Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 2: Exploring the Badlands

Sunday, June 1: Our first full day

We woke up and cooked a breakfast of scrambled eggs with sausage and veggies using a pan and Jetboil on our front porch. In the light of day, we saw that ours was the third Subaru Forester in a row on our block of cabins. After breakfast we checked out of our cabin and began to explore the park. There were several short hikes that we completed, including one known for its spectacular view that came with a warning “not for those afraid of heights.”



I am pretty acrophobic, but I gave it a shot and climbed the ladder that took us to the next part of the trail. The view was indeed fantastic, which I enjoyed a nice and safe full 5 feet away from the edge.


Kurt is braver than I am when it comes to heights

After we finished hiking, we left the park to check out Wall Drug (where we purchased the mounted jackalope head I’ve always wanted because I am a weirdo) and tried to see the Minuteman Missile Site, which was sadly and inexplicably closed. On the way back, we drove the Badlands Scenic Loop, keeping an eye out for bison. Sure enough, we spotted their distinctive shapes dotting the green meadows. Once we got to the primitive campground at Sage Creek, we saw a few more hanging out about 200 yards away on a hill, grazing calmly. The forecast called for rain, so we quickly set up our tent and cracked open a few local beers we had picked up at the grocery store in Sioux Falls. After a brief rain passed, Kurt and I got in one more quick hike towards the river, coming across yet another bison on the way. It was our closest view of one yet, and their size was impressive. Though they seem pretty chill, they can be aggressive and do serious damage with their horns, so we kept a respectable distance. The wet ground acted like clay, clumping to our boots with each step. It made it difficult to hike very far, so we headed back to camp to clean ourselves up and relax before night fell.

our first campsite of the trip

our first campsite of the trip

As the sun went down, other hikers staying at the campgrounds slowly returned from their explorations. A neighboring camper remarked that he had heard coyotes yipping at him. Sure enough, as we slept in our tents that night we could hear the howls and yips of the pack.


diamond doll at the Badlands

Sites visited: Wall Drug, Minuteman Missile Site
Wildlife sightings: bison, bighorn sheep, jackalope (heh), coyotes (heard only)

Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 1: the Badlands

Saturday, May 31, 2014: we hit the road 

photo 1

packing up the Subaru

Kurt and I set the alarm bright and early for 5 am to get a head start on our longest day of driving (12 hours total). After saying goodbye to our dog River and my parents (who cared for her during our 2-week trip), we left their house in the Chicago suburbs and set out for South Dakota. The drive was mostly uneventful, though we did have to make a few stops to refasten one of the kayaks to the roof of our car. The high winds on the road pushed and pulled on the kayaks enough to crack one of the brackets on our roof rack, which we tightened back in place with heavy duty straps. Finally, we got the kayaks secure and were able to finish the drive.

photo 2

we arrive!

We arrived at Badlands National Park a little after 8 pm local time. Almost immediately, we saw several female bighorn sheep cross the road in front of our car and shoot up the side of a craggy ridge. Since we knew we’d be rolling into the park pretty late and didn’t want to deal with setting up a tent after such a long day in the car, we had rented a cabin at Cedar Pass within the park. We grabbed a late dinner of fry bread and bison burgers, checked into our cabin, and relaxed on the adirondack chairs on our porch with cold beers in hand, watching a lightning storm in the distance. It was a near perfect start to our adventure.

photo 3

female bighorn sheep

States passed through: Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota
Wildlife sightings: female bighorn sheep, wild horses