So far this spring has been one of the wettest ever recorded here in the Black Hills, .... just our luck ...
Fortunately I'm a kind of overcast-cool-weather loving gall (James not so much) so I'm good. I especially love fog, everything looks so mysterious ....
Rain, just like most of us, I can do without though, and man, did we get some (and than some, and than ... well, you get the picture)!
That's why, on one of the drier Saturdays this month, we drove about 80 miles south to visit The Badlands National Park, into the more desert-y, thus drier and sunnier, plains of South Dakota.
Just before you get there, in the town of Wall, you'll find the most well-known, family-friendly attraction of the Black Hills, the Wall Drug Store.
It's impossible to miss, since big billboards all along the freeway announce it's upcoming arrival, already for miles and miles before you get there:
In the 1930's, a pharmacist moved to Wall and opened up a shop during the Great Depression. They struggled for several years, until his wife hit upon the idea that they should advertise on the highway that they offered "Free Ice Water."
'The rest is history', as they say .... and the offer still stands!
The family-owned and run Wall Drug Store isn’t just any other drug store anymore – it draws two million visitors every year!
The 76,000 square foot attraction houses a cowboy-themed shopping mall filled with gift shops, restaurants, and plenty of photo opportunity with an amazing assortment of props and souvenirs:
The actual drug store, where it all begun, has been turned in a little museum.
And the restaurant still offers, besides free coffee, free donuts (!) to honeymooners, veterans, hunters, truck drivers, and priests.
We had lunch there before we headed out to the Badlands. Unfortunately, this was nothing to write about, and very pricey (for what you got). Too bad ...All in all, we found it to be too much of a tourist trap, but funky enough to spent a little time stretching our legs, looking around and grab a bite to eat.
About 5 miles from Wall we entered the Badlands National Park at it's 'Pinnacle' entrance.
Described as a 'moon-scape' on earth, the rugged landscape suddenly breaks up the flat grassy plains of the prairies.
The Lakota gave this land its name, “Mako Sica,” meaning “land bad.”
It consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the United States.
This land has been so ruthlessly ravaged by wind and water that it has become picturesque. It's a wonderland of bizarre, colorful spires and pinnacles, massive buttes and deep gorges.
The Badlands Wilderness protects 64,144 acres (100.225 sq mi; 25,958 ha) of the park as a designated wilderness area and is the site of the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret (in 1994), the most endangered land mammal in North America.
Being nocturnal animals, they are rarely seen by the visiting public.
The 40 mile 'Loop' that leads you through the Park has plenty of turn-offs and overviews, with parking that allow you to walk out into the formations or just enjoy the stunning views!
Halfway this loop, you'll find the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.
As always, the center gave us an excellent overview of the Park's very interesting history.
In addition to it's amazing landscape it also preserves the world’s greatest fossil beds of animals from the Oligocene Epoch of the Age of Mammals. The skeletons of ancient camels, three-toed horses, saber-toothed cats and giant rhinoceros-like creatures are among the many fossilized species found here.
|Doesn't this look like an ancient castle at the top, like something out of "Lord of the Rings'?|
As you can see, I couldn't stop making pictures, there was something spectacular around every corner!
One particular area towards the end showed a lot more colors in it's rock layers.
The purple and yellow is shale, the tan and gray is sand and gravel, the red and orange, iron oxides and the white is volcanic ash.
The pictures don't do it justice ... just gorgeous ...
We spent a total of about 2 hrs, just driving half of the loop and stopping at almost all turn-offs.
Unfortunately, we didn't see too much wildlife, other than some prairie dogs, small birds and insects ...
|Big Bumble Bee ...|
|This is the only place in South Dakota that you might see these .... fortunately, we didn't ...|
After 20 miles of the loop, we left the park and turned onto the I-44, back towards Rapid City, which leads you smack through the middle of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland.
This second largest National Grassland surrounds the Badlands on all sides and basically consists of ... wait for it ... grass!
In it's own way it's quite beautiful, especially if you have some cloudy skies. Wide open prairie with windblown grasses ...
It's amazing how late spring is coming this year, even here ...
One lonely hill:
And an, ominous looking, developing storm in the distance:
Fortunately, we kept it dry that day, and after stocking up on groceries at Walmart in Rapid city and dinner at a close-by Chinese buffet (we love those buffets!) we got home around 8 pm.
Phew! Quite a long day, but well worth it. So far we really like this State, lots to see and do!
And much more to come of course. Until next time!