Sunday, July 22, 2018

Badlands National Park, SD –Other Worldly…

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Before I write about what we have been doing I just wanted to point out that blogspot has made some recent changes with regard to comments on our blog. “New comments can only be posted either from a Google account or labeled as “Anonymous”.  This is their new philosophy for comments on blogspot. What this means is that they no longer support OpenID, so if commenters don’t have a Google account they can only comment as anonymous or unknown.  I allow anonymous or unknowns to comment on the blog whereas some other bloggers don't – just a heads up to commenters. And by the way, we love comments so please keep them coming even if you are anonymous or unknown…

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Anyhow after leaving Rapid City we headed east down the highway until we arrived in Wall  South Dakota. Anyone traveling through South Dakota becomes keenly aware of Wall Drug… the infamous tourist trap. Al roads into Wall have many billboards coaxing travelers to come. We stopped there, not to see Wall Drug, but to see the Badlands National Park.

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We stayed at Sleepy Hollow Campground in Wall, South Dakota, a very pleasant place to spend a night or two exploring the Badlands. The next morning we could have driven south 8 miles to the national Park but we drove 22 miles to the east end of the park to take the scenic loop drive. However before touring the Badlands we checked out the Delta 1 Minuteman Missile Site which was on the way.

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Case in point I was stationed in Ellsworth Air Force Base back in the early 1970’s where I worked on Minuteman Missiles. So for me this was a fun stop to show Sharon what I use to do in the Air Force. It was a hoot to look down into a missile silo once again and it was a pleasure to share with my bride all the tasks we had in and around a missile silo.

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Next up was the Badlands… and bad they are. Think moonscape! This is an otherworldly place of rough topography where there are few colors to the naked eye. However careful study reveals hues of brown, black and sometimes yellow or red dominating the landscape. Occasional patches of green grass somehow thrive in such a desolate place.

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The views and the hikes in such a surreal place are such a treat. The hills resemble giant mazes one could hike for hours within. As we walked we noticed fossils abound as we found bone pieces including vertebrae, hip joints and jaw segments with teeth still intact… so cool. As desolate as this place is there are still wildlife present as we saw both pronghorn antelope and numerous big horn sheep…. yep, so much fun.

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We spent two days hiking to fully experience this wonderful place and are so grateful that it is preserved by our National Parks system for generations to see. Leaving this place was difficult but we must continue our journey east,,, on the road of retirement…

NOTE: We relaxed in Fort Thompson SD for a couple of days before heading over to Sioux Falls SD where we are now…

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Scenic Loop Drive to Devil’s Tower National Monument

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I had hoped to be in Wyoming longer to see a bit more of the eastern area of the state. However, with all the repair downtime combined with our change in plans to head back east to help our daughter with her pre wedding events, we have had to cram in a lot in a very the short amount of time while here in Rapid City SD. So today I told Sharon get ready for a long day and a long drive…

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Our target was Devils Tower in Wyoming, a bucket list item for me. I have always regretted not visiting the tower when I lived in Rapid City. Along the 200 plus mile loop we will see many other places where I used to “play.”

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Our first stop was in Spearfish SD a town I spent some time in but the real treat there is Spearfish Canyon (especially n the fall) but we will see that on the way back. Our second stop was to see the famed Sturgis SD where all the bikers in America, or so it seems, will descend upon in a mere few weeks for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally starting August 2nd. This town sure has changed since I was last here in the mid-70’s…. many, many more mega-bars!

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We left Sturgis to enter Wyoming once again and after a nice scenic drive we had our first glimpse at the “Extra-terrestrial” Devils Tower. There was a short line into the park and we drove the three miles up to the trailhead where we luckily scored a parking spot. We donned our hiking boots and although I wanted to do the 2.8 mile lower loop around Devil’s Tower we opted for the 1.9 mile upper loop due to the time. What a fabulous hike it was with great views from various angles of what is revered by the Lakota Indians as a spiritual place. We can see why after our hike…

Leaving Devil’s Tower we headed back east and stopped in Deadwood SD another town that has changed a lot but at least kept the old town feeling it always had. It is definitely a tourist centered town now with lots of shops and several casinos. We did take a small break to visit one casino and let’s just say we left a small donation to help support their economy.

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From Deadwood we drove down Spearfish Canyon. What I like most about this place is the change from mostly Ponderosa Pine to species of fir and spruce typically found at higher elevations. We stopped at Bridal Veil Falls which we thought was apropos since our daughter was that day having her bridal portraits taken back in Raleigh NC.

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Another long drive back into Rapid City and our day seeing lots of sights we stopped in at great little spot called Paddy O’Neill’s for their Sunday all-day half priced drafts. There we enjoyed a nice Deschutes Fresh Hopped IPA…. A perfect ending to an eventful day…

NOTE: We are in Wall South Dakota this morning but leave today for Fort Thompson SD for a couple of days…