Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Flashback: Driving Across America - Part 2

I left off with our dirt road adventure from North Dakota down to South Dakota.  There literally was only a small road sign announcing that we had crossed from one Dakota into the other.  Pierre is the capital of South Dakota, but it is a small town probably smaller than the Hampton Roads area.  Once we were back on the interstate headed West, this is where you could really picture those "amber waves of grain."  The road cut through miles of pasture, but being early winter, the grass was short but snow hadn't yet fallen.

We made it to the Badlands National Park just before dusk.

The Badlands are remarkable.  Go visit and see for yourself!  I'd like to go back and hike around more in either the Spring or Fall.  It is such a fascinating area.  It is shocking to drive through miles of grasslands, and suddenly come upon these canyons and rock formations that appear to be so inhospitable to any kind of animal life.  But yet some amazing wildlife live there!  Big Horn Sheep!  Buffalo!  It was especially striking to visit in the winter, when we had the park nearly to ourselves. 

Oh don't worry, we didn't get cell phone reception here either!

Badlands Nat'l Park - Where is everybody?

We didn't hike around much because it was getting darker, but we did drive the main loop road and we were able to see these Big Horn Sheep just walking around these steep rock faces like it was no big deal. 
Big Horn Sheep in the Badlands
We also had a hilarious encounter with some buffalo.  One of the park rangers had directed us to a smaller road (dirt road, of course!) where we could see some buffalo.  Naturally, by this time, it was basically dark outside, so as I am turning my car around (Austin Powers style, 18 point turn) we see two HUGE buffalo standing right next to the road!  We were separated from them by merely a wire fence, so I thought it was a good idea to shine my headlights at them and start taking pictures.  Thankfully, no one was injured, although you can see that the quality of my photos is terrible!

I promise - there really is a buffalo in this picture.

We spent the night in this area and woke up to our first snowfall on the car.  Thankfully it was only a 1-2 inch accumulation, and it was already melting by the time we started driving up to Mt. Rushmore.  Mt. Rushmore is also incredible and it was really interesting to learn about how it was built.  Amazingly, we were practically the only people at both of these sites.  I highly recommend a trip to this part of SD because it is such a unique part of the country, particularly if you've lived your whole life on the East Coast.
Mt. Rushmore!
After spending the morning at Mt. Rushmore, we still had to drive through SD -->WY -->MT -->ID and we were concerned that this stretch of the trip would be the snowiest/most treacherous.  So when we stopped for gas, I asked my Mom to grab us provisions, i.e., the "largest size diet coke" she could find in the convenience store.  She came back with a 52 ouncer - that should do it!  Mayor Bloomberg would not have approved!  Haha!

Stay tuned for Part 3 - our final leg into Idaho!

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