Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Badlands

Just spent the last 2 days in the South Dakota Badlands - what a awesome and weird place! We drove via Wall Drug Store - this is 'famous' in SD mainly coz it's decided to put up about a zillion bill boards along the side of the main interstate advertising the shop for miles and miles. Quite touristy now but full of just everything! Including moose antlers!!

The Badlands themselves are served by a nicely located scenic loop road taking in many great sights and viewpoints. We took a slow drive along the road before stopping our first night in the park campground. We went out on a 'night prowl' with a ranger listening to all the critters and watching the stars. It was a full moon so it was really clear and bright and the moonshine on the rock formations was really cool and eerie.

Got up before dawn to ride out and take some photos of the sunrise. This early morning thing we've been doing quite a lot of lately. It was initially a shock to the system but now it's really the best time of the day. It's still cool then and there just isn't anyone else about. It's great in the national parks as it's so peaceful and empty and you actually have a chance to hear silence and appreciate your surroundings.

The day was simply too hot to do our planned 10 mile hike so without too much dissappintment(!) we rode out to the Minuteman II Missle site. It's one of America's newest National sites and the only one dedicated to the cold war era. We toured the bunker and missle launch control centre - very interesting stuff - we got our own personal tour since the standard tours were booked solid - we'd got chatting to a guy who volunteered there and he'd lived in Witney in UK! Chatted some more and he said he'd take us out to the site for our own tour - great guy and so much more interesting as he'd worked as a missle control person in SD in the 70's so had so much knowledge.

Last night we camped out in the wilderness. You can tent camp anywhere in the park so long as you're not visible from the road which is easy with all the rock formations. Another clear bright night we laid out and watched shooting stars and listened to all the critters nearby (and praying I didn't have a 'james bond' moment and wake up with a snake slithering across my body!) Got woken up by the heat of the sun about 5.30 this morning!! Another hot hot day ahead methinks! Had a great sight of the full moon this morning peaking out above some great coloured rocks being lit by the sun - shame my photography just doesn't convey the image we saw!!

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