South Dakota, Part II

We left for South Dakota on Saturday, June 15. That was the day that we stopped at Mt. Rushmore and Reptile Gardens on the way to Rapid City (previous post). We spent some time with Gayle’s parents, and then I settled in to the van for the night.

That was my first night sleeping in the van. It wasn’t really camping because just a few hundred feet away was the entrance to the Terra Sancta Retreat Center, where the lobby had a nice bathroom that I used several times. I also took a shower in Gayle’s room, so it wasn’t a serious test of camping in the van. But it was a test of sleeping in the van. I was pleased. My bed was comfortable, the curtains I made gave me great privacy, and the pull-over screens on the front doors let enough air in to prevent condensation.

I slept well. The parking lot was pretty much deserted. The retreat was hosting a family reunion after our first night, but they all parked at another entrance. So, in a way, it was just like being in the wilderness.

On Sunday, I left Gayle with her folks and took the interstate up to Spearfish, then drove down the canyon. South Dakota was gorgeous while we were there. They’d had a ton of rain, so everything was lush, although Spearfish Canyon would be beautiful any time, I’m sure. I wish I’d had the chance to ride that canyon on my motorcycle. It’s a fabulous, twisty road with fantastic scenery. I stopped at Bridal Veil Falls, a 60-foot waterfall that you can see right from the road.

Bridal Veil Falls

Then I followed the canyon down to Roughlock Falls, which was amazing.

View of Roughlock Falls from the final platform at the end of the trail

From there I drove down to Deadwood. In the past I probably wouldn’t have been all that interested in Deadwood, but in the past couple of months I watched the HBO series. So, of course, I wanted to see the usual Deadwood tourist sites—the place where Wild Bill Hickok was shot and Mt. Moriah cemetery, where he and Calamity Jane are buried. I spent some time wandering around Deadwood, stopping for a beer in one of the old bars. Then I drove up to the cemetery, which is pretty and affords great views of Deadwood below. 

Site of Wild Bill’s death
Where they captured Jack McCall
Wild Bill’s grave
Calamity Jane’s grave
Such a pretty cemetery

That night my van was especially cozy because it rained—hard—most of the night. The sound of the rain on the roof was especially nice. And my “screens” didn’t let any water come in, so I was warm and dry.

On Monday, Gayle and I drove the Badlands loop. I’ve seen a lot of formations like those in the Badlands, but what made them different was all the green prairie around them, which while we were there was covered in blooming clover. In the park, the loop road winds its way right through the middle of the formations, so you don’t have to view them from a distance. The Badlands are stunning, and I’m really glad we stayed an extra day to see them.

On Tuesday, we packed up and headed home. On the way, we stopped in Hot Springs, where Gayle’s friends own a beautiful property called Mule Deer Ridge.

We also stopped at the Mammoth Site. I hadn’t heard of it before, but if you’re ever in the area, go! It’s the greatest concentration of mammoth remains in the world. They’re still excavating and will be for many years to come.  You can watch volunteers working on the site while you do the tour.

From there we headed home on two-lane highways (I didn’t want to take the interstate again). The traffic was light, and it was another pretty day. What a great trip!

For my next trip, I’ll be heading up to Penticton, B.C., to visit some friends. On the way up, I plan to go through Couer d’Alene, which I’ve never seen. On the way home, I’ll spend a couple of days in the Glacier National Park area and visit our friends who have a hotel in Red Lodge, MT, before passing through Yellowstone and Grand Teton on my way home. It’ll be first real solo trip in the van. I plan to do dispersed camping the entire time, except for one night, for which I splurged and reserved a campsite on the lake ($10!). I’ll update this blog when I get home.

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