South Dakota - there's more there than you think!

We're starting to explore our huge country, by driving out to Idaho, where we're going to spend 6 days on the Salmon River, rafting rapids and camping.  Yes, Lisa is going to try camping.  You see, we're booked on a two week trip down the Colorado River through the entire length of the Grand Canyon next year, and I wanted to see if this is really something I can handle.  

We left Nashville kind of on a whim for timing.  We were initially going to leave in the morning and drive all the way to Kansas City, staying with my cousin, but we decided to break that first drive up.  So we left in the afternoon, calling Steve's mom on the way, asking if we could stay at her place (in St. Charles, MO) that evening.  She and her husband very graciously accepted our offer to pay for dinner that night, in exchange for a bed and bath.  The next morning, we went out and walked for an hour before driving on to Overland Park, KS (KC suburb).  The walking bit has been an activity that we've tried to engage in on a daily basis, keeping up our fitness, to a degree, as well as combating butt spread!  Our walk in Wall, SD was neat to watch the sun rise, and see the widespread and desolate plains all around.  Wall is "famous" for Wall Drug that is touted literally all across S. Dakota by billboards along the highway.  We were underwhelmed.

The Badlands, however, were awesome!  They are on the western border of the state, but you have to drive through a whole lot of empty land stretching to the horizon, to get to them (when you're coming from KC).  This was our first glimpse as we entered the National Park:


As we were driving, I just kept thinking about the settlers trying to get through this very inhospitable terrain (on foot and with covered wagons) to go on to Oregon and the coast.


This fella was part of a large prairie dog town just before the entrance of the park, and we were to see many more of these towns during our next several days of driving.  It was fun to stop and watch them right off the road, running from burrow to burrow, feeding, and calling/squeaking to each other.


As we drove further into the park, we were treated to gorgeous displays of wind and water carving that left the spires on the peaks above, as well as the color striations.

the aptly named Yellow Mounds

the aptly named Yellow Mounds


I initially thought these were pronghorn antelopes, given their white rumps, but they are actually bighorn sheep (females)!  Several days later, we were to come upon a herd of about 15 females and youngsters, who didn't seem to be afraid of us at all (to be covered in a later post).

Momma and baby

Momma and baby

This coyote was hanging out over a prairie dog town, hoping to get lucky

This coyote was hanging out over a prairie dog town, hoping to get lucky

Wonder why they call it a mule deer?

Wonder why they call it a mule deer?


Now, THAT'S a pronghorn.  As you can guess by the pretty grassland, we've moved on to a different park.  This was later that afternoon in Custer State Park, that we specifically went to for the wildlife along the scenic drive.

This big guy was right beside the road,


and he was following her:


As I looked back, he had broken into a trot ("objects in the picture are closer than they appear")


We made it safely down the road, and then stopped to eat lunch, while watching Romeo continue to pursue his Juliet.  They later joined the herd grazing in a field.


I'll close this post with a shot from Needles Highway, on the way to Mount Rushmore (we packed all of this in one day!).  A storm rolled in during the late afternoon, and we sat out the rain in the car, happily reading.