the United States.  George Washington was the father of our new country and laid the foundation of American democracy.  He was chosen to be the most prominent figure on the mountain.  Thomas Jefferson, our third president  was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and purchased the Louisiana Territory from France which doubled the size of our country.  He represented the growth of the United States.  Theodore Roosevelt is known for the development of the United States as during his presidency America experienced rapid industrial growth.  President Lincoln unified the nation during the Civil War and therefore represents the preservation of our country.

The building of Mount Rushmore began in 1927 and was completed in 1941 with nearly 400 men and women involved in this undertaking.  The work could be dangerous as 90% of the mountain was carved using dynamite.  Men would cut and set charges of specific size to remove precise amounts of rock.  Since I have a great fear of heights, I am amazed that these workers could endure hanging in seats lowered down the 500 foot face of the mountain by steel cables to work on the faces that were 60 feet in height.  Although the work was difficult, no one was killed during construction.

When I heard that Mount Rushmore had a nightly lighting ceremony I was excited to see this.  I had seen Mount Rushmore many years before, but not at night under lights.   Although he had never seen the mountain before at all, Mark did not share my enthusiasm.  Our last night in the Black Hills we attended the ceremony held in a very large amphitheater below the mountain.  The ceremony consisted of a ranger talk and a film regarding the making of the monument and reviewing the reasons for choosing each of the four presidents.  When the film ended, the monument was lit and it was thrilling to see the four faces shining in the dark.

This was not the end of the ceremony though.  The ranger invited all veterans and active military to come to the stage at the bottom of the amphitheater and participate in the flag lowering ceremony.  In the picture below, I am standing second from the right.

We slowly made our way out of the park, relishing the view of the lighted mountain a few more times as we walked to the parking area.  One of the most memorable views was Mount Rushmore framed with the walk way of the state flags.  It was truly a beautiful sight.  Mark wound up being very impressed with the monument and ceremony.

As we drove back to our camp in the town of Custer, we came to the view of Washington’s profile that can be seen from the road and an adjacent parking lot.  We pulled over and I gazed in awe at Washington’s face framed by tall rock pillars with a clear sky full of stars shining above his head.  I tried to take a picture but it did not turn out well in the dark so I have included below a picture taken when we drove by during the day.

I would like to close with a photo from our campground in Custer one evening.  It is always a delight to end the day sitting in front of a roaring fire.

It was hard to leave this lovely area after four nights but the open road was calling and we needed to continue our trek to finish our South Dakota stay in the Badlands area and then on into Nebraska.