Day 68 - Big Heads And Bad Lands

Trip Start May 19, 2008
Trip End Nov 08, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Nebraska
Friday, July 25, 2008

We were up and off quite early this morning as we wanted to pack a fair amount into the day. Our journey south took us through Rapid City which we realised was the first major city we had been through since Missoula in Montana, although even that didn't feel as big as Rapid City, so the last place of comparable size would have been Las Vegas. It was also the first place that we had seen petrol under $4 since we set out on this trip.

Our first destination was Mount Rushmore National Monument. It didn't even qualify as a "brief visit" as we could see it from the road without going into the park and paying the extortionate $10 they wanted for parking. So a few photos later we were heading east and then north again back towards Rapid City. Just before we hit the city limits we turned east again and headed for Badlands National Park. Although it's not the only place in the world to use the term "badland", it was allegedly the first to be so named. The park is made up of deep canyons, flat-topped mesas and serrated towering spires surrounded by large expanses of prairie land.

As soon as we crossed the boundary into the park we were quite alarmed by a sign which informed people to keep themselves and their pets inside their vehicles as the Prairie Dogs in the area that we were about to pass through were infected with plague! Nice!! Prairie Dogs are small rodents which look similar to Meer Kats or Ferrets and make their homes underground which are easy to spot as they form a sort of "mole hill" which you can often see the Prairie Dogs sitting on top of.

Because of it's odd shape, it would have been difficult to see all of Badlands without doing a really convoluted route which took us out of our general direction. So we settled on seeing a small part of it and taking in the White River visitor centre at the southern edge. The "South Unit" of the park is co-managed between the N.P. service and the Oglala Lakota Indians, as this part of the park is actually in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The centre is staffed predominantly by Indians and after a very interesting chat with a couple of the rangers we headed south again towards Pine Ridge where we made a brief stop for fuel. A mile further south and we crossed the state line into Nebraska.

An hour and a half later we stopped off in Chadron for an ice-cream at McDonalds before travelling the last 10 miles or so to Chadron State Park. It's more of a city park than a state park, with tennis courts and a swimming pool and play areas for kids as well as the camping areas, which have showers and a laundry.

We relaxed with a few beers followed by a nice dinner and then it was time to drop the roof as the rain began because the very badly fitted roof canvas leaks, surprise, surprise!

Miles travelled: 262

Total miles travelled: 5450

Days on road: 48

States visited: 11

National Parks visited: 9
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