Badlands & Black Hills

Just got back from a much needed vacation to South Dakota, one of the few states I hadn’t seen before.  After grading AP psyc exams for 12 days, we were ready.  We tacked the camping onto the free flight to KC, so we could just rent a car and save a ton of money.  Well, not so much.  Because of the idiotic fees Continental charges now, the extra bags (backpacks) and my overweight bag meant we paid $130 each way in baggage fees.  Plus, we rented the car for $300 for the week, which seemed reasonable, but KC has the 2nd highest airport fees in the country, so the $300 car cost $430.  That’s almost 50% in taxes & fees.  Bullshit.

Good thing the trip was so great.  We drove up from KC and camped in the middle of South Dakota the first night before we made it to the Badlands.  They were amazing.  Incredible views, tons of wildlife (more on that in a minute), and just a great vibe.  After that we went to the Black Hills.  I’d never seen Mt. Rushmore, and I have ambivalence about it, but it was very cool.  And I’d heard of the Crazy Horse memorial, but I didn’t know much about it.  It’s great too, but it’s not nearly done, and it won’t be in our lifetimes.  There’s a Werner Herzog waiting to happen if he hears about Korczak Ziolkowski.  Another obsessive crazy genius.  I like what he tried to do, but c’mon….  More great hiking and camping there, and then we came back through part of Nebraska and visited Carhenge.  Awesome.

Below is me at Stonehenge, 1990, and at Carhenge, 2009.  Anything changed?

StonehengeDSC_0295

Other highlights of the trip:

  • E almost got bit by a rattlesnake.  Seriously.  I saw it (first rattler I’d ever seen in the wild) and it got within an inch or 2 of her ankle.
  • E got attacked by ticks.
  • E went head to head with a bison.  Actually, we got the hell out of its way, but that meant treading back into rattlesnake area.
  • E braved Wind Cave, which wasn’t her cup of tea.

So, it was a trying trip for her, but we both had a blast.

Fauna:

  • The aforementioned rattlesnake
  • Lots of bison
  • Lots of pronghorn antelope
  • Lots of deer
  • Lots of prairie dogs
  • One marmot
  • Two mountain goats
  • Some other snakes
  • Lots of beautiful birds
  • Toads
  • Hares

For me, the animals are always the highlights, but this time another thrill was finding a fossilized jawbone, probably from an oreodont, whatever the hell that is.

Advice for traveling there:  Skip the roadside “attractions.”  S. Dakota is lousy with them, and they’re generally cheesy and lame.  Yeah, even Wall Drug and the Corn Palace.  Stick to the national parks and forests, and you’ll have a real time.

Carhenge may seem cheesy to some people, but not me.  It’s very cool.

Anyway, here are the pix.

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One Response to Badlands & Black Hills

  1. Mark Gstohl says:

    Great stuff! Glad y’all had a good time!

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