Sorry for the delay guys! Off we go on Day 3!
We woke up to a cloudy morning in Niobrara State Park. We hoped the rain would hold off long enough to get packed up. Unfortunately while we were cooking breakfast (pancake and bacon sandwiches) the thunder started and the sky let loose. Luckily we moved the dining tent over the grill and trailer when the thunder started so we were still able to get breakfast done and started packing up what was under the tent to get ready to put on the trailer. While we were cooking a park ranger came by to see if we needed anything. He asked if he could take a picture of our set up and we agreed. Later it ended up on their Facebook page which was pretty cool!!
When we were able to get a break in the rain we tried to get things taken down quickly. Just as we got tents down the sky opened up again. In total it probably rained an hour and a half that morning. It slowed us down a little bit but we still were completely packed up and on the road by 9:30 am, just a half hour behind schedule.
The goal for day 3 was to make it to Badlands National Park and then on to Devils Tower KOA in Wyoming. It was a long day of driving. Before we left people told us over and over that that was the hardest stretch of the drive. I couldn't understand what they meant, until we got going. The drive was beautiful and hilly and breathtaking in some places. But it also felt like it went on forever!! There was nothing but land, a lot of it Indian Reservations. In fact that day we drove through several of the largest reservations we would see, Rosebud and Pine Ridge. I was shocked and saddened by the intense poverty that was very apparent on both of these reservations (also could be seen on smaller reservations that we drove through as well.) You would drive by these houses that looked like they were 2 bedrooms, maybe 3 at the most, very, very tiny clapboard houses or dilapidated mobile homes. There were a ton of old cars in the yard, as well as old refrigerators, washing machines, etc. Broken windows, tarps on roofs where they were leaking, just junk everywhere! I wondered about all the cars and my brother said they probably had 10-12 people living in that one house together!! Yikes! And we feel like we're on top of each other in our 5 bedroom, 3 1/2 bathroom house sometimes! First world problems, ya'll! It really kind of put things into perspective!
The hardest part about the drive really was all the up and downs of the hills. You would climb a hill and think there was something on the other side, just to see there was just another hill! I'm not going to lie...I got a little testy after a while! It felt like we were never going to get there! We were waiting to have our picinic lunch once we arrived at the park because there was really no where else to stop. My blood sugar was dropping fast and this mommy got a little cranky!!
I haven't mentioned yet that we had walkie talkies with us on our trip. We had several in the van and several in my mom's car. I'll have to do a post on the handles we came up with for everyone, etc. but that'll be a little later! My brother radiod at one point and said "Look at that road ahead of us!" and I said "I can't! It just makes me wanna cry!!" A few moments later my mom was on the radio saying there was a stop ahead where we could go to the bathroom, stretch, etc. We stopped at this little gas station on the reservation and went in to use the bathroom. I apologized for being so cranky but that I was having a hard time that day. My mom said that I needed to speak up when I felt myself getting overwhelmed. It didn't do anybody any good to push and push and push and burn out this early. Unfortunately we just had to make it to our destination. We opened the trailer and got everybody a sweet and a salty snack to hold them over until we could reach our picnic destination. After eating those I felt much better and vowed not to let my blood sugar drop that low again...it makes me super cranky!!
After that I tried to really enjoy the landscape we were driving through. Especially because we started seeing formations like this out of our window:
It's kind of hard to not be impressed by that!! It took almost 5 1/2 hours with stops but we finally arrived in Interior, South Dakota at an adorable little gas station outside of the park.
Entering the Badlands feels like getting dropped onto Mars. It really just feels otherwordly and I think it's safe to say that it was probably my favorite thing that we saw on our trip. We got into the park and stopped to have some lunch. Afterwards we went through the Visitor's Center and drove through the park.
|How's that for a view while you're eating lunch?!?!? Amazing!!|
|Some fossils that they have found at the Badlands National Park.|
We drove through this breathtaking park for a while and stopped in a spot that we knew the kids could get out and do some hiking and climbing. The formations look like they are very stable but in fact they are not. They actually start to crumble under your fingers when you touch it. In fact, they say if you go back in 50 years the formations will look completely different. They are constantly changing.
Steven, Michael, Chris and Shelly took Brianna, Jonah and Micah on a hike through some of the formations. Mom and I decided to stay behind in the shade of the trailer so that I could feed Eli and let mom rest for a while. I tried doing a little formation climbing of my own but didn't go very high because, well, I'm a bit of a wuss and worry about things like breaking my neck and being 100 miles from the nearest hospital! lol
The kids really enjoyed their hike and were kind of disappointed that they didn't see any black footed ferrets, which are known to live in this area. They also didn't see any Rattlesnakes, which made their mommy really happy!
Our favorite overlook came right before we exited the park. It was an amazing view of most of a good section of the park. It really was such an awe inspiring feeling to look out over these formations. They are massive and intimidating and beautiful! I kept saying if I was crossing the plains in a covered wagon and came upon those puppies I would have started bawling and turned back around! It was truly amazing and I hope to go back some day and spend more than just a few hours there.
After we finished in the park we drove to Rapid City, South Dakota (about 75 miles) and did the split up act again. Mom, Steven and Shelly took Brianna and Michael and drove to our campground at Devils Tower. Chris and I took Jonah, Micah and Eli to Walmart to pick up some needed supplies. We then drove on to Devils Tower. The strangest thing for me driving in this part of the country are the railroad arms that can close off the interstate when the snow gets too high. They literally will put the arm down, close of the road and flash a light saying that you must turn around and get off at the closest exit. It was wild and something I'm not sure I ever want to witness in real life! lol. We passed Sturgis, South Dakota, the Harley motorcycle haven. Not sure why it's so special just from looking at it, but each their own.
It was getting dark as we exited on to the road that would take us to Devils Tower. I hit a skunk and then saw a deer off to my left so I knew I was gonna have to take it slow. Not to mention that I'm getting some pretty significant night blindness. We didn't see anymore wildlife after that, thank goodness. Coming upon Devils Tower it was back lit by the twilight. It was a surreal beauty, even in the dark. But it was also a little eerie. The rock just seems to have this energy about it and driving around it at night it just felt like we weren't supposed to be there. It was kind of creepy, I'm not going to lie!
We got to our campground in the dark and found the others, thankfully rather easily! The tents were up so we quickly made dinner and got the kids in bed. Mom then shared with us that the car had started acting funny on it's way in to Devils Tower and she was afraid the transmission was having problems. We decided to let it rest for the night. Unhook it the next morning and let it sit. If we needed to stay another day we decided to do that but as you'll see that ended up not being necessary. I felt so bad for her though! She was devastated to think that we got that far and now it looked like we might be stopped! Unbeknownst to me she ended up having a pretty severe panic attack that night but the boys got her through! And the next morning things started to look a lot brighter!