Badlands, Black Hills and Buffalo

Leaving behind the home comforts of Estherville, it was time to head out West… as fast as possible. Well, that just meant flinging ourselves along I-90, where the speed limit quickly rose to a whopping 80mph when we crossed into South Dakota! Not that we could keep up with all the big rigs, but the whole 80mph were on offer.

Our boxy RV was buffeted by blustery crosswinds as we headed across the plains. The sidewinds of overtaking semi trucks added to the white-knuckle steering task of keeping it between the painted lines.

 

Badlands, SD Arriving 2

Finally, by late afternoon, we arrived at The Badlands of South Dakota.

Badlands Lindsay Taking sunset

We stopped at a scenic overlook at I finally broke out the “good camera.”

Badlands, SD Moonrise 2

The moonrise over the first peaks, as the sun set on our backs, was just too amazing to miss.

Badlands, SD Campground sunset 2

After we got settled into our campground, the sun was really setting, so it was time to play some more

Badlands, SD Campground sunset 3

The wind was picking up to about 20 mph and it was getting cooler outside

Badlands, SD Campground sunset WINNIE

But I couldn’t resist capturing yet another shot of our RV and it’s scenery.

Badlands, SD Tadd Wide

The next morning we were off and running early, driving through the”les mauvais terres pour traverse,” or “bad lands to travel through,” as this land was known by the early 1900’s, French-Canadian fur trappers.

But long before they even ventured into the area, the Lakota people were the first to call this place “mako sica” or “land bad.” Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain led to this name.

Badlands, SD

Today, the term badlands has a more geologic definition. Badlands form when soft sedimentary rock is extensively eroded in a dry climate. The park’s typical scenery of sharp spires, gullies, and ridges is a premier example of Badlands geological formations.

 

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Badlands, SD 3

The land surrounding this area of erosion is relatively flat and has some grasses growing, just like the rest of South Dakota.

As we passed all the others visitors entering the park from the northwest, we headed for an obligatory stop at the famous Wall Drug.

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In 1931, Ted & Dorothy Hustead bought the only drugstore in a town called Wall on the edge of the South Dakota Badlands. Business was bad… well, really bad… until Dorothy came up with the idea to offer free ice water to the passing visitors as they drove through the parched local landscape…. and the rest is history!

Many of the people driving through the are coming or going to check out one of the coolest National Monuments in the U.S. – Mount Rushmore. And as much as we like to generally avoid the super touristy spots on our travels, sometimes it’s just important to suck it up and enjoy the view!

Rushmore, SD 3

Not much to say…  George, Tommy, Teddy and Abraham!

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So many amazing views of the carvings as you explore the area!

Rushmore, SD George 2

Rushmore, SD Abe 2

The incredible feat it was to sculpt these mammoth heads was a wonderful piece of American history alone.

Did You Know?

Black and white photograph showing the original position of the figure of Thomas Jefferson on George Washington's right side (our left when viewing the mountain).

The figure of Thomas Jefferson was originally started on Washington’s right side. After 18 months of carving the figure of Jefferson had to be blasted off the mountain, as the type of rock they found over there just wasn’t hard enough to complete the task, and restarted on Washington’s left side.

We learned lots at the Mt. Rushmore Memorial!

Leaving the presidents behind, we drove up through the twisty mountain roads into the national forest and on through the Custer State Park.

Blackhills Natl Forest, SD FALL

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Blackhills Natl Forest, SD Curves

Blackhills Natl Forest, SD Tunnel #2

Blackhills Natl Forest, SD

Blackhills Natl Forest, SD Tunnel #1

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The amazing view across the high plains

Custer SP, SD Lake

Now, the yearly roundup had just taken place in the Custer SP, where they drive all the bison south to different pastures in order to decide which members of the herd will be sold off to reduce numbers. So, we had decided not to spend too much time in the park, as I though my first chance to see the American Buffalo wouldn’t happen….

But then we found this guy (?) who had evaded the cowboys, and was just hanging out grazing at the side of the road!!! Spectacular!

Custer SP, SD Buffalo 1

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Custer SP, SD Buffalo 4

One hell of a day!