Ahhhh, South Dakota. Great faces, great places. There are four (and a half, but more on that later) BIG faces, but there is definitely at least one truly great place: Badlands National Park.
On day 2 of driving, I made it to South Dakota and had two stops in mind: Mount Rushmore, and Badlands National Park. I’d not known about the latter until I did a bit of research, and it seemed like I’d be racing against the clock to get there, but I was determined to try.
I rushed to get to the park before the sun set, and I made it at 5:05 pm…just barely enough light to drive through. It was definitely a blessing in disguise because a) there was no one there to charge me the entry fee, and b) you seriously cannot beat the sunsets in the west. Luckily, it’s more of a driving excursion than a hiking one, and with about an hour before it was totally dark, I put my Michael Schumacher skills to the test.
The rock formations are not as crazy as some of the other parks (I’m looking at you, Bryce Canyon), but they were just as majestic. And with that pink/yellow/blue background slowly changing to vibrant oranges and red, you really couldn’t beat it.
I’d been hoping to get out and walk around a bit, but unfortunately, my choices were “see the whole park” or “drive through a deserted area with no lights and who knows what kinds of critters.” I chose to drive through, and am actually pretty damn pleased with it. Where else could I get the requisite shot of a road, heading off into the sunset?
Eventually, I made it to the end of the Grand Tour, and was able to follow the magnificent sunset all the way out. It’s not every day you see things like this – I was irritated I had to rush and to change my hiking plans, but this made it all worth it.