A Travellerspoint blog

Badlands National Park and Wall Drug, South Dakota

Monday, June 30, 2008

sunny 32 °C

We leave early today so we can do some hiking before it gets too hot. Our first stop is at the Minuteman Missile Historic Site Headquarters to get info about the minuteman missile site in the area and see their info film about Minuteman Missiles.

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Joe and I aren't thrilled about the stop at the Minuteman Headquarters, but it's a short stop. We then head to Badlands National Park for a scenic drive and a few short hikes.

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We hike the Windows Trail with it's ladder up the side of the hill. We hiked this trail 20 years ago with our daughters when they were little and remember that they enjoyed the ladder on this trail. Joe enjoys this trail also.

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View of hikers climbing the ladder:
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The view of the Badlands at the end of the trail is very nice and we take a break to look at the view:
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We do a few other very short trails and then our last hike is a very steep trail with lots of loose gravel called Saddle Pass Trail. We get up the trail okay, but coming back down the steep trail with loose gravel is really challenging. I end up coming down part of the trail by stooping down and sliding down the trail with my shoes (I get the idea of sliding down from a little boy who gets down using this technique). I look pretty silly but I make it down without falling :-)

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We drive through the rest of the park. No more hikes after the "strenuous" rated Saddle Pass Trail.

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We then drive to the infamous Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota. We walk around and take a few funny pictures:
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We check out their famous Jackalope statue, but Joe won't climb it to have his picture taken.

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I did have my picture taken on the Jackalope, but no way am I going to post that funny looking picture :-)

We were planning to have a snack at Wall Drug, but it's crowded so we decide to just go to Dairy Queen for some ice cream before heading back to the campground.

On the way back we make a short stop at a Minuteman Missile site. They have instructions to call a cell phone number and the cellphone connects to a recorded message that explains the missile site. There are no missiles here any more. The Minuteman Missile site of the 1960s were dismantled in the 1980s as part of one of the nuclear weapons treaties. But it's interesting to see one of the 150 missile sites that were in South Dakota in the 1960s during the Cold War.

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We get back to the campground and have a refreshing dip in the swimming pool, followed by Indian tacos that the campground sells in the evenings. Then some wifi time, reading and another evening walk to see the sunset over the Badlands.

Posted by jengelman 09:24 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Badlands, South Dakota

Sunday, June 29, 2008

sunny 28 °C

We pack up and leave the Hot Springs, South Dakota KOA. I'm glad to leave; this campground is one of the worst we've stayed at on our trip.

We drive about 125 miles to Badlands KOA, through fairly boring prairie scenery. We set up the 5ver, have some lunch and head over the Badlands National Park Visitor Center. As always, we look at the exhibits and watch the movie.

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It's a nice day and I'm tired of doing "sightseeing" type activities, so we spend the afternoon at the campground's pool. Then a steak dinner in the trailer, an early evening walk up the road to make a few phonescalls to the family

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And a late evening walk with Jere to watch the sunset

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Posted by jengelman 10:41 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Hot Springs, South Dakota

Saturday, June 28, 2008

sunny 23 °C

The Wind Caves national park campground has nice scenery, but I would like either cell phone coverage, wifi coverage or TV reception (and a swimming pool would be nice), so we pack up and drive 30 miles to the Hot Springs, South Dakota KOA campground. Seemed like a good idea, but this KOA is not very well managed. They are almost empty (I will later realize why) and assign us a campsite that we try to get into for 15 minutes, but it is just too small with too many trees. They then assign us a different campsite, which is also a challenge but we finally fit into it. When we are finally parked, the lady comes out and apologizes and says she should have assigned us one of the pull-through sites. "Would you like to move to one of those?" I look at her and say "no thank you". Between waiting for her to assign us a campsite, not being able to fit in the first assigned campsite, and taking awhile to fit into the second campsite, it took us almost an hour to simply get parked. We will later find out that their free wifi doesn't work and their advertised heated pool is not heated. Oh well.

After the frustration of getting set up at the KOA, I do not feel like making lunch so we head into Hot Springs Dairy Queen for lunch. We see a used book sale in town so stop and buy a few used books; and then head downtown to fill our bottles with water from the town spring, and look at the old sandstone buildings in the town.

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We then head over to the Mammoth Museum. I don't feel like looking at old mammoth bones/fossils, so Joe and Jere go in to see all of the mammoth bones while I sit on a bench outside and read a book.

