Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park, and Badlands National Park, SD

We spent a full day exploring the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota. We started at Mt. Rushmore, first thing in the morning, largely so the boy could see it. The Black Hills area is generally the Gatlinburg of the West: crowded, tacky, and full of tourist traps. Mt. Rushmore doubly so. And it’s a shame, because the area is so pretty.

We continued to Wind Cave, which was a new national park for all of us. We took a quick tour underground, and the boy loved it. He ranks the geysers of Yellowstone and Wind Cave as a tie for his favorite experience of the trip. We drove through a bit of Custer State Park on our way out, and saw more buffalo and a herd of pronghorn antelope grazing by the side of the road. 

I dropped the men off at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, right outside Ellsworth Air Force Base, and loaded up on groceries at the nearest Target.

Then we headed to Badlands National Park, and during some road construction on the interstate, we took a rock to the windshield and had our first bad thing happen on the trip: a cracked windshield. We sat and watched it crack across the passenger side and I completely panicked. I’d never had a cracked windshield before, and despite my husband’s protestations that it was purely cosmetic damage and not anything to worry about, I had visions of the windshield popping out at high speed. I had to call our insurance guy, the local dealership, an auto glass specialist, and my dad before I could be convinced that we were in no immediate danger.

We cleared the Badlands and since it was crowded, we had a picnic dinner at the city park in Wall, SD, before browsing the infamous Wall Drug and returning to Rapid City for the night.

1 comment:

  1. I'd recommend venturing away from the tourist traps, then. There is a lot to see and do in the Black Hills if you’ll get off the beaten path a bit. As a native South Dakotan I'd say there are more attractions than tourist traps... but what do I know... I just live here. We have the Mickelson Trail which winds from Deadwood to Edgemont, 114 miles of easy trails that take you through some of the most beautiful spots in the Black Hills. You can hike, ride bicycles (offered for rent at many of the trailheads), or even ride horses along the trail. And, if you can’t help yourself, you can stop at some of the cities along the way. Hill City is especially worthwhile if you’re looking for something a little less ordinary. The town is host to dozens of artists who have been inspired by the sights around them, working in every medium imaginable.
    Custer State Park is a wonderful place to visit to see much of the wildlife that populates the hills, though don’t be surprised if you get held up by a curious bison. There are also several caves in the area that offer tours for people of every experience level, from casual strollers to expert cavers. (Jewel Cave is my favorite, though Wind Cave and some of the smaller caves are also impressive.)
    I could go on and on about all the things I love in the Black Hills, but perhaps I should just encourage you to see for yourselves!
    For more information on some of the places I mentioned, you can check out the following links:
    http://www.nps.gov/jeca/ (Jewel Cave)