Corny Places and Badland-ings

Upon leaving Minnesota we saw a pile of corn - miles and miles of corn. So naturally when the billboards started for the coveted Corn Palace in South Dakota I was jonesing to check it out. I should start by saying there is not much in South not much at all. By the time we arrived at the exit for the Corn Palace I was thrilled. I was not very excited to find out that it's a fair drive off the exit, only building my excitement that magical things would surely be found inside. Unfortunately for us it was undergoing a huge renovation. The road was torn up in the front and chain link fence was up all around the entrance. We weaved up to the side door and found a makeshift gift shop inside the Gymnasium portion of the palace. The outside "corn" part of the palace was nothing more than templates where someone would eventually glue up half ears of dried up corn in different colors to make a mural. Needless to say… Ben was loving every minute of its pathetic misery, because that meant that I would be less excited to stop at future sub-par attractions.

Can you see the excitement?!
Meh.... the excitement has popped, so to speak. 
Needless to say, we continued on to the Badlands. The park got its name because when the pioneers crossed they said they were in fact, very "bad lands" to cross, and if you were doing it on a horse I'm sure that would be the case. We rolled into the park around 5:45 PM and hustled for the last available campsite, which had amazing views of the east end of the park. We set up camp, cracked open our last two 12 oz Shipyard beers and made ourselves a sandwich for dinner. After dinner we headed out to catch a South Dakota sunset and explore the hiking that we might want to do the following day.

A good rock stack at sunset in the Badlands. 
Our beautiful view at camp the first night. 
The sunset in the Badlands
The next morning we started out to hike the Saddle Pass, which was a very steep quarter mile that leveled out onto grasslands above. We decided it did not look that cool unless you were a rattlesnake, so we passed on that portion of the hike. We scooted over to the Door and Window Trails and did those before the masses ascended on the park. We then headed back to the main road to see if we could catch a tour of the Minuteman Missiles, but the tour was filled until three o'clock and we decided that we didn't want to wait that long.  

Saddle Pass gains 200+ feet of elevation in a quarter mile. 
Ben passed the end of the Window Trail. 
Looking back towards the other way. 
More Badlands (this used to be underwater FYI)
Bighorn Sheep chowing on some breakfast.
Ben rockin' the GoPro
We headed back to the park to seek out our next campsite – the free one, naturally at the other end of the park. We passed a very active prairie dog town as well as two bison way out in the distance. The free campsite was very basic - a field with two sets of pit toilets and not much else, but we set up the tent and decided that it would be a good time to head to the next touristy roadside attraction...Wall Drug.

After the Corn Palace we had a lot of room for improvement in terms of roadside attractions; Wall Drug delivered… sort of. The biggest plus for us was that there was Verizon LTE coverage there; the first we'd seen since we'd left Minneapolis. Wall Drug is a flea market of tchotchkes strewn across many different rooms and buildings with a few cafeterias mixed in. They also have a "backyard" of more of what I was looking for - things like a giant Jackalope that you can have your picture taken with, a gorilla playing the piano if you put $0.50 in the wall, free "ice cold" water that takes like chlorine, and an animatronic T-Rex that blows smoke and moves it's head every 12 minutes. I left Ben at a picnic table with strong LTE coverage and went to get some overpriced ice cream.

Prairie Dog Running like a crazy man. 
Wall Drug "fun?"
Where nukes used to be just dropped in the ground at Minuteman Missile.
After that bucket of excitement, we went to the self-guided Minuteman Missile which was pretty crazy to think about the other eight in the area. After that we headed back to the campsite which had filled up considerably since we left. We had our first exciting dinner of Raw Meal which Ben had been eager to try. Ben, bless his heart, has an uncanny ability to eat anything without gagging. He scarfed down Raw Meal like a champ - I had one sip of his and gagged when an unmixed chunk hit my lip. I will say that it's not that bad; not like the guys on the Amazon reviews made it sound. I had half a serving, but that was enough for me. We had an amazing sunset that night with beautiful pinks and oranges behind a hill near us. 

Ben embarking on his first RawMeal
South Dakota sunset.
The next morning we headed past Mount Rushmore. We didn't stop in because, while it's a free monument to see, if you want to park in the vicinity it's $11.00 and there is no discount for Annual Park Pass Holders. Thanks but, no thanks. We pulled over at the Rushmore overlook and then went on to Wyoming to Devils Tower. As Ben put it, it was a giant magma pimple. It was crazy busy there so we got our Nation Parks Passport stamped and headed on. 

Presidents getting all kissy faced. 
Devil's Tower HUGE from far away. 
Huge-er up close. 
The next point of interest we came to was the Big Horn National Forest. We drove up and over the mountains to an elevation of 10,000 feet and started to come back down when we saw a sign for "Medicine Wheel – no vehicle longer than 25 feet." We said what the hey and headed up the switchbacks. At the top of the mountain we found a ranger cabin and a sweet 65 year old ranger who asked us if we had any questions about the Medicine Wheel. It's a sacred Indian area where tribes from all over the country come and worship. Due to the nature of the Indian culture he said that they couldn't be sure on who built it or why. I'm guessing there will be an episode of ancient aliens coming up to help us explain it. We didn't have time to see it, but judging from the pictures it does look like a spaceship.

High atop Big Horn National Forest

What we thought the medicine wheel was, this is a radar for airplanes, NOT the medicine wheel. 

Big Horn National Recreation Area campsite view in the morning. 

We had planned on staying at a roadside motel once we got to the other side on the mountains but when we found out even the crappy ones with bad reviews were $70 a night, we reconsidered. So as it was late and I was getting "hangry" we started to look for a nearby campground and we lucked out. A while down a back road there is a National Recreation Area on a lake with totally free camping for the non-electric sites – there were flushing toilets and sinks. To date this has been my favorite site we've camped at, but there is no telling if my hungry, cranky self was just uber excited to have a place to lay down or if it was truly that great.

The next morning we packed up and headed to the Grand Tetons via Yellowstone National Park.


  1. While reading, I had to google what Raw Meal is. Looks "interesting".


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