Not somewhere either of us had really thought about visiting but whilst planning our route it became apparent that we would pass through the southern part of the two Dakotas en route to Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park. Outside magazine ran an article on the recommended parks, monuments and memorials to visit in the US, which included Badlands and Mount Rushmore – both were now on our schedule, being the first stops after leaving Morehead, KY on Saturday 24th May in our crammed Nissan Pathfinder.
Badlands National Park
After 1250 miles and a night spent camping just outside of Madison, WI, we arrived at Badlands National Park. Fortunately the national parks, forests, etc.. have an $80 America the Beautiful interagency pass entry scheme which enables up to four people in a vehicle a years access, providing us with some pretty big savings over paying each time we visit a new park.
The landscape looked very lunar, with red-grey eroded rock formations, pinnacles and spires coming up out of the ground, set within huge grass prairie flatlands. The area is home to bison, bighorn sheep, deer, prairie dogs, and rattlesnakes, amongst other animals and birds.
We decided to spend a day riding the fatbikes to the hangout of the bison, hopefully getting us in amongst some of the 800 strong park herd. Although longer than expected with a sixty mile, somewhat hilly ride through the park, it was an amazing way to see the unique landscape and enjoy the fresh air. As nightfall came we were dazzled with amazing sunsets and being away from civilization, a sky full of stars.
Within walking distance of our campground was the National Park visitor center, gift/ small grocery shop, and a restaurant with fully functioning WiFi, a good sign that Internet connectivity is available in at least one of the National Parks we had chosen to visit. This was also to be the start of our microbrewery sampling tour – no more crap canned mass produced beer for us!
Mt Rushmore National Monument
Less than a hundred miles from Badlands, just outside the quaint tourist town of Keystone, is the famous rock sculpture of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. Carved over a fourteen year period by Gutzon Borglum, the project was nearly completed in 1941 when Borghum died. Mount Rushmore was completed by his son Lincoln with the final drilling done October 31st, 1941.
We spent one night at Kemp’s Kamp, five miles from the monument, where we had all important WiFi right at our tent. Our decision to ride our bikes up the hilly road on the day we arrived almost backfired as the skies darkened and an electrical deluge began – my persistence to wait it out paid off and after a half hour tucked under a store canopy everything cleared allowing us to continue our ascent with amazing scenery all around. Mount Rushmore did not disappoint and was far more impressive than either of us expected. The area was small enough to whip round in under an hour, with slightly more time necessary if we’d entered the museum. We had made the decision not to head back up for the evening lighting – the monument has free admittance but parking costs an exorbitant $11 per vehicle. Bringing our fatbikes was already paying for itself!
Next stop Wyoming…
May 25th – May 28th 2014