Saturday, October 11, 2014

West to Colorado: Stopping at the Badlands

Day two started with cheap ground coffee and instant waffles in our hotel lobby.

On our approach to Badlands National Park, the first National Park I properly get to visit and explore with my father, we stopped at a gas station outside of Kakoda, South Dakota (hey that rhymes!) for gas. A teepee at the end of the gas station's parking lot almost echoed back to the golden days of roadside attractions that really made the great American road trip.
Back on 240, before entering Badlands National Park proper, we had to stop at this towering concrete prairie dog, which marked you were now in Cactus Flats. I mean, seriously, how could you not? Signs for prairie dog feeding? Sure! Strong winds blew tumbleweeds across this desolate roadside attraction. I questioned if it was actually abandoned. I also was able to get up close and personal with a few of the comical little critters. These crazy prairie dogs had my dad and I laughing. 

Months before leaving Wisconsin, my dad and I floated the idea of visiting Badlands National Park when scoping out our route to Colorado. I was incredibly stoked because stopping here would be my first time actually visiting and exploring a national park! As soon as we pulled into the entrance, I got out of the car and stretched my arms up to the sky in happiness. The rush of emotions I had was so strong. It was breathtaking.
For miles, I could see deep canyons and sharp, jagged towering rock formations in all shades of deserty colors. These natural masterpieces were humbling, I had never experienced such wild terrain like this. We grabbed lunch at the cafe near the visitor center, where I had Buffalo nachos and met a few Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep on the sides of the road that were within arms reach of our car. One day truly wasn't nearly enough time to really soak in and absorb this special energy. I cannot wait to get back here again someday soon. I fell in love with Badlands National Park, and it fueled my deisre to get out west even more.

Another must-stop during our road trip to Colorado was Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota. For as long as I can remember this national icon has been of interest to me, having learned about it in school and hearing stories about the history behind how it was sculpted. My father was equally just as excited. Walking down the promenade towards the viewing area, it definitely was a lot bigger than I had expected. Let me tell you this, after reading quite a bit about Mount did they use a metric ton of dynamite. After seeing the presidents head-on, my dad and I hiked around a few of the short paths for unique vantage points. The closer I got to the faces,  the more fine details I could spot. For example, I never knew Teddy Roosevelt, the most bad-ass president in American history actually had his glasses chiseled onto his 60ft tall bust on Mt. Rushmore. Sadly, the battery on my Canon Rebel digital SLR camera died, so pictures I got were from my cell phone. It looks like I'll need to make another trip out to Mount Rushmore at some point and get more, bigger, and better pictures.

Driving back through the Black Hills as the sunset felt dreamy. Starving and following the glow of our TomTom GPS, we found a spot in Edgemont South Dakota to stop for a very late dinner. We strolled into the Hat Creek Grill where the food was delicious, as was the people watching. It also happened to be a Packers bar, which my father and I were content with.  I'd highly recommend stopping here if you're passing by. Also, what the heck is with the like millions of Wall Drug signs littering this gorgeous South Dakota landscape? Gross.

Stomachs full, we hopped back in the wagon and continued west to Colorado. Who knows where we'll end up tonight.


On the iPod: "Living for the Night" by George Strait