South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana; First Day: Driving from the Twin Cities to the Badlands

This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series South Dakota Trip 2013

In June of 2013, my grandparents took me with on a road trip from Minnesota to, primarily, South Dakota. We had a great time, and I had never really traveled outside of Minnesota before (except to Wisconsin, a little bit of Iowa, and a plane to Florida when I was young) so this was a fun experience, and a totally different environment than what I am used to. I originally posted this writeup on Squidoo, a website where you post ‘lenses’ (short articles or blog-like posts) and get some revenue from people reading them. After using Squidoo for a bit, I thought a blog like this would be easier and better for my purposes. So, now I am transferring this post from Squidoo to here. I will break it up into a kind of journal of the trip, with an area for each day and what we did.

Also, I wore Vibram Five Fingers for the entire trip. I used my Trek LS in the Badlands, to provide extra grip in the loose sediment, and my Sprints the rest of the time. I was very satisfied with both shoes. The Sprints provided excellent grip on the solid granite rock of the Black Hills, and the Trek LS did well in the Badlands too.

I labeled each photo with a number, and would like to hear what peoples favorite pictures from this are. I would really appreciate it if you post and explain why you liked them, I like feedback! This was just casual photography and documenting what we were seeing, but I think we got some pretty cool shots. Some pictures were taken by me and some by my grandparents.

First Day: Driving from the Twin Cities to the Badlands

I went over to my grandparents’ house early in the morning, and we left. Going to the southern part of Minnesota is interesting because of all the farms and fields. There are no longer trees everywhere, although there are still considerable amounts, at least compared to where we are going. Once we get down near the bottom of the state, we turn West, onto Interstate 90. We stopped in Fairmont, Minnesota looking for a Starbucks. We happened to notice a prairie dog exhibit. It was a small prairie dog town enclosed in a kind of raised enclosure. I am guessing that they figure people following this route are heading out to South Dakota, where they will likely see some large prairie dog towns. The exhibit was located on Lake Ave, just on the western side of a bridge near the west side of town.

After this we kept moving on, planning to stop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for lunch. We ate at the Falls Park, a very cool park in the middle of Sioux Falls. It is a collection of small gorges and waterfalls, stretching out across a broad region of solid rocks. It was fun to explore for a bit after lunch time.


There was plenty of dry rocks just to the left of this image too, to scramble around on and explore. There is also some history here, with brick ruins being slightly visible on the far left of that image. The remains of the Queen Bee Mill lie over there, with informational plaques telling about it. We also stopped at the St. Joseph Cathedral in Sioux Falls. It was beautiful inside, with intricate stained glass and art. We had to keep moving, as there was a long drive ahead still, so off we went.

A bit later, we ended up at a rest stop at the Missouri River. It was Lewis and Clark themed, with plaques showcasing some common items they brought with on their expedition. They also had an excerpt from their logs, talking specifically about this site. They called it Pleasant Camp. Stepping out around the back offered a great view, with beautiful sunbeams lighting up the prairie on the other side of the river. Just behind the rest stop was a hill, thick with various conifers (especially Juniper) with dirt trails leading through it, going down towards the river.

Lewis and Clark Rest Stop

Near the bottom of the image you can see some yucca, a type of succulent/cactus. This was interesting, as I have never seen a cactus in the wild before. Once again, this made a great area to explore, and we walked the paths for a couple of minutes before heading back. We planned to stop back again at the end of the trip, on the way back.

My grandparents told me that we were trying to time our arrival at the Badlands to be near sunset, so we could see the colors on the rocks at a certain overlook. We were going to Interior, a town just one mile from the entrance to the Badlands National Park. As we started getting closer to the Badlands, we started seeing more hills and slight formations in the distance. We timed our arrival perfectly, to get the beautiful view below.


We took it all in for a bit, but needed to get moving and get checked in to where we are staying, the Badlands Budget Host Inn. We had a room on the top floor of a two story building, which also had a balcony outside the room that wrapped around to the back. While the place has very mixed reviews, I liked it personally. The room wasn’t large and full of amenities, and there wasn’t a TV, but we would be getting in late anyway, and a TV really isn’t a deal breaker for us. I thought the place had character. The people there were friendly, there was someone sitting outside playing guitar, two nice dogs wandering around the grounds…it added to the feeling of a nice, quiet community.

Plus, this was our view of the sunset.


After the sun had set, we decided to drive out a little bit and look at the stars. The Badlands has some of the least light-polluted sky you can get. I was looking forward to this, having never seen the Milky Way in Minnesota before. We have some areas with pretty good clear skies up in Northern Minnesota, but I have never been up there at night. Thankfully, it was a clear night. There were so many stars in the sky that it is difficult to describe. The Milky Way was also visible, not particularly distinct but you could see a fuzzy patch stretching across the sky. We couldn’t stay out too long because we were all tired, but it was a very cool experience.

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