We woke up early on the fourth of July and explored one of the paths off of a scenic outlook. Badlands is a striking place. We met some people on a similar road trip as us at one of the overlooks. They were from New Hampshire and Montreal. Following these vistas we stopped at the Visitor Center to get some advice of where to hike. We ended up taking the Notch Trail which has a fun little wood and wire ladder that helps you climb up onto one of the bluffs. From there we completed the loop road. While we had hoped to see Bison up close and personal at Sage Creek Campground, the road was quite rough and it would have taken us forever to get there in the Prius. So we ended up settling for seeing them miles away munching on the prairie from Panorama Point.
After exiting the park we stopped by at Wall Drug. What an immense disappointment. The place had anything you’d ever want from a dollar store for a 1000% markup. Their food smelled like a nursing home. Greg and I wanted to get out of there while Jared loved it and bought a coffee mug for work. Back on the road we headed to Rapid City where we gourged ourselves at the Ruby Tuesday Salad Bar and bought some water, ice, and oranges at Safeway.
When we got back to the car, Greg had a text message from the Dean of Admissions at the University of Richmond Law School asking him to call him back immediately. He did and got great news! He had come off the waitlist. He accepted immediately but she encouraged him to sleep on it. He was pumped. He drove us to Mount Rushmore and listened to his “party mix cd” the rest of the way.
When we got to Mount Rushmore it was socked in with clouds. Our Access pass did not work and we were forced to fork over $10 to some dude to park our car. The “parking donation” went to support the “preservation” of the monument through the channels of a national park commission corporation. I was livid about this ridiculous scam and was pissy the rest of the time there. Finally the clouds broke enough for us to try to get a picture with the presidents. It is a good deal smaller than I had anticipated. I am not sure why I thought this since everyone said it would be smaller. Jared thought it was larger than he’d anticipated. After a long jaunt in the gift shop, we headed out of the “monument” and onto Crazy Horse. There is, by the way, a beautiful side profile view of George Washington as you exit the Monument on the public road.
As we headed to Crazy Horse it started to pour. When we got there, the attendant informed us that it would be $27 for the car to enter. Finding this to be ludicrous we told the guy that we needed to turn around and he thankfully obliged. Greg snapped a quick photo as we were making our U turn and we went to punch the name of the campsite in Yellowstone into our GPS. It could not find it. So we actually had to use maps. We oriented ourselves onto Route 16 towards Wyoming While, quite poor, Wyoming is an amazingly beautiful state. You can literally see forever. You can see storms coming hours prior to their arrival. You can see the rain falling from the clouds to the sky. You can see more than you thought you could ever see. The best drive of the trip so far has been the distance from the Black Hills of South Dakota – which are really black- to Yellowstone. We made good time on 16 and then on 90 which has far less trucks in this part of the country. We got off and started traveling through Bighorn National Forest. This was a spectacular surprise drive. We switchbacked up for an hour and down for an hour. Part of the road was a dirt path since it was under construction. Jared did a great job of driving this but still bottomed out a few times. There was still snow on the side of the road and tons of deer. I’d go back to Bighorn National Forest and spend time there. It was alpine delight and well kept. As we descended we stoped at Shell Creek Falls. This fall was at least 100 feet and was roaring. We took some quick pictures and then had to hit the road as we were tired and it was a LONG way to our campground. Jared missed hitting a deer by 10 feet that jetted out in front of us. We were in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully we were ok! We switched drivers and I got to Cody, WY ok but was then exhausted. I stopped and got some gummy bears and then munched through Jared’s remaining Chex Mix to make it awake to the Gates of Yellowstone. We were so late that they did not have an attendant posted. We entered and Jared woke up and helped me make it the rest of the hour to Bridge Bay Campground. I was getting worried as the car battery seemed to running very low and not charging well. It seemed to be doing better towards the end so that was good.
At 1:00AM Jared and I set up the tent and had Greg wait in the car so as to not disturb the other campers. There was a guy about 15 sites away who was snoring so loudly you could hear it throughout the whole campsite. We hope he’s gone tonight. I had to listen to my Ipod to go to sleep. Tomorrow we’re doing the Southern loop of Yellowstone.