Miles driven: Missoula, MT to Badlands National Park (via Mount Rushmore) – 780
The only thing bad about the Badlands is the breakfast they serve at the lodge’s restaurant. That was pretty bad.
We arrived late to our campsite Saturday night after driving through the beautiful state of Montana and after taking a somewhat quick detour to see those four guys’ heads that were carved into the side of a mountain. Ever heard of it? Mount Rushmore wasn’t a road trip priority (to say the least), but the wise words of our former travel partner, Kiley, stuck out in our minds: “we’re never going to be any closer, and we’re never going to be any younger.” Fact. Neither of us plan on re-visiting South Dakota in the future. So, we tacked on an extra hour and a half in our day to go see how George, Thomas, Theodore, and Abe were doing. After visiting such impressive locations throughout the western United States on this trip, we had so many questions for the other patrons to this national memorial. What prompted you to come here? Were you nearby, too, or did you go out of your way to see this? We hope it isn’t the latter. Are you staying in this strange tourist town of Keystone? We hope not. Is this family photo going to be your Christmas card picture? Can you name all four presidents on this monument? Can you please let us try to use this selfie stick in peace? No, we don’t care if this is a good photo or not, and yes, we do like the hilarity of using a selfie stick to commemorate our trip to this random tourist destination. Please stop judging us.
Afterwards, we hopped back in the car (we’re getting good at this) and headed about two hours down the road to the Badlands. When friends asked where we were headed and we mentioned the Badlands, they all either said we must see a sunrise or a sunset. Since we didn’t plan on spending two nights in South Dakota (sorry if I’m offending any native South Dakotans – is that what they call themselves?), we decided we were getting up to see another sunrise over a national landform.
Our 5:30 alarm felt like a smack in the face after a long day of driving on Saturday. Not only were we quite comfortable cocooned into our sleeping bags (Randi more so than me because hers is a legit mummy and covers her entire head while my ears were left out to freeze), but it also felt like 4:30 am because our bodies were still working on Pacific coast time. Nonetheless, we dragged ourselves to the car and headed for what we thought was a good viewing point to see the sun shine over the odd rock forms that make up the Badlands National Park. Yet again, Mother Nature did not disappoint, and the shadows the sun casted on the land were absolutely beautiful. Icing on the cake was that absolutely no one else was in sight. Now, this might have been because we didn’t pick the most ideal viewpoint to watch this daily ritual from, we don’t know, but we do know we appreciated the most serene moment of our day.
According to a recent National Geographic Instagram post (we’re waiting for them to see our pics and hire us to travel for them), The Badlands are apparently one of least visited national parks in the nation. It was definitely the least populated out of the four we went to (and Randi says, “I’ll take a shitty breakfast for low tourist traffic”) but definitely worth our while on our trip back east.
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