Being out in the Wild West makes me think of that classic 1990's Nickelodeon show. Those kids sure made ranch living look fun and easy!
After saying goodbye to family and friends in Chicago, we spent a few days hunkered down in a house on the Illinois River. A few days ago, we started our good old fashioned road trip by heading up to Madison, WI and paying our good friend Dom a visit. Thanks, Dom, for letting us sleep in your comfortable bed, play with your awesome puppy, drink all your wine, and eat all your food!
We left Dom and Abe in Madison and drove straight through Minnesota and into South Dakota. We made a pit stop to take a photo of the famous Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD - a building fully encased in corn cobs. This year's theme was Rock of Ages! Unfortunately, we breezed through after everything closed for the night, so we couldn't learn more about this wonder of the West. Or pan for gold in the little tourist trap that lined the downtown street in front of the palace.
We spent the next day in Badlands National Park, a land of stone formations and wild prairie. Cool landscapes and lots of animals. In addition to thousands, maybe millions, of little prairie dogs (who sometimes run across the road in front of your car,) the park houses a herd of about 800 American Bison. We spotted a few in the distance, munching on the grass, and one right beside the road. There was even a coyote digging in one of the prairie dog towns, possibly looking for lunch!
[Random Notes from Jake (RNFJ):
1) Badlands feels desolate and awesome in some parts. The pictures taken here channel scenes from the movie Interstellar. If you are a fan you have to go and visit for yourself!
2) The prairie dogs are awesome. You could watch them for hours the same way you would "people watch" outside the Louvre in Paris.
3) The bison by the road we saw was VERY skinny / famished. The ones in Wildlife Prairie Park in Peoria, IL seemed bigger.]
The Black Hills is also home to Mount Rushmore. Since we are in the area (and good, patriotic American citizens,) we stopped by and said hello to Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.
[RNFJ: Although an extremely patriotic thing for an American to do, I was surprised how many internationals enjoyed visiting a mountain carving of four American presidents. (I assume this is the same feeling when there are thousands of Americans visiting a larger than life Buddha in Thailand.) Fun fact, Thomas Jefferson is the first person to have written down a recipe for ice cream. So we bought into that gimmick and got ice cream.
About an hour south of Mount Rushmore is Wind Cave National Park, lesser known than its Badlands cousin. Wind Cave is one of the most complex cave systems in the world and home to 90% of the world's known boxwork, a type of formation which looks similar to honeycomb. We went underground for one of the tours and walked (stooped in some places) the same route people explored over a hundred years ago.
Within Custer State Park sits South Dakota's tallest mountain, Black Elk Peak (which up until August 2016 was known as Harney Peak.) From Sylvan Lake, we hiked one of the many trails up to the summit where there is an old fire tower and 360 degree views of the Black Hills. At the top, a mountain goat and her kid were having lunch on the mountainside.
Micro Moment of the Day
In Badlands, Jake spotted this little ground squirrel scarfing down a snack, fattening up for winter.