It is another long day of driving to get from Cody, WY to Wall, SD. The difference now is once we hit Rapid City, SD we are traveling old road. Meaning, we did this almost three weeks ago when our trip started, on our drive from Sioux Falls to Mount Rushmore. It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come (over 4K miles) – but we aren’t quite done yet.
For me, finally seeing The Badlands is kind of the culmination of a twenty-five-year journey: In late summer of 1996 I drove from Ohio to Seattle, WA to start graduate school. It was a whirlwind trip and I only had three days to get to the banks of Puget Sound. I had thought I could make a quick stop to the Badlands then, but I learned they are about 30 minutes off of Route 90. So I had to pass on them once already, and with the first leg of our drive I passed them twice. But this time – I’m stopping!
We get into Wall around 7 PM but we already decided to not set up the tent. The weather is predicted to be in the 90s, meaning during the day it will be an oven and chances are it won’t cool off enough for sleeping at night. Without the tent, it is a quick setup and by 8 PM we are in downtown Wall – which is literally all but dead on a Friday night. There’s one restaurant/bar open for us to grab hamburgers and a beer (me) and a glass of wine (Murr). While we eat we make our plan of attack for the next day: In the mid-morning hit the Badlands Visitor’s Center; midday is indoors (shopping and/or chilling in the Tab); and we’ve been told catching the Badlands at sunset is not to be missed. After dinner we wander the drag just so Murray can get a sense of what shops she wants to hit tomorrow and then we’re back in the Tab before 9:45 PM.
We are up around 8:30, and it is a 40-minute drive from our RVsite to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The Badlands are buttes (and canyons) created by half-a-millennia of erosion. What astounds me the most is how they suddenly appear along the flat, grassy plains. As we pass through the entry gate of the Badlands, I realize my quarter century wait was well worth it! It so dramatic – I capture great video as we weave our way along SD 240.
As the temperature starts to creep up, we hit Kadoka, SD for the Badlands Distillery. We do some sample flights, and each pick up two bottles. We beeline back to Wall and go directly to Wall Drug. Murray gets a pair of sweet cowboy boots and a Wall Drug doughnut. Then we’re back to Teapot to rest in the AC. Sunset should occur around 8:30 PM, so at 6 PM we head back to the Visitor’s Center where we will begin our drive along Badlands Loop, heading west with the goal of getting to Pinnacles overlook point before the sky goes dark. We do one quick hike, a couple quick stops at two other lookout points, but the hours are passing and the sun is dropping quickly. We finally hit Pinnacles with about 20 minutes before sunset – and there is a crowd of people and Big Horn Goats!
And none of us are disappointed! Catching the pink and blue sky as it lit up the green plains and the layered reds, browns and oranges of The Badlands . . . Well, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
We linger until the sun is gone, and then take the West Exit of the Badlands back to Wall. We pass a huge heard of Bison (probably more than 40 in total), having gathered (I think) to bid us farewell as we close the last night on our 2021 Epic Trip!