Off to Explore South Dakota...9.2018

Day 1 9.7
Happy Birthday today to Luke!  The morning started off great with a phone call & always awesome conversation with the birthday boy!

I took off around noon, on my re-route to South Dakota through Ames, Iowa.  Im catching up with an old friend tonight who lives there & I havent seen for over a year.  I had a super yummy dinner with Sara & her husband, JimSara is an outstanding cook & makes everything from her garden.  Our evening ended too early with our conversation about her trip to Quebec & mostly about her joyful hike on the Appalachian Trail with her son in July.  Shed invited me to stay the night & so I did, but told her Id be gone early in the morning, so we hugged & said good bye as well as good night.  Always love seeing Sara!

Day 2 9.8
I left Saras around 4amI had a 9 hour drive ahead of me on roads lined with cornfieldsall the way.

I made a stop in Sioux FallsSouth Dakotas biggest city-- for a couple of hoursjust long enough to take in the huge Arts Festival they were having downtown, pop into a Duluth Trading Company store (Ive gotten their catalog for years, but have never seen a brick & mortar store) & a visit to the falls the town is named for.

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Then I was out of town & headed west.  It had been suggested by a fellow SD traveller, to NOT MISS the Corn Palace.  He’d said it was cheesy, a definite tourist stop, but right along the road & free…I shouldn’t miss it.  So, sooner than later, I took the exit.  It’s a “Palace” shaped building that’s used for events—today was a big volleyball game going on inside.  But it’s the outside that’s the attraction…every year is a different theme & the front & side of the Palace are made from all things corn.  It was worth the stop.

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 Then, it was back in the car & headed to Wall Drug…another tourist stop.  I was there, but I doubt I’d ever go again.  It was a western themed town & Wall Drug is a huge mall filled with all kinds of western stuff.  I bought a postcard & a burger across the street at the Badlands Bar & Grill.  

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I took 1/2 the yummy burger with me, passed on the beer selection & headed to find my dispersed camping spot I’d read about just outside Badlands National Park.

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Day 3 9.9
I slept good, -- this is a super windy spot—but with a great view last night but was at the wrong end of the park.  So, I headed back east down the highway to the east entrance & into the Visitors Center.  I made coffee at their picnic table, slammed down a bit of breakfast, & drove to the trailhead to hike the Door, Window, Notch & Cliff Shelf trails…all short, but you get great views of the Badlands.

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Then I was onto the scenic drive that goes through the park, but stopped to hike the Saddle Pass trail…straight up with slippery footing.  It connects at the top of the pass to the Castle Trail—the trail that I would be hiking tomorrow.

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The scenic drive is really pretty….my favorite part was looking at the Yellow Mounds!

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Once at the end of the paved drive, you can either exit the park’s western end, or turn onto the gravel road that takes you into the park’s wilderness area….this is where the buffalo are & the free Sage Creek campground I’d be staying at tonight.

I scored one of the three outer sites, with a covered picnic table.  I was hungry & my foot was pretty sore.  On Tuesday before I left town, I was walking with a friend on a paved trail in the city, when I was stung by something.  I had to shake my foot pretty hard to cut it loose & I never saw what type of insect got me, but it quickly started to swell.  I seem to have a crazy sensitivity to insect bites.  We walked back to my friends house, elevated & iced my bite.  That afternoon I was attending the last day of a Harry Potter Film festival & sat through 4+ hours of movies…I could feel my foot swelling the whole time, tightening into my Chaco straps.  By the time I left the theatre, the whole foot was pretty sore to touch, red hot & was swollen.  It was a little better the next morning, but swelled once again as the day wore on…& still red & hot.  This continued, getting only marginally better each day, but still swollen when I left for my trip on Friday.  Today, was the first day I had to stuff it in a shoe--my low hiker & after all my hikes today, it was really sore.

I made lunch, elevated said foot & drank a good beer.

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There was an unmarked trail going up behind my campsite, so after a couple of hours of resting, I took the trail to the top.  It just meandered around, with pretty views & some actual trees in this area.  I could see over the camp & onto the hills beyond, where I spied some buffalo behind the trees grazing.  I hiked back down & through the campsite & over toward the buffalo…a safe distance away to watch them enjoying the grass & the afternoon.

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Later that evening, one of my neighbors came over to visit.  An interesting guy from Croatia here in the states & living full time out of a decked out toy hauler.  (His rig is on the far right in the pic above).  While we were visiting, those buffalo I’d seen earlier, decided to wander right through the middle of camp…boy those animals are big!

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I ended the night drinking a glass a port & watching the stars pop out in this super dark place.

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