Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Family Vacation, Day 2

Sunday, July 5, 2015
Badlands National Park

On Sunday morning, we left bright and early for the 2 hour drive from Pierre to the Badlands. The temperature was forecasted to be in the 90's for the day, so the earlier the start, the better! In the Badlands, there is basically no shade, so we packed plenty of water and prepared for some hot and sunny hiking!

I was also concerned that the park would be quite busy because it was a holiday weekend in the summer, but we found that while the overlooks and visitor center were busy, we had the trails basically to ourselves. We decided to take the loop road through the park, enjoy the Big Badlands Overlook, and take a couple hikes through the park. We planned to visit only this park today and then drive the rest of the way to the Black Hills to our cabin for the week.

Our first trail here was the Window Trail, right off of the Badlands Loop off of the East exit from I-90. This one began with a boardwalk, then at the end offered a rockface ½ mile "trail". It wasn't exactly a paved trail, just a series of markers in the ground you could follow to get another great overlook.

Walking on the boardwalk

Gorgeous sunflowers!

I was very impressed by the Badlands. Of course I had seen pictures of the familiar rocks and had seen the Painted Desert in Arizona which looks similar to the Badlands, but I wasn't prepared for how HUGE this place is! I just love being in national parks like this where you stand there and think, "I am so small. This land is so great." And because it was so great, I ended up with way more pictures than I can handle. Prepare yourselves!

Panorama from Window Trail

He calls this pose the "squad" pose and you will see it throughout the entire vacation!

I actually have pictures of myself thanks to others having cameras! Typically I'm the only one with the camera so you don't see much of me. :)

All of these pictures are from Window Trail - it was hot, but everyone did great and there wasn't a single complaint! While we may sometimes miss the "good old days" when we were all young kids growing up in a big family, it's really fun to be older kids who are all about having adventures together and can do fun hikes like this!

Victory is ours!

Window Trail is only a half mile round trip, so this was only our warm up - and we sure did get "warm"! It was very easy and a fun way to wander around these cool "bad" rocks.

We also stopped at the Big Badland Overlook. (We actually stopped there before Window Trail, but my pictures decided to mix up the events of the day and I'm not one to put up a fight with them.) If you want a place to make you feel so incredibly small, here's where you should go!

A message for my husband. :)

Family at the Big Badlands Overlook! Thanks for the picture, dad!

This summer, an underground lake was discovered near part of the loop drive through the park, and this is currently causing 15 minute delays due to construction to get through the 1-lane road area. Check the park's website for updates on this project. We were just thankful that it was still open so that we could drive the whole way through!

After a stop at the visitor's center to collect the cancellation passport stamps and mail a postcard to my husband, we geared up for a longer hike. It was right around noon - so maybe not the best time of day for this - but hey, because of the heat we were some of the only people out here and got to enjoy the beautiful land on our own!

We started by hiking up the Saddle Pass Trail, up to a high peak. Hiking up the rocks of the Badlands is not as easy as it looks, and hiking down is even more challenging! Not ashamed to say I sat down and scooted down through parts of it. ;)


We climbed up to a tall peak and enjoyed the great views overlooking the area. 

After that, we decided to do another 3 or 4 miles through the prairies/grasslands of the park. Because while we're here, why not?! The ground was mostly flat, and for the most part the trail was well marked. (We may have gotten a little off, but didn't have any trouble finding our way again!) We took the Castle Trail to the Old Northeast Road, then hiked back on the Medicine Root Trail, making a big loop through the area. Again, everyone did great despite the heat! I'm pretty sure that's because it was a dry heat. Gotta love the dry heat! ;)

We found prickly pears!!!

So, I can't say this was the most interesting trail. Castle trail was fun because it was right next to the Badland's towering rocks, but Medicine Loop Trail was really just through the prairie. After we finished, Dad commented that he felt like we'd "seen the armpit of the Badlands". :)

I am just thankful that the only signs of rattlesnakes we saw - for the entire trip - came in the form of one snake skin in a wash. I couldn't believe I was back in Rattlesnake country after just getting away from this.

Our view from the cabin we were staying in!

After hiking, we were all exhausted and very satisfied with our Badlands experience. It's totally a place I'd love to go back to with Curtis someday. We piled back in the suburban and drove the last 2 hours to Hill City, SD, where we were staying for the remainder of our vacation. We did stop briefly at Wall Drug, but were a little underwhelmed after hearing so many people talk it up. We grabbed some groceries for the week and settled in for the night, and planned out our next day's adventure!

Day 2 wrap up: Drove 230 miles, hiked 5 miles, visited Badlands National Park and Wall Drug.

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