ethanessig Feb/ 4/ 2018 | 0
One of my three goals this year is to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. That is a two-day drive for me. When I go to these places, I always take I-80, up and through South Dakota. Let me tell you why.
Badlands National Park:
This beautiful place is located in the Southwest corner of South Dakota, the same state that is home to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Devils Tower. The best way for me to get to these fantastic locations from Kansas City is I-80. The Badlands are always the first stop right before getting into Rapid City.
The Badlands are special. I have been there three times in my life. Once as a young teen, a college student, and fresh out of school on a road trip. Each time I experienced a different part of this weird place and took something new away.
My First Time:
I was a chubby teen on a family trip, but still had the heart of an explorer. This trip was my first time seeing something wilder than the plains and woods of Missouri. The adventure did not go far concerning distance, but indeed an experience. Climbing around the buttes at the entrance of the park, completely immersed in this new world. A short time was spent here until we had to get back in the car and head to Mount Rushmore. A short amount of time, but lasting memories. A taste of my future.
The Ignorant Adventurer:
I was on my first long road trip as a young adult. I took the tour with my best friends, nick, and Conor. We drove through the night and stopped in the Badlands in the early afternoon. I recognized the buttes. My heart filled with excitement. We quickly got out and started exploring. Mimicking what I did a few years earlier. This time I saw much more. We were able to get higher and look out to the vastness of the parks. It looked like the entrance to a giant and desolate maze. We decided to hike in a little bit. What we didn’t realize was that we were quickly off the trail, and making a poor decision. The only thing that helped us was following a small stream.
Blind to our poor decision, the three of us were so happy to be in the wilderness. Enjoying our first real taste of freedom, taking in all of that new information. It was just as crucial for my development as my first time there. Luckily, we did not get lost and came out better than we were. A bit less arrogant and ignorant. Ready to see what the rest of the trip had to offer.
A Few Years Ago:
My brother (Noah) and I were headed out for a long trip to Yellowstone. It was the beginning of June, and we arrived at the park at the height of the sun. It was hot and muggy. We spent time at the visitors center, learning and reading a bit about the park. We did not have a long to be out on the trail (this time picked a trail), so we chose a short one that kept us on the planes.
It had just rained, so there was a good amount of standing water. This liquid kept us in touch with some lovely mosquitos the entire hike. That part was miserable. We both had 40-50 bites. What was the fun part? Walking across the plains that so many historical figures (people and wildlife) had walked before. The same land that Red Cloud led his people across. It was surreal.
One of the best moments was a deer that we got to follow for a portion of the trail. Something I see all the time here in Missouri, but it felt different in this wild place. The deer watched us and kept a good distance, allowing us to share a few moments with it.
A day filled with announces, history, and life.
Short Time and A Lot of Learning:
The three times I have been in the Badlands have been short. No more than several hours. Even in the short time there, a lot learned. Each moment, I was at a much different point in my life. Each time I saw something new. There is always more to a road trip than the end destination. A little bit of time is still worth it. I look forward to being back in this place.