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We then head back to the KOA for some swimming pool time. The water is really, really cold so we have the pool to ourselves.

Beautiful weather so we have dinner outside on the picnic table, relax a little and then watch a DVD "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (featuring Devils Tower Monument).

Posted by jengelman 10:47 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Breakfast Horseback Ride and Wind Cave National Park

Friday, June 27, 2008

sunny 26 °C

Big day today--my first ever horseback ride. We are doing a Mt Rushmore KOA campground "breakfast" horseback ride today. We sign in at the corral and our group of about dozen people get our instructions, and our horse assignments. My horse is Fudge; Joe gets Keg; Jere gets Walter.

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We ride back for about an hour into the national forest that borders the campground. Nice scenery. I'm a little nervous when Fudge goes up and down hills, but I stay on the horse. Both my horse and Jere's horse want to keep eating the grass and we're not supposed to let them eat grass. The guide asks me "who's in charge?" and I respond, "definately the horse--he's bigger" By the end of the ride I do learn how to keep Fudge from stopping to eat the grass :-)

We get to the breakfast stop, climb off our horses and have french toast and sausage.

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We take a different route back to the corrals and get back around 10:30. Great time. I thought we should go horseback riding in Wyoming, but this South Dakota ride was good.

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We quickly pack up the 5ver and head to Wind Cave National Park. It's only about 35 miles down the road.

We set up the 5ver in the park's campground. No water or electric (or TV reception or cell phone reception) but nice scenery. We get our tickets for a cave tour and grab a quick lunch back at the campground.

So it's another National Park...we go to the visitor's center, see the movie, look at the exhibits. (Same routine at all the parks). Then head down for our ranger-led tour of the cave. Wind Cave is the 4th longest cave in the world; it's claim to fame is the boxwork on the walls.

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After our 90-minute cave tour we head back to the campground and relax (I'm tired--didn't sleep well last night--not sure if I was nervous or simply excited about the horseback riding). Free firewood here, so Jere builds a campfire at 4pm and keeps it going all evening; we make dinner on it and later on make s'mores.

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Jere attends the evening ranger program but Joe and I hang around the 5ver and read.

Posted by jengelman 10:44 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Mickelson Bike Trail and Crazy Horse Night Blast!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

semi-overcast 27 °C

We sleep late and then drive a few miles down the road to the Mickelson bike trail. The Mickelson Bike Trail runs 109 miles through South Dakota. We're only biking a few miles of it, starting around the Crazy Horse Monument.

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We bike a mile north to get a better view of the Crazy Horse Monument and then back to the trailhead and another 5 miles to Custer, South Dakota. We look around their visitor's center, get a bike tire fixed (it will be completely flat again tomorrow morning, so we really don't get it "fixed") and have lunch in downtown Custer. They have painted buffalo statues at several corners.

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Then we head back to bike 5 miles UPHILL. It was a lot more fun biking downhill :-)

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We drive back to the campground and head to the pool for a quick dip. There are two pools at the KOA so we head to the less crowded pool; we find out it's less crowded because every few minutes we get a whiff from the horse corral next door -- and it's not a good smell.

We quickly do some laundry before heading over to the Crazy Horse Monument. Twice a year they have a Nigh Blast and tonight is one of them. They set off 82 blasts in 82 seconds for the sculptor's wife/widow's 82nd birthday.

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When we arrive, it is crazy full of people. I have no idea how many people have come for the Night Blast, but it must easily be in the thousands. We look at the monument and then see the movie.

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The Crazy Horse Monument is a memorial for all the great American Indian leaders and will be the world's largest statue when it is completed. The mountain sculpture was started approximately 60 years ago. It is completely privately funded (no goverment funds) and is being worked on by the original sculptor's widow and 7 children. The finished sculpture will be a 3-dimensional statue of Crazy Horse riding his horse. Only Crazy Horse' face is finished so far. They have no idea when the remainder will be finished.

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As we're looking at the sculptor's studio, the sky turns green and a large thunderstorm moves in. We wonder if the laser show and night blast will be cancelled, but around 9:45 they start the laser show and around 10:15 the blasts begin. It is an incredible sight--82 blasts at various places in the mountain in 82 seconds!

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Posted by jengelman 10:42 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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