When I first suggested we drive to Utah from Saint Paul for my brother's wedding, Matt needed some convincing. The route covered places we'd never seen and never would unless we took to the road. For us, the vacation could start as soon as we got in the car instead of following a day of airports and cramped planes. So, with very little planning on our part, we headed west toward Utah, ready to stop whenever the mood struck us.
Neither of us had done the drive before, and I must say I'm smitten with South Dakota. Wyoming was rather bleak this time of year, but we're used to the desolate landscape of West Texas from our may drives from Dallas to California.
It wasn't until we were in South Dakota that we realized how close Badlands National Park is to Mount Rushmore (a definite stop on our trip), and since this month marks the 100 year anniversary of the national park service, we pulled off the highway and took the scenic route.
It's an eerily quiet place- there's nothing to catch a breeze and any sound falls flat. It is a bleak, alien landscape the color of haze, and yet it was beautiful in its own way.
Unlike many places we've been, guests are free to roam the grounds, and so we stretched our legs and explored a bit.
It lacks the grandeur of Bryce Canyon, although they are similar in many ways. It's probably unfair to compare two national parks since each offers something unique, so I will say that the Badlands' splendor is its ugliness- you find the strangeness appealing.
I don't know that we'll ever make it back, and I won't even wager that everyone needs to visit here at some point or another just for the experience; I'm just glad for our experience. I enjoy the moments that are memories even as your making them.