Day 3 - Wind Cave National Park
|Tuesday, August 15, 2023: We were up at sunrise and eager to start the day. It was a beautiful morning without a cloud in the sky, and we quickly packed up and were on the road by 7:30 AM.
|Our first stop was at McDonald's at the end of the road leading to the campground. Check out the list of credits for the McDonald's bag. Hilarious!
|We crossed back into Iowa, sped up Interstate 2, ...
|... and were in South Dakota six minutes later.
|Even though it was more than 200 miles away, we started seeing billboards for Wall Drug as soon as we entered the state.
|We took this exit because it's a Bundlings travel rule that we have to visit towns named after family members.
|First up was Beresford, South Dakota.
|We next worked our way through sixteen miles of road construction and one-lane traffic, ...
|... to get to Irene, South Dakota.
|It was a good thing that our route was taking us north from here, because not only was the road closed past the one big intersection in Irene, it looked like the road no longer existed west of here.
|We joined up with I-90 and immediately took the exit for the rest area less than a mile later.
|After seeing several billboards advertising the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, we decided that we had to visit it again to see how it was currently decorated. There were lions jumping through flaming hoops on the side of the building, ...
|... and elephants performing on this side.
|The marquee had another clue: Under the Big Top - 2022.
|It's the circus!
|The banners on the street lamps showed the decorations from previous years. Here's 2007, ...
|... 2000 to 2001, ...
|... 2014, ...
|... and 2012.
|The city really embraces the Corn Palace, with ears of corn on the street signs, ...
|... and at the base of the streetlamps.
|Back on the highway, we passed this beautiful field filled with sunflowers.
|Check out the bug crawling up the silo. It's a VW Bug!
|Just after 1:30 PM, we had reached the Badlands, ...
|... and this iconic dinosaur statue means that we have reached the exit for Wall, South Dakota.
|The parking was surprisingly reasonable, and we found a spot quite close to Wall Drug.
|Our first stop was at a store that sold what could only be described as cowboy apparel to buy gloves for Tom. When he packs up the tent after it has been wet, his hands get all muddy and dirty, which is icky. He picked a beautiful pair of burgundy leather work gloves.
|Work gloves in hand, we headed straight for the donut counter in the cafe.
|We bought four chocolate-glazed cake donuts and got back on the road. There was still a long way to go before we reached our destination, so we decided to have one donut each now and save the other two for later.
|Two hours later, we were driving through the town of Hot Springs, South Dakota, which surprised us with its beautiful buildings.
|There's beautiful stone work on the Red Rock River Hotel and Spa building.
|Just after 4 PM, we arrived at Wind Cave National Park, which was our destination for this day.
|This herd of bison was grazing on both sides of the road leading into the national park.
|Awww. Look at this cute calf!
|We passed fields full of prairie dogs. Check out these two adorable ones at this hole.
|At the visitor center, we nearly walked right by the Mather plaque without seeing it. Both of us had forgotten that we were going to get a Mather plaque today.
|This plaque is part of the 1959 series, and it served as the master for the 1991 series of plaques.
|One of the reasons we had forgotten about the Mather plaque is because we were here for another reason. We were looking for a specific ranger to deliver a bright pink Post-It note on which her mother had written her name. Debbie's dental hygenist mentioned that her daughter was a ranger at Wind Cave so Debbie told her we'd be visiting here the next month, so promised to look for her daughter. Unfortunately, Sierra was not working today, so we left the brightly colored Post-It with another ranger to deliver to her.
|We checked out the exhibits that explained the history of Wind Cave National Park.
|After leaving the Visitor Center, we headed to Elk Mountain Campground, where we had a tent site reserved.
|We had a wonderfully private spot, which had a picnic table halfway up the hill from the tent pad. We spread out our Neat Sheet and ate the remaining donuts from Wall Drug and the last of the milk that we had brought with us.
|After being very surprised to learn that we had cellular service in a National Park, we were excited that we could stream the most recent episode of "Claim to Fame" on Hulu. Being two time zones behind Audrey and Dean worked in our favor, and we were able to coordinate watching it at the same time. They needed a few minutes before they would be ready to watch, ...
|... so we decided to set up camp. We brought stuff from the van up the hill to the picnic table, and from there up the rest of the hill to the tent.
|Look at this beautiful caterpillar that was crawling through our campsite! There were gorgeous speckled spots running down its back. We're guessing this is going to be a beautiful butterfly once it transforms.
|Cheers! It's time to watch the show!
|Here's our campsite. There was room to park one vehicle, and this photo shows the elevation change between the parking spot, the picnic table, and the tent pad.
|There wasn't any power at the tent sites, so one enterprising camper used the outlet in the men's bathroom, ...
|... to charge a laptop and a tablet. Not sure that it was the smartest choice to balance electronics above a toilet without a lid, but points for creativity.
|There was no rain in the forecast, so we left the rainfly off the tent. The mesh top gives such fantastic views that we leave it off whenever we can. Isn't this view fantastic?
|As we listened to all of the birds around camp, Tom used his Merlin app to identify a redheaded woodpecker that was making interesting calls in the trees above us. We spent the evening working on our laptops and relaxing before going to bed and falling asleep looking at the stars through the open tent top.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy