Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Road Trip Day-2

Day 2 of our road trip, June 12th, started under very gloomy and rainy skies. We were heading west from Mitchell South Dakota with the next stop to be Deadwood, South Dakota. Now distance wise this is only about 315 miles, but I had planned to spend a good deal of the day driving through Badlands National Park. I was forced to pass up on many areas that I would have liked to visit due to time constraints. Driving west on I 90 through South Dakota I had to pass on stopping at places like Fort Pierre and Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. The most frustrating part was not being able to control the weather. Upon arrival at Badlands, it was still gloomy and cloudy, but the rain was tapering off.
I was a little frustrated because I had hoped to get some really good landscape images from the park. But after getting into the park the rain stopped, but as you can see from the photos the sky was still very dark and ominous. But as it turned out, the clouds and ugly skies made for some dramatic landscape scenes by creating an all together different mood than I had planned on. I only had a small window of time to visit on this trip so I knew I had to make the most of it. Fortunately my wife and friends were very tolerant of me wanting to stop and take photos often.
Badlands was established as a National Monument in 1939, and designated as a National Park in 1978. The park encompasses 244,00 acres and has about one million visitors a year. The park contains the largest expanse of protected prairie ecosystem in the country. The park is also considered one of the world's richest mammal fossil beds. You could easily spend several days exploring and seeing all the sights and activities available there. But if you are on a short schedule, the best thing to do is drive the highway 240 loop through the park. This will allow you to see much of the most scenic areas and have plenty of places to stop for photos.

As I continued to drive and stop often to do some landscape photography, I notice some breaks in the clouds. It appeared that the weather gods were going to possibly give me a break and I might get to see some good light yet on this day.
Then suddenly there was some dramatic breaks in the clouds and blue skies and rays of sunlight started filtering through. I was nearing the end of the hwy. 240 loop and was now on the west side of the park. I took a side road to find this large prairie dog village in the grasslands area of the park.                                                                                                   
Prairie Dogs were almost wiped out at one time by ranchers as being a pest, and their dens were dangerous to livestock and horses when then ran and stepped in a den hole. But they were given government protection and are making a strong comeback. To see a large village of this creatures is a real sight. Hundreds and hundreds of them sitting near the entrance's to their dens ever on guard for the many threats they face.

Another fixture of the west is the Pronghorn, or Pronghorn Antelope, although it is not a true Antelope. Out west there seem to be more Pronghorns than there are humans. With all the vast open land they are visable and plentiful as you drive along the highways of the west.

At the point we exited the park, we were at Wall South Dakota. If you have ever been through this area, or are planning a trip in the future, another slice of Americana is the Wall Drug Store. Just like the Corn Palace in Mitchell, it is one of those places you must stop and experience. Once you have been here you may not stop again, (I won't) but you have to do it once to say you have been there. They have signs along all the major highways for hundreds of miles advertising the Wall Drug Store. Kind of like driving in Florida and seeing all the signs for Ron Jon's Surf Shop. This tourist attraction has grown over the years and has turned into a sprawling maze of rooms and stores that ecompass an entire city block. If you have kids you will have a tough time getting them to leave here. Here is a good link with more information on the Wall Drug Store.

After that stop it was on to Deadwood South Dakota. Why Deadwood? Can you say casino hotels!

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