South Dakota, USA (Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse).

We all woke up at our lovely Fairfield Inn and Suites in Sioux Falls. We had a great breakfast, packed up, and were ready to hit the road. It was only about three to four hours to our first real destination: Badlands National Park. We didn’t really know much about the Badlands but were excited to finally spend some time outside the car.

Right off the I-90 exit for Route 240 (the most scenic route through the Badlands; highly recommended), there is a museum called the “Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.” It’s a museum about the arms race, the cold war, and the number of nuclear missiles that are stored. It was frightening. I didn’t spend too much time studying it all. While it was interesting, it was also depressing to see. Mom bought us national park passports that we will be stamping at each national park that we visit.

We left the museum and finally headed into the Badlands National Park. Even as we were approaching the gate to the national park, my family and I were all awed at the beauty of the barren landscape. The colors and textures and layout were absolutely incredible. At the entrance to this park, I bought a season pass (currently $80.00) so that we can basically just drive into subsequent national parks.

We spent between about 1:00pm to at least 4:00 or 5:00pm driving through, stopping, walking, and taking in the beauty. Our Toyota Highlander has a sunroof that we opened and me and my little (well, not so little anymore) sister stood up and stuck our head and chest out of the sunroof. Gosh, that is the best way to drive through the Badlands!

We stopped at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to stamp our new national park passports, get some cold water, use the restroom, etc. We then completed the scenic drive on Route 240 towards I-90W to finish the drive into Rapid City to our first campground reservation at the Mount Rushmore KOAat Palmer Gulch. It was slightly shockingly expensive when we first found the price per night, but little did we know what all was included! This campground is very less than 10 miles from Mount Rushmore and less than 20 miles from the Crazy Horse Memorial! It is a great location for sure. Guess what was included in our registration! A rodeo! Yes, I went to a rodeo! It was really fun. More about that later.

We checked in, got some firewood, got to our campsite, parked, and guess what, again…. no trees for me to set up my hammock! I was really miffed for a little while. So me and my little sister would be sleeping in the tent we brought along. We got that set up, I helped mom prepare dinner, and then it was pretty much time for bed. We were all pretty tired out.

We did manage to walk around the campground a little bit and catch the Hill City Slickers (a band) playing at the campground stage. When they heard we were from New York they said “Holy shifter thats a long way!!” They were a really funny group a guys and sounded really nice together. They had a few CDs for sale. I didn’t buy any but you can probably find them online, maybe.

August 19th

This morning we got up, had a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and bread toasted over our little fire. Is anyone else witness to the fact that food rustically cooked outside tastes better than food cooked indoors? Well, food cooked outside combined with my Mom’s cooking…..well, you just can’t go wrong. Yum yum.

We headed out to Mount Rushmore at about 8:30-9:00AM and we were so glad that we got there early! It was such a beautiful day as you will see from the pictures. We walked up to the viewing area, took some pictures, walked around the trail that provides views of individual presidents’ faces. That was really cool. We then went in to the sculpters workshop, then to the gift shop or visitors center to get our passport stamp. As we were leaving, we ended up talking to a woman park ranger about how she became a park ranger and what steps my little sister should take to enter that field of work.

After Mount Rushmore, we headed to the Crazy Horse Memorial located in Crazy Horse, SD. Crazy Horse Memorial is a memorial that is being constructed. They have a great museum of different native American tribes’. They also had a native American musician come and play some native songs on handmade wood wind instruments. Wow, the first song he played sent chills down my spine. It was really, really hauntingly beautiful!

After Crazy Horse, we went into the town of Hill City. It’s located between the KOA at Palmer Gulch and Rapic City on Route 16. The family needed some food and I wanted to go to Granite Sports (a store I had seen on our drive in the day before) to see if they had silicone spray. Last night, I didn’t sleep very well so I woke up and noticed that the top of my sleeping bag was quite damp (note: I slept in the tent we had set up)! I just bought that sleeping bag earlier this spring; it’s an REI Joule (containing a mix of down and synthetic material) that I got on sale. I really don’t want the real down, or the synthetic material for that matter, to get wet! So, I figured I would spray some silicone spray on the exterior of my sleeping bag to help repell any condensation or dampness. Not sure how well that worked. Any suggestions on how to keep condensation out of/off of my new sleeping bag are welcome!

Moving on: we got back to the campground at about 4:30 I think. The rodeo we were going to go to started at 6:30. Mom wanted to be there at about 5:45 though because at 6:00 they held an event called Mutton Bustin’. It’s where they have a little competition where little kids (under 50-60 lbs I think) ride a sheep and hang on for as long as possible. Wow, some of the little girls did amazing! It was really cool to see a rodeo in person.

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