We can't believe it has come to this, but today we will visit our last national park - #14 if you lost count, Badlands in Western S. Dakota. We stayed at another KOA last night, this time outside of Hot Springs. We didn't go to the hot springs, given we did that in Washington state, but we did pass through downtown which is famous for its sandstone buildings (I hope I got that right). It was quite pretty, here is City Hall.
Next we did a sight detour (if you count getting off the highway a detour) to Wall Drug. If you have driven through S. Dakota I am guessing you stopped there, the highway signs are just so alluring - like S. of the Border on Rt 95 down the east coast (though my parents never let us stop there). We decided to give it a go. It was a bit of a disappointment, quite touristy, but oh well, we can say we did it. The donuts were pretty good at least, and the picture of Sarah is priceless.
Next stop was Badlands. Badlands got it's name because of how "bad" the folks who first saw it said the land was. It felt like they picked up S. Utah or Arizona and plucked it down in S. Dakota. It looks like a dessert and was hot like a dessert. But of course this was very strange, as it is surrounded by miles and miles of prairies, and then you have these mountains in the dessert. We entered from the NW, so there was a great drive that was "above" the mountains per se, made it look more like the grand canyon, without the canyon, just sunk down. We saw lots of bighorn sheep females and their young on the mountain tops, it was pretty cool. We also saw a mom from Florida fall down the mountain..not fun. She just couldn't stop, and she scraped herself up pretty good. We tried our best to help clean her up using water, and our first aid stuff from the motor home, but she was pretty hurt. We ran into her later at the visitor center where she had visited the medic on staff.
The park has a northern rim drive and southern drive. The south part is co-run with the local Indian reservation. We did the entire north drive, stopping at various look out points. At each one there we signs saying beware of rattle snakes...not fun, as I am very afraid of snakes, but thankfully we didn't see any...remember it was like a dessert. Here are some different views from around the park.
These next pictures I took to give you a sense of what the surrounding area looked like. The one with the RV in it is looking back from a boardwalk that you hike on, so you can see it is prairies across the street. The other is as we were driving East through the park, in between the mountains you had this flat grassland area, so strange. The rangers at the visitor center said they believe it looked like the African Savannah at some point in time, and that is why they have so many fossil remains from animals there, because suddenly something changed it all.
It was too bad that it was so hot, as there were places you could climb around. In some ways this was good, as the kids could have gotten hurt, as they love to climb, but it was unbearable to be outside for too long. We would even turn the generator on and run the AC for Henry that is how hot it was. They did climb in this one shot, at least Ben and Claire and a nice boy took our pic for us at the Fossil walkway. They had tons of fossils in cases that were found around here. Here is a pic of one of them.
Our last stop was the visitor center and then the "sign" to take our pic like we always do. We didn't catch it on the way in, so had to stop on the way out of course. The visitor center had a great video explaining the park and how odd it is really. They also have a live fossil lab where they work to get the ground/sand off of fossils and show you, it was pretty cool. Ben is standing next to an image from one of our hikes that shows all the animals that used to live there and fossils have been found. While they don't actively dig the park, like all parks, if a visitor finds a fossil they will dig around it. One time a couple found a fossil under a picnic table, and the "great pig dig" ended up lasting for over a decade, that is how many fossils they found.
So we were done, it was about 4pm and we were SAD! I made a few phone calls as we just felt so sad to be driving home and not to another great adventure.
I drove until dinner, where we stopped at Al's another famous S. Dakota landmark. Then Arnie took over and we drove until midnight where we stopped in Sioux City, Iowa at the local WalMart, our first time staying at one (for those non RVers, WalMart and Sam's welcome RVs and tractor trailers in their parking lots overnight). The next day we cruised through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and made it home around 10:45 pm EST. Believe it or not, this entire trip, over 8,500 miles, we did not hit ANY TRAFFIC due to construction until the West side of Cincinnati, at 10pm at night...go figure.
But we were home safe and sound in one piece.
Tomorrow we will spend all day cleaning the RV, doing laundry, and re-packing getting ready for phase 2 of our summer adventure.