Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Great American Road Trip, Part VI: Badlands and Black Hills

We had made a bit of a miscalculation in our trip preparations for western South Dakota. On the map, Rapid City, where we were staying, looked so close to the Badlands, but once we were actually there, we realized we would have to backtrack 60 miles to get into the national park. Did we really want to backtrack? We were already driving such a long distance. We considered our options, and decided, yes, it would be worth it to backtrack 60 miles to see the Badlands, so after leaving Mt. Rushmore, that is exactly what we did.

Good choice!Such amazing terrain. I've been to every state east of the Mississippi River, I've been to most of the eastern Canadian provinces, and I've been to the U.K., but I have never seen land like this. I suppose anyone from the western part of the US would find this rather ordinary, but I was enchanted.

I always remembered the chapter in Little Town on the Prairie when Laura's uncle comes to visit the Ingalls in DeSmet, and tells them all about those Bad Lands he journeyed through. When I was a child, it sounded like a vast wasteland, eerie and scary. I guess I'm lucky we could drive through them in a few short hours on a paved road in an air conditioned vehicle, because I found them quite stunning, not eerie at all.

My favorite vistas were of the green fields, stretching away forever, dotted with large rocks. I found the endlessness very soothing. Much like looking out over the ocean, or a Great Lake.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the Badlands, then drove back to Rapid City for dinner at this restaurant.

The next morning (we're up to August 5th now if you are keeping track--our 5th day on the road), we took the long and winding scenic route through the Black Hills, heading first to Sturgis, just to see it, because everywhere we were in the Black Hills, we were surrounded by motorcycles! From Sturgis we drove to Deadwood. Deadwood was cute enough, but it had a Hollywood-set feel to me with all the saloons and casinos. It was pretty much ONLY saloons and casinos. We didn't stay there long. From Deadwood we went to Cheyenne Crossing and took the scenic route to Spearfish. That route follows the canyons through the Black Hills, and travelers are treated to creeks, streams, and a couple of waterfalls.

It really feels like you're driving through a postcard.

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