Sunday, June 27, 2010
Day 4 June 25, 2010 Iowa to Keystone SD
We sped along the borderline of Iowa and Nebraska and eventually ended up on 90 west through the rolling plains of South Dakota. I couldn't believe how much open land there was. This trip has opened our eyes to the vastness of our country's Great Plains. Hour after hour of beautiful prairies and giant farms were the only thing the eye could see until we reached the foothills of the Rockies. Then they offered a bumpy version of the same. It was sunny and warm and the clouds were hanging lofty in the sky. Pure heaven. There were times when we were the only vehicle on the road.
Then it happened. A slight glimpse, then a little more...What is THAT? Sarah checked the map... we knew we must make the detour. Badlands National Park. The tall spires and rugged cliffs exposed themselves slowly as we made the 20 mile drive south of the expressway, but soon enough we were upon them and our mouths dropped wide open. The eroded remnants of a long gone inland sea, these wildest of sedimentary cliffs, gulches and valleys were so beautiful and serene they almost looked fake. I could imagine the cowboys of old stampeding across the plains and coming upon this alien landscape; they must have moved cautiously through the difficult passes fearing the worst of the spirit world. We hiked a bit and climbed a bit through this hot, martian landscape. The colors on the rock layers were enchanting, especially when we reached some elevation and had the pleasure of looking out over the backdrop of plains land spreading as far as the eye could see.
While cruising through the park I noticed something down in the valley and off in the distance. We stopped to take a closer look. It was a herd of a few hundred Buffalo grazing in the prairie below. Incredible. From the same vantage point we made out a solitary mountain ram perched high on a precipice. This was a view of the real Wild West. Not a house, farm, or human in sight with land that seemed to go on forever. It was easy to fall in love with the place. We met a happy group of hippies in an old beat up conversion van and signed our names in chalk on the sides. They were drifting along, living in the van...we were slightly jealous and have been fantasizing and checking out almost every van and small RV since!
We finished the drive to the legendary Keystone town in the base of the Black Hills and found a great place to stay. The 49.99 Brand New Rooms sign drew us in even though we got whacked for much more. The ammenities were great, and we were overlooking the town and one of the president's heads at Mt. Rushmore. The tap water was superb (Sarah insisted that we remember that)! We waited until the next day to visit the park.