The Badlands was the first stop on our planned itinerary today, but before we got there we passed through the town of Wall, South Dakota, and therefore a stop at Wall Drug beckoned. For the uninitiated, Wall Drug is basically a tourist mall with a Western theme under the guise of a single store. It’s actually a lot of fun, albeit tacky and kitschy.
After an hour or so in Wall, we drove the remaining 25 miles or so to the Badlands National Park, where we ate cold leftover pizza in our car before heading out into the park and climbing on some of the amazing rock formations. Toby is quite the rock scrambler, and Aytan followed his lead. It takes about an hour or a bit longer to drive straight through the park, but we took closer to three hours there, getting out to take pictures and walk along the rocks, despite the heat (about 90 degrees).
Our time at the park included a brief stop in the visitor’s center, where Aytan got his National Park Passport book stamped (as he will at all the National Parks and National Monuments we visit).
After leaving the park, we drove another two hours or so in the beautiful state of South Dakota to Mount Rushmore National Monument, in Keystone. Mount Rushmore is basically just what I had expected — a somewhat-overrated but must-see destination on a cross-country tour that includes South Dakota on the itinerary.
By the time we were done walking around Mount Rushmore (or rather, the loop path in front of the carved mountain), it was about 8pm, and since we still hadn’t made sleeping arrangements for the evening, we decided to find a campground and put our $79 Coleman tent (thank you, Costco!) to the test, along with our $30 self-inflating sleep pads (again, thank you, Costco!) and our REI sleeping bags (in fairness, I had already put mine to the test in the Tetons in 1989). Luckily Toby located us a small campground in the Black Hills National Forest, so for $18 we had a small site conveniently located next to the campground pit toilet (basically, shit in a hole). By the time we got to the campground, paid the fee and got our tent set up, it was after 9pm (10pm as far as our bodies were concerned, since we had crossed into the Mountain time zone earlier in the day), and we were extremely hungry — and therefore irritable and grumpy — and headed out to find some grub. Luckily, we found the Silver Dollar Saloon still open (but without any customers except for us). After scarfing down our food, we headed back to the campground, exhausted and happy to have a place to sleep.