Badlands to Rushmore

June 26, 2017 - Badlands National Park, South Dakota, United States

And a fierce wind did blow!  Sometime in the middle of the night last night a huge wind-storm crept across the Badlands.  The same thing happened during my trip 20 years ago!  The pop-up shook, rattled and (thankfully, did not) roll!  We had a little breakfast while enjoying the view of 3 mule deer just outside our camp.   Around 8:30 we began to work out way of the park along the Badlands Loop Road, stopping at whatever scenic pull off caught our fancy. Playful in the BadlandsIt wasn’t a long way to our next campground and of course, I had selected the scenic route that would eventually lead us to the Road Less Traveled.  I had done the MapQuest and this would be no problem considering the day was young. We saw our first three pronghorns new Prairie Wind Overlook but most remarkable were the thousands of prairie dogs in the park.  Back in the 90s the big place to view prairie dogs was Roberts Prairie Dog Town towards the west edge of the park.  They have apparently been allowed to populate wherever they want now and they have been very prolific. beware of snakes

We stopped at many pull outs but I think my favorite place was Conata Basin overlook where the Yellow Mounds could be seen in the background.  The yellow of the mounds was a lovely contrast.  Yellow MoundsAt about 10:30 we started down the gravel Sage Creek Road.  A short distance down the road was a nice herd of bighorn sheep relaxing by the roadway.  The road itself was in pretty bad condition.  We passed a park employee at one point and asked if it would be getting any better.  He assured us that once we were out of the park it would be maintained by the state and probably much better.  He really stretched the truth.  Twenty-four miles and 2.5 hours later we abandoned the whole “road less traveled” plan and headed back to highway.  Bill was disappointed not to see the town of Red Shirt (because he thought it was a cool name) but he was relieved to get off that miserable road.  We did pass an interesting scene of young men on quad-runners herding cattle down the road.  Aside from that it was pretty dismal.     Striped Badlands


Several hours later, we arrived in Keystone, South Dakota; just outside of Mt. Rushmore National Monument.  What a zoo!  I know that I’m starting to sound like a crabby old lady but all around this place was like Pigeon Forge II.  Any attraction your little heart desired was all there.  Driving by Mt. Rushmore was like driving through a busy city intersection; multiple lanes and traffic lights.  We pulled into our campground at Horsethief Lake at 3:30 p.m.  The campground had changed as well but was still pleasant.  The only unwelcomed addition was the noise of the Rushmore Helicopter Tours and whistle of the Authentic 1880s Train that persisted throughout the day and evening until; and with the train even after; dark.  This particular spot may not be the best for quiet relaxation but considering the location to things we wanted to see I figured it was pretty good.


We headed out to see the lighting ceremony of Mt. Rushmore at around 8:00.  We paid $5 to park and were directed to a large multi-level parking structure at the site.  Crowds were arriving behind us and we decided to sit in the upper balcony section of the large amphitheater facing the carved heads of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.  A half hour before the program started, the most cheesy, slow, and plodding rendition of patriotic music began.  First there was John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” that; as a former trombone player; I love!  Only this was definitely at a nice walking pace, not a march.  Other classic hits like “Over There”, “God Bless America”, “The Union Forever”; culminated by the slowest rendition of “America the Beautiful” ever produced and sung along to by hordes of earnest people.  When at last the program started a gentle Park Ranger spoke about George Washington’s insistence in refusing absolute power and “kingship” over these United States of America.  It was a subtle message but well placed.  Following that enjoyable history lesson, a film about the monument and the men represented thereon; was shown.  At a somewhat unexpected moment the lights come up on the faces on the rock.  Even for a cynic like me, it caught me a bit off-guard.  The “Star Spangled Banner” was next and I attempted to sing along while Bill saluted the flag.  It was a moment. Kelly Horsethief  Lake

Once we returned to camp we were happy to climb into bed.  My ear plugs came in handy since it seems we had camped by a large family group who didn’t comprehend quiet hours.



beware of snakes
Yellow Mounds
Striped Badlands
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