Day 46: 400ish miles in 1 really big state

by Kate Djupe

Custer State Park has a few different campsites - there are only 2 that I have experience with: Sylvan Lake is great for hot summer camping because it is near the perfect lake for dipping and some of the easier rock climbing routes; Blue Bell is closer to the horse stables and the Wildlife Loop. It is also THE campsite to stay at should you want to dodge bison in order to go to the bathroom or you want to wake up to a flock of wild turkeys surrounding your tent and gobble gobbling. 

This morning, I woke up at 5am to that flock of turkeys fighting right near my head. The only thing separating my noggin from flying feathers would be a very thin tent wall. I have no idea how Christy and Lori slept through it. I was out of my sleeping bag cocoon and the tent and onto the nearby picnic table for bird watching in no time flat.  

When everyone else woke up 45 minutes later, the birds were half way across the campgrounds and the bison were grazing nearby.

We cleaned up, broke down camp, and loaded into the car in record time. We had things to see.

First up, wildlife. 

Well, sort of wild life.

The bison were in the process of being moved to the west side of the park (closer to our campsite) for the winter by local ranchers.

(there are a lot of bison photo because I love my husband very much and because there were a lot of bison being herded by a lot of cowboys and cowgirls in their chaps and plaid shirts and hats)

And where there are bison, there are almost always pronghorn.

There were prairie dogs and birds that only Lori and Christy were able to identify and then there was this:

This is not an album cover for the Wild Asses. Nope. This is a well choreographed hold-up. These donkeys want food and love.

And they will do whatever it takes to get it.

If that doesn't work, they lay on the cute.

Extra close up cute.

They appeal to your maternal sympathies.

They swarm your car and refuse to move.

And when that doesn't work, these asses go for whatever they can get - like serious relief by scratching on your rearview mirror.

We managed to escape. Barely. And saw some wondermous landscapes.

And the rock formations that are so uniquely Black Hills.

And before we knew it, it was time to head to the Badlands.

The drive to the Badlands was pretty spectacular if you love large, open skies like I do.

And then as we got closer to the Badlands, the quality of road signs increased exponentially.

Someone should warn Lori and Christy about that, right?
The Badlands are amazing. This trip through them, I was really aware that these rock formations used to be at the bottom of an ocean (80 million years ago). It could be that I am much more aware of dinosaurs these days but I couldn't stop imagining the creatures that would have been swimming around these formations. It was awfully spooky.

And we did my favorite thing to do in the Badlands - follow the ridge lines.

The views after the Badlands were pretty much the same all the way to Sioux Falls.
Somewhere around Chamberlain, SD, civilization starts to seep back into the landscape. There is traffic. There are people. It isn't a very far distance from one settlement to the next. Lights are brighter, sounds louder, more built, less wild, people everywhere. This is where the trip starts to get a more real life and a little less dream sequence.

Also, today was my birthday.