After what seemed like forever in Minnesota, we finally made it safely and officially “Out West” to South Dakota. Though there wasn’t much to see while driving down the interstate, we kept high spirits that afternoon because we were going to have our fist ever Couchsurfing experience that night. For those who don’t know, Couchsurfing.org is a website that connects people traveling with people willing to open their houses to strangers. I had tried Couchsurfing last year in Europe, but to no avail. Needless to say, I was pretty pumped to see how this would all work out. We were staying with a man named Arik who lived in Rapid City, SD. We were not disappointed at all; Arik was great. He gave us a bed to sleep on, butternut soup and toast, and a whole night’s worth of conversation. We met his friend Gay from Australia who comes and stays with him every summer (her winter). We met his daughter Kiani and her friend. I helped for a few minutes trying to help him remodel his bathroom shower. All in all, Arik’s house was a great place to stay. Thanks Arik!
The next morning we woke up to head to Badlands National Park. I have kind been wanting to see the Badlands since I heard this song by the Psalters about them. We took the scenic route from Rapid City and came into the park in the backdoor I suppose. There were no fee stations and no people. All we ran into out there were these cows in the road.
We showed up and got a campsite for the night and went hiking.
Once camp was good to go and we had gotten food in our bellies, we were ready for a challenge. Now the Badlands hiking rating system is a little screwy to say the least. Mary and I wanted to take it pretty easy seeing it was our first time hiking in a while. We decided on a short hike that was labeled ‘moderate’. Okay, we thought, we will take it pretty easy since it is a short hike. We get to the trail and hike the loop that is about .25 mile on a wooden platform. The hike took us 15 min. and we didn’t even break a sweat. What does moderate mean and who are they labeling these hikes for? Mary and I decided that the only people who would consider this hike to be moderate would be 60 year old arthritic patients and children 18 months and under.
After ripping it up on a few trails, we called it a day. The next morning we woke up and went to the visitor center to learn a little park history. For those who don’t know, the Badlands were actually part of an ancient shallow ocean. All the sediments collected on the water bottom and were compressed over time. When the ocean retreated, wind and water began to erode the soil creating what we now know as the Badlands. Every time it rains, the Badland spires or mounds are eroded a little more. After a brief history and cultural lesson, we hit the trails again.
That night we camped, and though the wind was raging, our Indian camping-neighbor-friend assured us it would not rain. He was right! The next morning we packed up camp and hit one last hike before setting off for the Black Hills. It was considered the most strenuous trail in the park, and though it was steep, we were on the top of the formation in about ten minutes.
On our way out of the Badlands, we drove by a prairie dog town. Along the way we had seen signs saying “WARNING! PRAIRIE DOGS HAVE THE PLAGUE!” so naturally we hopped out of our car to get a close look at these rabid fiends. We were taking pictures of the little guys when all of a sudden we hear this whistling/chirping. This lady next to us is attempting to lure in the prairie dogs with her siren song. We quickly realize she is one of those infected with the plague, and run back to the car to make fun of her. Thus, Weston claims the rights to the first quotebook-worthy quote of the trip:
“So evidently that lady was a prairie dog charmer.”
We left prairie dog town and were almost out of the area when we found this massive herd of cows. Or so I thought. At this point, I was kind of over being in the car so I wanted to just drive on but Weston had to scurry around like a little demon. Being the good girlfriend that I am, I let him follow his passions, which fortunately, led us to this: