(June 20 – 24, 2019) Why it called “Badlands”? It says “French Trappers in the mid-1700s, frustrated by the land’s sharp peaks and crumbling rock, regarded the area as ‘les mauvaises terres’ (bad lands). The Lakota (a Native American Tribe) also began calling this place Mako sica (land bad).”
Sometimes, timing is the most important thing in life. It seems I visited South Dakota during the best time. It was just beautiful. Badlands National Park was a lot more than I expected. Driving a loop road, I stopped often to take pictures.
Mount Rushmore (Parking Fee: $10) is on the way from Bandlands National Park to Wind Cave National Park. I took a self-guided audio tour (Rental: $6) and learned a lot about Mount Rushmore. The sculptor Gutzon Borglum started this project when he was 60 years old. His son Lincoln Borgulm completed it. “The construction of Mount Rushmore National Memorial took 14 years, from 1927 to 1941.” Looking at the sculptures of four Presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Ted Roosevelt, and Lincoln), I figured there are un-carved rocks for possibly five more presidents. Which presidents would it be? Is it possible? I cannot imagine how much politics would be involved to just pick one!
My next visit was Wind Cave National Park, Some describe this park as ‘Yellowstone married Carlsbad’ as you can see free roaming animals (Yellowstone National Park) and also interesting caves (Carlsbad Caverns National Park). It was nice staying at the Elk Mountain Campground ($18/night) in the park. I took two guided tours (only way to see caves in the park): Candlelight Tour ($15) and Fairground Tour ($12).
One morning, it rained non-stop. How can I make my morning coffee in the rain? There are no coffee shops/restaurants/stores anywhere close by. I drove around the campground and found a roof covered table (an empty group campsite). There were two Asian couples having breakfast. I greeted them in English and later switched to Korean. One couple live in Minnesota and the other in Atlanta, Georgia. They poured me freshly made coffee.
One day, I went hiking. At the trailhead, someone left a note “Rattlesnake was seen about 15 feet from the trailhead.” A while ago, a park-ranger told me that “if you see a rattlesnake, consider yourself lucky.” I figured seeing a rattlesnake is less dangerous than seeing a bear. I enjoyed hiking on the trail.
On another trail, I met a guy from Minnesota. We hiked together. After that, he went back hiking another trail. His plan was to stay overnight in the back country camping alone. Then, next day, hiking on a long distance “Centennial Trail” in the park. He told me that he has been busy enjoying his retirement (five years ago) by running Marathons and training for Iron Man Competition and 100 Miles Race (the clock keeps ticking when runners are resting). I envied his back country camping alone because I am timid for it!