Mitchell to Badlands NP, SD
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Shorts and tee shirt weather, first in a week, mostly sunny with highs in the low 80s
Destination: Badlands NP; Route: I-90. Nuf said?
The overlook from the Lewis & Clark visitor center at Chamberlain on the east side of the Missouri River was impressive. It was just before that area that the landscape became undulating grasslands. While the terrain remained similar the land alternated back and forth between grazing and crops.
Eventually we entered Buffalo Gap National Grassland where grazing was the rule. It was amazing, then, when the landscape turned abruptly from grassland to eroded, desert-like appearance. We’d reached the Badlands! At an overlook where that transition was so very apparent we happened to meet two couples from York, PA.
We turned off I-90, entered Badlands National Park and camped at Cedar Pass Campground. Driving around deciding which campsite to take we noticed another Aliner, newer but similar to ours and camped in the adjacent site.
We stopped in the visitor’s center where we took in the well-done educational film and watched folks at their tedious work in the fossil preparation lab. This place is rather unique in that the rapid erosion occurs through layers of sediment from a mostly post dinosaur era. It is extremely rich in fossils and new ones are uncovered daily, mostly by visitors. The evening talk was by a geologist/paleontologist who led us through a pretty dense talk on the area’s history.
Returning to the campground we endured a thunderstorm that really shook our little camper and took out a couple of tents in the campground. Interesting night for us, downright difficult for a few.
Badlands NP to Rapid City, SD
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Windy & overcast, clearing late pm, high 70s
We were up fairly early, today, for Sandy, that is. We hiked several of the short Badlands NP trails including Door, Window & Notch. Door Trail lead us through some of the incredibly eroded terrain that give this area its name. Notch Trail was especially cool in that it gave us a dramatic view of White River Valley, campground and Visitor Center in distance.
Afterwards, on our way out of the park, we drove the Badlands Scenic Loop through the park and toward the town of Wall. A beautiful drive, the most beautiful part was near western terminus of the drive in the yellow mounds area. Here the colors of the rock are especially varied and vibrant.
Then we continued into Wall and wandered around the famous Wall Drug. It’s hard to believe that one little store could have grown so big, a whole city block, and stock such an amazing variety of goods. Much of it was tourist stuff but they also carried a pretty deep stock of, for instance, cowboy boots, western gear, knives, etc. Wall Drug is the town industry!
I noticed last evening that one of our camper tires had a badly worn tread. The tires were a bit old anyway so we looked to replace them in Wall. Good luck, you say? We were directed to the small, shabby shop of a propane dealer by the folks in the local Harley shop. The propane dealer also sold mufflers and tires! Good tires, no less, and he gave us immediate service. To top it off, he charged about the same as I would have expected back home!
We headed to Rapid City, SD, and took a campsite at the Tee Pee Campground and RV Park. It was a small, clean, family-run campground and we liked the owner. But, like many campgrounds, we heard too much highway noise during the night.
We explored downtown Rapid City. It is nicely developed and vibrant. Dubbing themselves the City of Presidents, the city features life-size statues of the US Presidents on nearly every corner of every intersection in the shopping district from 4th St to 9th St. We took care to seek out Buchannan and Sandy’s favorites including Washington and Lincoln.
We had dinner at the Firehouse Brewing Company. They promote themselves as being the first brewpub in the state. Having seen billboards advertizing the place for many miles, I was worried that it might be a tourist rip-off kind of place. Conclusion: Tourist place, yes, rip-off no. The food and service were both very good. (As was the beer.)