July 21, 2017 (by Angela)
I knew this would be a long, hot day but well worth the endeavor. Knowing this, we booked Chewie with an overnight sitter through Rover.com (merged with Dogvacay we had used). He got to play with a Saint Bernard and a sweet Pit mix while Jim and I had the full day and evening. From our current campground, it was about an hour’s drive to Wall, SD – well known for Wall Drug. The sprawling block-long series of shops with its quirky and eclectic offerings is something everyone should stop to see if in the area. Any business that began during the Great Depression out in the middle of nowhere and not only survived but also thrived should be seen. If nothing else, Jim and I had fun reading the roadside signs advertising Wall Drug on our way there. (Click on or hover over photos to see captions.)
After touring Wall Drug, Jim and I grabbed a bite of lunch across the road at the Cactus Cafe. I can’t say it was wonderful or the food was awesome, but it worked. At least we weren’t eating in the cafe inside Wall Drug with hundreds of people walking past us. Then, we decided to check out the Minuteman Missile sites, no longer active, that have been opened for people to see and tour. When I was last in South Dakota, the Cold War had just warmed, and as far as I know, these sites were still very much active.
It was now time for the main attraction: Badlands National Park. We entered the park through the northeast entrance; our Annual Pass saved us $15. It is only about 150 yards to the first overlook, and oh how I wish I’d had the camera on as we parked. I turned to look at Jim, and literally, his mouth was dropped open in awe. I’d been here before, but he had not. I knew what wonders awaited; he had not a clue – until then. Jim and I got out; I headed for the board walk to go to the overlook. Jim thrust the camera in my hand and took off, bounding down over the tops of nearby formations. I realized then he wanted a photo. As I began to get the camera ready, I heard people murmuring, “What is he doing?” “Isn’t that dangerous?” It was when I heard someone say something about “belong to you” that I realized the comments were about Jim. I said, “I’m sorry. What did you say?” The lady asked, “Does he belong to you?” I affirmed that he did. 🙂
Photos taken and Jim safely back on the boardwalk, we began exploring. A quick stop at the visitor center scored a nice 20-minute video in a cool room, a bathroom stop, and a chance to fill our water bottles. Afterward, as we drove, each curve turned or top of a peak reached gave us new visions of desolate beauty. For a good, long bit, we drove on washboard gravel roads, but because we did, we saw the hugest prairie town I’ve ever seen. Jim called it the New York City of prairie towns. Bison, deer, antelope, and big horned sheep were also found by us in the park, though we loved each we saw, unlike in Custer SP where it was mostly about wildlife, in the the Badlands it was about the formations. (Many of the Badlands photos have no captions. The beauty speaks for itself.)
We made our way all the way down to the White River entrance. This part of the park is in the Pine Ridge Reservation. This section is run in conjunction with the Sioux tribe. Here we met a lovely Native American name Emily Bull Bear (whose tribal name is Whirlwind Woman). She graciously took time to share her knowledge and answer our questions. I think Jim and I could have spent hours with her, but others were in the visitors center. We couldn’t monopolize her time.
Jim and returned to the northeastern portion of the park by way of Interior, SD, where we stopped at the Wagon Wheel Bar and Grill for dinner.
After entering the Badlands again, he and found the spot to watch the sunset and experience the color changes on the formations, compliments of Mother Nature. The photos below are in order in which they were made. of the same formations, and the last one was made just before I snapped the sunset photo shown.
It was a beautiful experience! We loved our day in Badlands National Park. Go there if you get a chance!