Monday, May 23, 2011

Badlands National Park, Wall Drug and Spearfish, SD

We arrived safely in Wall, SD early Saturday afternoon.  We set up camp at the Sleepy Hollow Campground.

 $29 with Good Sam, not fancy but had a great little dog park.

After hooking up we quickly headed for Badlands National Park.   The Pinnacles Entrance to the  park is about 7 miles outside of Wall.  We arrived at that entrance about 2pm.  The recommended route for viewing the park is to travel the Badlands Loop Road so we did for the next 3 hours. We first took the Sage Creek Rim Road off of the main loop, driving around 5 miles down the road.  It's mighty shallow to just say that the scenery is beautiful.  It's so much more.  It's endlessly unique.  The pictures will have to speak for themselves!

But in addition to the marvelous rock formations, we encountered great wildlife. (Sorry, more pictures coming!)  First there were the Bison.

They came right out to the road to visit with us.

It was a little intimidating.  They were VERY close and  Debbie kept "reminding" me they could charge at any time.

But we survived.  It was great fun. 

Then we came to the cutest of cute. Prairie Dogs.

Primarily they were guarding their homes but  they were such performers.  Again, a picture or two or three or more speaks a thousand words!

We later saw deer, and a great little rabbit. 

The whole Badlands experience was outstanding!

We then returned to Wall to visit the world famous Wall Drug.

It could be described as the largest trinket store known to man.  But it really includes so much more!  The "store" occupies multiple buildings that showcase western art, historic memorabilia, a Cafe, freshly made donuts, free water an animated dinosaur, jumping fountains for the kids to play in, a recreated saloon, old-timey photo salon and on and on.

Fortunately, Debbie and I are not shoppers so we didn't feel a  great need to spend a lot of time at the store.  This is not to say that some folks  might want to spend a day there,  just not us.

Sunday we drove about 125 miles to Spearfish, SD for our next volunteer position at the DC Booth Historic Fish Hatchery.  This will likely be our home until mid-September.  I'm already in love with the place.  We're camped in an area set aside solely for the DC Booth volunteers at the Spearfish City Campground.

It's a very nice campground, nicely lighted with ample space between sites  Our site backs up to what is suppose to be a nice little stream.  Because of the excessive rainfall in the area, it currently is a raging river.

We will watch it closely from our back window.

Hopefully we won't have to flee!

We're within walking distance of town and easy driving distance to any service or store we'd want.  Our friendly stream is only about 20 feet from the back of our camper.  Between us and the stream is paved walking/biking path that goes on for miles. I've already spent an hour and a half or more walking the paved trail.  We will spend endless hours on this trail that winds along the river and through the delightful town of Spearfish.  We also look forward to our volunteer duties and enjoying the many attractions in western SD.  So we're excited!!!



Saturday, May 21, 2011

Iowa to South Dakota (Anita, Iowa to Mitchell, South Dakota)

We arrived at Lake Anita State Park early afternoon on Friday, May 13.

The state park is located in the itty bitty town of Anita, Iowa.  The area is very rural with great farmland everywhere.

Consequently, the setting is oh so peaceful.  The park includes about 90 campsites  (40 with full hook-ups and the remainder electric only) that one way or another have a view of a nice size lake.

Electric only sites right on the lake 

Full hook-up sites further away, but still a nice view
View from in front of our site

There also are some wonderful bike/hike trails, including a 4 mile trail that completely circles the lake.

All in all a great scenic state park.  We enjoyed our week's stay there.

So once we got set up we drove about 15 miles into Atlantic to start our visit with Ryan.  The weekend was to include a great surprise for Ryan.  We are a blended family and my daughter Aubree had not seen Ryan for quite a few years.  They are both 26.  Aubree made arrangements to fly in for the weekend to visit with Ryan.  Omaha is the closest airport of size.  We told Ryan some made up story about why we were going to the airport.  Aubree just kind of appeared and Ryan was floored.  It couldn't have gone better!

Ryan and Aubree

We had a wonderful weekend together.  The weather was awful though, so we decided to see a couple movies.  Bridesmaids was hysterical (often in a warped kind of way) and Fast Five was great action junk. We also stuck with our horrible eating habits. (this must change and will soon!)  Aubree flew back to Dallas Sunday evening.  The rest of the week was spent with Ryan.  We hung out at the lake, Ryan's apartment and went to the Henry Doorley Zoo in Omaha. What a great place!  Along with the usual Lions and Tiger and Bears, the exhibits included an Aquarium,

Almost like snorkeling in the Caribbean!
 Butterfly Pavilion

 and an Aviary, where we saw many of the Florida birds we are already missing!

Roseate Spoonbill

Cattle Egret

After the zoo we ate at a unique place called HuHots.  Mongolian BBQ.  Outstanding!  I may have had 3 plates?  Shameful! 

We left Lake Anita Friday morning.  Normally we depart about 10am but today we needed to get an early start so we were on the road by 8.  Today's drive was just shy of 300 miles.  We're staying at the R and R Campground in Mitchell, SD.  The campground is nice, not special, but nice.

 We were assigned a large pull-thru site.

They accept Passport America so we're here for about $19.

The premier attraction "cash crop" in Mitchell is the Corn Palace.

This attraction "sprouted" in 1892.  It really is a building covered entirely with corn and corn products.  The corn is affixed to the building creating art.  The designs are changed each year.  Kind of like "rotating crops."   It may sound "corny" but there's not a "kernel" of sarcasms when I say it's a uniquely impressive structure.   The building is actually a convention hall but it's design is obviously meant to attract tourism.  The hall includes many murals also designed with corn only.

Given it's longevity, the "harvest" has apparently been bountiful! 

Saturday we head for the very famous Wall Drug.