Started off with some bad ass thunder storms in Sioux Falls. The lightening bolts were huge and the thunder booms immense, nothing like back home I am glad we got to experience a Midwest thunderstorm. The previous night we chatted up a crew of construction workers who were partying at the restaurant across from the hotel to get the scoop on local matters. Our main goal was to avoid any tourist crap and experience the hidden gems, which only locals can clue you in on.
They filled us in on speeding tolerances, which is 3-4mph over the limit (which was usually 80mph), my guess is this has something to do with the way fines are calculated for the speed you are over the limit. They more importantly told us what NOT to see (“Wall Drug” which is pretty much every billboard in SD and Reptile Gardens). The first thing i had asked them was if the falls were worth checking out in town, he shrugged and was like “yeah, i guess… they are pretty cool but its really the only thing to see around here”. Afterwards he started talking with the rest of his crew filling them in on our situation asking them where good places for us to go where, and his friend immediately piped in “DUDE, whatever you guys do you HAVE to go to Hippie Hole”. Now here is where i would normally explain what Hippie Hole is, but it’s better if you just keep reading 🙂
Due to the rain, we got a slow start and didn’t end up leaving the hotel until 11ish. Our first stop was going to be a much needed car wash to get all the bugs off, but the rain took care of that good enough so we decided to get the tires on the truck rotated and balanced instead as i could feel they were really starting to get off balance and needed a rotation as well. After striking out at 2 mega-chain tire stores, we lucked out at the 3rd place which was a local auto mechanic. He got us right in and out, didn’t give us any crap about Odie, charged a fair price and wished us luck and safety on our travels.
THE FALLS!!!!!!!!!! 🙂
Ok… they were pretty cool, definitely worth checking out since it was only 5 minutes up the road in the “City” (the definition of a City is quite comical in SD). Had to dawn the rain gear since it was showers on/off still but we got alot of good pictures and Odie got some good exercise before the long drive. Our next destination was Mt.Rushmore but we made the best decision of our entire life by “taking the scenic route through the badlands”.
At the park entrance we saw there was only an option for a week pass, not a day pass. Being the frugal person i am, i silently questioned this but the next morning we both laughed at each other at the thought of only wanting a day pass for the Badlands, we could have spend a week here easily!
As soon as we rounded the corner from the entrance and saw the views, we were struggling to pick our jaws up off the floor. I had done some research already about camping in the park, and there were 2 sites, 1 as soon as you go in with a ton of RV’s and kids running around, and the one we stayed at in the very back of the park down a long dirt road (Sage Creek Campground). Again, best decision of our life. Words cannot describe the views, so here are pictures to do the work for my mouth.
There always has to be “that guy” who gets too close to the Bison…. well the next morning i was “that guy”.
When we woke up, there were 2 bison grazing literally feet from the truck.
We were camped in the horse area, so there were some wooden structures and a little corral which i used a barriers in case the bison decided to charge me. I was able to eventually make my way INTO the horse corral, as there was a Bison feeding right next to it so i could get some good pics behind the protection of the fence. I was so close i could touch him, but he was starting to show signs he was aware of me so i didn’t piss him off 🙂
(yeah i know what your thinking… “your nuts” well no i didn’t just run up to the bison trying to get pictures with no regard for safety. This was a well frequented campsite so one could logically infer that these bison are used to people being around and walking up with little bricks in their hands then running away, as was the case. Signs of aggression are pretty obvious and as long as your not making fast or aggressive moves your not going to upset a bison who could knock you into next week. It also helps to have a metal cage around you 😛 ).
After making some coffee, we hiked up to the top of the hills behind the campsite to get some more amazing pictures of the landscape. Again, words do no justice, be amazed by the pics:
Our next destination was Mt.Rushmore, which was about a 1hr drive away. We opted for the back roads again which proved to be another great decision. Rushmore was EXTREMELY touristy. Once you see it, you realize its one of those things you go to see, just to say you saw it. The Badlands blew Rushmore out of the freaking water!
Now everyone that know me, knows that my buddy Odie goes wherever i go, no matter what…. even if there are 5 million signs that say “no pets” (he’s not a pet, hes mah boy! 😛 ). So naturally, i slapped on his “Working dog, do not pet” vest and we headed up the monument! When he has his vest on, he knows he’s working and behaves extremely well, so everything went off without a hitch and Odie was one of the few lucky pups to visit the Rushmore site.
Speaking of water….. whats the Hippie Hole thing i was talking about earlier? Oh damn did i just give a hint that water is involved? Probably the coolest place near Mt.Rushmore, and you’ll be damned if you catch a tourist there! Hippie Hole is a big bowl of water down in a valley of rocks off a forest service road, no way in hell you are finding this place unless someone local tells you about it or you somehow stumble across it online. Very similar to some places in NH and ME i have been to with big pools of water up in the mountains.
Now…. every single person i have met from SD and talked to about Hippie Hole said “YOU HAVE TO JUMP IN!!!”. Well, its September…. 65*F temp… and i know the water is much colder….. since so many people had raved about this place we knew we had to at least go and take some pictures but was probably not going to jump in. We had followed a guy in to the site on a Harely off-road (this guy had some serious riding skills to be riding off-road, i dont know how the hell he was riding on these trails with a street bike, I turn on 4wd in the truck). When we got to Hippie Hole, he told us he had been down the day before and jumped in and climbed up out on the rope, and gave us some tips on how to get down to it since the trail was pretty treacherous. Yet another local telling me i had to jump in….. damn… should I?
We’ve been watching alot of “Bear Grylls” lately… so i decided it was time to join the Bear Grylls club and “strip down to my skivvies” and jump into a freezing cold body of water, on a cold day. What a rush!!!! Just looking over the edge got my heart pounding, and when i jumped off the cliff it was like slow motion! The water was cold and sucked the breath out of me but once i climbed back up the cliff i warmed right up when the adrenaline hit me, despite being practically naked and soaking wet, totally worth it!
Odie tired from a hard days work at Mt.Rushmore and hiking the hills of the Badlands.
We had originally planned to camp behind Rushmore, but decided to hit up a hotel in Gillette, WY which is on the way to Yellowstone. We’ve been avoiding campground and going the primitive camping route in the National Forests/Parks (usually just a pit toilet available, no showers, etc.) so it’s nice to sleep in a real bed every other day and get a shower.
Tomorrow we head to Yellowstone, then spend a day or two there and also Grand Teton which is just south of there, following that we have our sights set on Moab, UT and then Colorado before we have to turn back home…
More to come, thanks for reading!