Saturday, June 28, 2008

South Dakota Badlands & Mt. Rushmore

Posted by Melissa
Heading across South Dakota towards the Badlands, we couldn't resist driving through Mitchell to get a picture of The Corn Palace (thinking of you Kat!).
We continued a bit down the road and began getting hungry. We pulled off the highway looking for a small cafe and a gas station. We kept coming up empty handed as the towns we found looked like this...Yes, this is the main downtown section of this small burg and there is not a single car on the road. I will point out that this was a Sunday, so maybe on a weekday these places are open - but we really thought there would at least be a small cafe where we could eat lunch. We managed to find about 3 of these kinds of towns in a row before we actually found something open. Seems like there are a lot of little towns that are barely hanging on.

We made our way to the Badlands National Park and settled into our little cabin at the Cedar Pass Lodge. It reminded us a bit of our old home with a knotty pine interior. The temp was just right and the wind was blowing mightily through the open window. It was nice to not use a/c for a change. We are getting a bit tired of hotel rooms with wall a/c units blowing right on the bed. We were treated to a fierce lightning and thunder storm in the night (I've always loved thunder and lightning) but woke up to blue skies.

The little guy on the right was just outside our door...the prairie dog (on the left) was a little further out.

The badlands kind of sneak up on you - after driving across the flat, grassy prairie, they start with just a few little peaks and then quickly open up to views like this.

We were hoping to see large herds of buffalo, but found they were a little too far away to get good pics - maybe we'll have better luck in Yellowstone.

We headed from the Badlands through the South Dakota Black Hills to Keystone, SD. This town has an amazing array of tourist shops selling candy, t-shirts, and other souvenirs -a bit overwhelming. There is a mini shoot-out on the street to try to entice you into their wild west show. This has to be one of the tackiest tourist towns I've seen - but in a beautiful setting with the forested black hills serving as a backdrop to the little shops.
After visiting Mount Rushmore - pic at top - we headed out a scenic drive in the Black Hills. This little road has great open views of the mountains, lots of scenic pullouts, amazing "pigtail" bridges
that were designed to be used in tight areas instead of switchback roads. Of course, Thane was interested in the design and engineering aspect of these (you can click the pic if you want to read it). There were even 3 tunnels on the road (this one is a double tunnel) and Mt Rushmore is perfectly framed in one of the tunnels. We drove through miles of forest that had been recently cleared with the trimmed/downed trees neatly stacked. It really opened up the views and I'm sure will prevent the kinds of fires that are currently burning all over Northern California. We both wondered though how they came up with the funds to do such a big job.

Up Next: Cody, Wyoming and Yellowstone

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