On our last morning in Glacier, we packed up and got on the road. We were driving east through Montana and and planning to stop somewhere in South Dakota for the night. More cities with hotels seemed to exist in South Dakota than in Big Sky Country. Devils Tower was nearby so we detoured over. It added an extra hour to the trip, but on a 60 hours-in-the-car journey what's an additional hour?!
|Devils Tower, WY |
We arrived after the Visitor's Center closed so we wrote in the stop in the girls' National Park Passport books. We'd do the same later in the trip for another location.
|Devils Tower is so small that Lola can hold it in her hands! :)|
|We planned on stopping at Mt. Rushmore but the long line of cars ..... well, they weren't because of me. A picture suffices and so we wrote in, rather than stamped, the passport books again.|
|Wind Cave NP is one of the earlier national parks created and the first one for a cave. |
I'm a Kentucky girl, and I'm telling you that Mammoth Cave is better. Hands down.
|Back on the highway we were immersed in Wall Drug signs. So, yes, we stopped, shopped, and acquired ice cream.|
|Requisite Jackalope picture|
Then it was time to get to the Badlands, find our campsite, and get situated. Driving through Badlands National Park at dusk was absolutely stunning. The sun hits the rocks in different ways and the color array -- red or orange or yellow or brown -- absolutely depended on the sun, rock, and shadow.
|Exhibit A: morning sunrise|
|Exhibit B: same formation, 5 minutes later|
Badlands is a photographer's dream space.
|Badlands at nightfall|
|Badlands at nightfall|
No one was at the Badlands entrance gate to charge us or at the campground entrance gate to charge us, so we were remarkably under-informed about Badlands NP rules. Were there bears? Could we hang a clothesline? What time should we set out in the morning? Also, folks were clamoring all over the formations with no regard for staying on trail and we absolutely flipped out about it. Leave No Trace, for goodness' sake, and stay on trail!
As it turns out, you are actively encouraged to climb in any way you please on the formations. (Even so, we mostly stayed on designated trails because we're conformists.) No bears in Badlands but the trade-off was lots of heat and wind. Lots of heat and wind meant hardly any mosquitoes, though, and that seemed a reasonable exchange.
We allocated two nights and one day to the Badlands area.
Night #1: Arrive at campsite at 8:40 PM. Set-up camp in record time so that we could attend the Evening Ranger program at 9 PM. Watch the lightning storm in the distance and wonder whether that storm would reach the campground. Note to selves: "wow, it's so hot I don't want my sleeping bag!" and "wow, I really, really smell! Sorry, fellow tent compatriots!" and "wow, this place is really gorgeous."
Day: After another oatmeal breakfast, we rushed over to the Visitors Center which opened at 7 AM (the earliest of them all, for this trip). The Park Ranger gave us hiking advice -- try these places, get there now while it's not too hot -- and we did exactly as instructed. The terrain was breathtaking.
|Lola is so tiny in comparison.|
|We hiked three different trails and each one gave views like these. It was overwhelming.|
|Stephanie kept comparing the formations to the Grand Canyon.|
|On top of the world!|
|The Badlands was Eric's favorite part of the trip.|
Not everyone took the same precautions, so the winds and rain caught many people unawares. The rain was unimpressive compared to the lightning and wind. Meals and dishes flew away -- it was funny and scary to watch that happen -- and our tent flattened against the onslaught of wind multiple times. Thankfully the tent poles did not break. The storm stayed directly above us for a long time and then the sun came out from one side.
|The rainbow appeared to end at this mound.|
|Storm + Sunset|
The Badlands look like they are on fire.
|Sunset during the storm|
|Sunrise at Badlands|