It’s greening up big time in the badlands. Prairie flowers are in bloom, leaves are finally out on the few gnarled trees, and with warmer weather on the way a lot of other attractions in the South Dakota area are finally opening up.
I’ve been sitting patiently for over three weeks, waiting for our VIP cards to come in. The Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association has this program where employees working in the tourism industry get these discounts at area attractions, the idea being that then the employees will be able to talk to their customers about these attractions and get them interested in spending their money there too. I’ve been waiting to go to any other places until I got my card, so that I wouldn’t miss out on the deals included with it.
Well last week we all got our cards, and on my first day off this week, Monday, I ran around like a madwoman, cleaning the inside and outside of the RV, getting laundry and other chores done, so that I could have all day Tuesday to drive out and make use of my card.
Monday night I got on the computer, and googled the places I could get discounts at, trying to figure out which would be the best places to hit the next day. I started making notes on various attractions, and spent a good hour on it. By the end, I was feeling some frustration. Would it be better to make Custer State Park a whole day affair since I couldn’t get a discount there, to get the most for my money? And some places were far enough away that even with the discount the extra money for gas wouldn’t make the trip worth it if I didn’t enjoy the attraction. I went to bed Monday night still not sure exactly where I wanted to go the next day.
By Tuesday morning the answer was as clear as the blue sky dawning overhead. I have the whole summer to see everything I want to see, and there’s no point going to attractions I can get a discount at if it doesn’t sound like something I’d be interested in. Why try to rigorously schedule the whole day and feel bad if I don’t make every appointment? So I loaded some snacks, my hiking shoes, my VIP card information, and of course my camera, and I left the park heading west without a clear destination in mind.
Before long I found myself turning south, down to the other end of the badlands that is encompassed in the Pine Ridge Reservation. At CPL, we sell a lot of Native American goods that are made at Pine Ridge. I figured I’d go peek at what that end of the badlands range looked like.
The answer is about the same as the park end, although it doesn’t seem quite as drastic a drop off from upper to lower prairie. I found a few formations that had this dark red harder layer of rock on top of the lighter gray, that was pretty neat looking.
Then I decided to cut across west, toward the black hills which were a blue smudge on the horizon. I took highway 2, which looks like a pretty major road on my google maps phone app but is actually a dirt road. There was road construction along part of it and it was all torn up with little gravel and very loose dirt. Bertha slid around some but held her ground, it’s a very good thing there hasn’t been rainfall the past few days.
Along the drive I spied several old run down houses. I don’t think anyone lived in this one pictured, there wasn’t any evidence of a driveway or tire tracks anyhow. I look at these old buildings and wonder at the history behind them. Who lived here? Why’d they leave? Where are they now? They have such great character, it’s hard not to wonder about the stories behind those old walls.
After what felt like forever, but I think was probably an hour and a half (all dirt road, remember), I blinked and suddenly found myself at a dirt intersection in a tiny town. Buffalo Gap doesn’t have a population sign posted anywhere, but I’d be surprised if there were 100 residents. I loved the ‘main’ street though, it was lined with these stately old trees, just starting to show their summer green. Just a few miles beyond that was highway 79 which runs North to Rapid City and skirts the eastern edge of the Black Hills region.
On a whim I turned South, and after a bit of meandering found myself in Hot Springs, SD. Hot Springs seems like an artsy town. It’s got a bustling little downtown with galleries and specialty stores, a nifty looking museum perched on a hill overlooking it (closed still for the season sadly), and through it runs a clear stream – water draining down out of the black hills I’d imagine. I took a picture of a gorgeous mural covering one side of a business facing the stream, sadly this is only about 2/3 of it – I couldn’t back up far enough to catch the whole thing from the side of the stream I was on. Hot Springs also happens to have a Wells Fargo, so I was able to deposit my first pay check before the direct deposit kicked in.
The pine carpeted rocky hills around Hot Springs were sure a different experience after being so long in the Badlands. By this time it was already getting later in the day and I needed to head to Rapid City to do some shopping before heading back home, but this little peak of the region makes me excited to see more of it! I only get one day off next week, but the week after I’ll have 2 again, and I think one of them will be spent at Custer.
Until next time, have a good weekend all.