Pure nature in South Dakota
We were seeking nature...and found it in South Dakota...
Badlands ain't so bad
Our first national park in the United States is Badlands. At the entrance we get the "America The Beautiful-Pass" (80$), which is not so expensive, considering that we can visit all national parks of the USA for one year for free. Our first impression of the park? What can I say?! I'm almost speechless. We just love it here. Immediately after entering the park from the Northeast Entrance, the landscape changes abruptly. Wide plains of soft grassland give way to a bizarrely shaped hilly landscape, dunked in colours from 50 Shades of Grey to light pink to dark red. Slowly we meander through the winding Badlands Loop Road from east to west and marvel at the rock formations that always look different.
Shortly before approaching Pinnacles Entrance, we turn left into Sage Rim Road, a 20km long gravel road that leads to the simple but beautiful camping site "Sage Creek". Accommodation here is free of charge, places are allocated according to the "first come - first served" rule. There are even horse paddocks for those who explore the park on horseback. We're staying for two nights.
What we didn't know and what totally surprised us is the many wildlife that the park has to offer next to the unique scenery. Already on the first evening, as we drive to the camping, we see the local bison herd grazing from afar. The next morning, a single bull announces the forthcoming spectacle already in the camp, we approach the herd in the course of the distance more and more until we come across a roadblock consisting of two mothers with their calves. All 900 bison living in Badlands National Park seem to have gathered here and have fun blocking traffic.
We wait about one hour until we are granted permission to continue our journey. One highlight follows the next. Only a few kilometres further on, at "Roberts Prairie Dog Town" the little cute Prairie Dogs are just waking up and checking out the situation outside their familiar four underground walls. One after the other ventures out of the care of his building and sniffs fresh air. The very brave ones also make a spurt to the neighboring family. Everywhere, however, guards are set up, who inform the other conspecifics of an approaching danger (e.g. me) by warning call. Once the warning call has been made, all of them disappear into the safe holes of the underworld within milliseconds. It was still enough for a few photos.
In the best evening light we take another ride through the park and meet Bighorn sheep one, two and three.
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
The Minuteman Missile NHS is located in the immediate vicinity of Badlands National Park. In the 1980s, when the arms race between the USA and the Soviet Union culminated in the Cold War, over 1000 nuclear missiles (Minuteman missiles) were positioned in the Great Plains and could have been fired at any time at the push of a button. In South Dakota, in the Badlands area, there were about 150 such Minutemans. The rockets got their name because they were ready to fire within a minute. They would have been able to hit their target in today's Russia and destroy the world in just 30 minutes. There's a Minuteman Missile II dummy on display at Delta-09 today. There is also the possibility of guided tours in the "Delta-01" control centre. But we only looked at the museum in the Visitor Center, which presents very vividly important cornerstones of the Cold War.
Wind Cave National Park
This national park is home to one of the most complex and largest cave systems in the world. Since we have never heard of it before, we let ourselves be inspired by this underground world with the "Natural Entrance Tour" (12$ p.p.). Right at the beginning of the tour we are led to the largest natural opening of the cave, which is no bigger than a basketball. All the entrances available today to get down are man-made.
The Wind Cave takes its name from barometric winds inside. We get this illustrated by the Rangerin by a plastic band, which holds her in front of an opening and then flutters wildly in the wind. Also unique for this cave is the so-called "Boxwork", a special rock formation, which practically only occurs in this cave.
In addition to various cave tours, the park would also offer many other hikes. But since we're only staying for one day, we'll leave it at the tour.
We drive through the Custer State Park (20$) through the Black Hills to Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore. The four stone carved presidents are probably well known to most, while the Crazy Horse Memorial may not be. Just as with the presidents, someone, more precisely Mr. Tsiolkovsky, wanted to realize himself and chisel the Indian chief "Crazy Horse" on his horse into the stone. He's got a lot on his mind, because the sculpture has been under construction since 1948 and only the face has been finished for 20 years. It is written in the stars whether the monument will ever be completed. However, it must also be said that the entire project is financed only with private funds from the Crazy Horse Foundation and is perhaps also progressing rather slowly for this reason.
The Devils Tower is already located in the state of Wyoming, but still fits well into this report. It is the first National Monument of Wyoming and was named by President T. Roosevelt in 1906. Devils Tower looks a bit like a thimble that stands out in an otherwise flat landscape. There are several theories about how it came about. But one thing is certain, namely that the structure formed underground and then somehow came to the earth's surface by geological forces. We walked the 4.6km long Red Beds Trail around the monument. It is always funny, as soon as you are a few hundred meters away from the central inspection platform and if this is still on top of a trail, which is longer than 1km, you are all at once alone there - no more tourists far and wide. But the tower is also a visitor magnet for many climbers who come from all over the world to climb this, I suppose rather difficult, mountain.