A few weeks back my soul was itchy for the outdoors. That feeling that overcomes you when you’ve been surrounded by man-made materials/technology/people…too much. The need for newness, open-ness and the unknown. That’s a drawing feeling. And South Dakota can deliver.
If you go, drive by Mt. Rushmore but don’t park. You can get just as great of view from the road passing by without having to pay $11 for parking. Sharing the view with 4.000 people isn’t that cool anyways.
Drove through the Black Hills shortly after an epic hail storm. Was uber confused as the sides of the roads were filled with a white substance like snow until a park ranger shared that ping-pongs were falling from the sky. China must be hosting table tennis world championships!
My previous experience in South Dakota had me fooled to what the state could offer. How does one believe the beautiful, rugged, tree-topped peaks of the Black Hills and the summit of Harney Peak above 6,000 feet. Altitude in South Dakota?!?! Weird.
Not only mountains, but tall grass prairies. Buffalo wandering on their native soils. A vast network of caves and the desert harshness of the Badlands. All within a few hundred miles. And again, in South Dakota.
Random knowledge for you today: Did you know you can sleep anywhere inside of a National Forest for free? As long as it’s not on the roads, for good reason. Did that. Woke up to chain saws and visions of tumbling trees. The serenity was nice tho.
Was stimulated. Intrigued. Motivated. Astounded. Fascinated. Excited. With gusto and exuberance. The Wind Cave National park tours are SO COOL! The 5th longest cave network in the world all packed into one square mile of earth below the ground. Housing the cleanest water in the world……yes you read that, the cleanest water in the world. And we don’t touch it. It’s staying there. Clean. Without human disturbance. 500 feet below the ground. The mystery of it itself is perplexing to think about.
Hiked a bit on the Centennial Trail, only 6 miles of the 111 mile trail. It was superb. Wildflowers blew in the winds, deer stood dumb-founded and interested, the birds maintained their nests and the trail gave wonderment to what life was like when the Indians roamed.
My day dreams ended when I was 4 miles in and walked up on a herd of 150 bison. The bull closest to me, snorting and scratching at the dirt. Then, my thoughts went to ‘the biggest tree, can bison knock down trees? do bison kill people? the fact that the prairie dogs ratted me out, and how to successfully follow a trail that bison are frolicking on? how fast can I run in a forest?’
Made it the 6 miles obviously. Had to hitchhike back to my car then. Motorists slowly passed me, staring, judging me. I must have looked mean, aggressive and dangerous in my pink sunglasses, pink tank top and hiking socks! It took awhile but the trusty Minnesotans picked me up. Thank you friendly people!
Slept in the southern part of the Badlands, the part run by the Indian reservations. When I inquired about camping in the visitors center they said it was free and allowed anywhere. Then they asked if I “could handle snakes well?” Hmmmmm What does “handle, well” imply? I responded, “well, I’m from Iowa and we have garter snakes that scare me a bit.” They said they had ‘a LOT’ of rattlers and suggested using my walking stick to alert snakes or move them if in my path. Wouldn’t it have been nice if I had a walking stick! Again, still alive obviously. Snakes stayed in their holes and I spent my time on full-alert watch.
The Badlands National Park is beautiful. Harsh. Desert like. Yet prairie filled. Sunburnt. Eroded. Mysterious. Colored. Painted by the sun. Loved by the ‘gods.’ Inspiring. Dangerous yet soul reviving. You need to go there. Experience it yourself. Walk more. Get away from the routine car traffic tourists who park, take a picture and get back in the air con. Half the experience is getting there, doing something, creating that bond between you and the nature that surrounds you. Just keep in mind: The prairie dogs will alarm everyone and everything if you’re near, so don’t try sneaking up on the Bison!