What’s wonderful about the state of South Dakota is the abundance of outdoor activities. Along with the Black Hills and Custer State Park, one place I go to again and again is the Badlands National Park. I can’t even begin to express how much I love this place and it’s safe to say it’s one of my favorite National Parks.
When I found out I was moving to Rapid City nearly two years ago, one of the things I asked myself was, “What is even in Rapid City??” Mount Rushmore of course! The National Memorial is about 40 minutes from Rapid City near a small town called Keystone.
The second half of my road trip consisted mostly of driving with very little sight seeing. There wasn’t much to see on the roads I took through Utah and Wyoming without going hours out of the way and I was desperate to reach Rapid City in good time. The night I spent in Salt Lake City was awful; the hotel wasn’t bad, but my neighbors didn’t understand the concept of quiet hours and were yelling at each other every 30 minutes as well as continuously slamming the door. Not the hotel’s fault, but I unfortunately didn’t get a good night’s rest. I had a long drive ahead of me to Casper and I was taking a detour to see the Spiral Jetty on the north side of the Great Salt Lake.
I started my drive north and on the way to the Spiral Jetty, I accidentally ended up at the Golden Spike National Historic Site while looking for directions. It wasn’t part of my planned trip, but I decided to stay a little while since the site did have some unique history behind it. Golden Spike NHS was the place where, in 1869, the Union and Pacific Railroads were joined and the last spike was driven into the rails. During the summer, reenactments of the event are held during the summers on the weekends and steam demonstrations of the locomotives No. 119 and Jupiter are held daily. The locomotives are replicas of the original but are almost exactly the same size, shape, coloring and fully functional like the originals. More information on the site can be found at the Golden Spike NHS website.
I followed the directions to the Spiral Jetty which was easier than what I expected on the mostly dirt roads. The art piece is by Robert Smithson and used over six thousand tons of basalt rocks from the site. I was hoping for the coiled art piece to be slightly submerged in water but the lake was pretty dry and I was able to walk out on the dried salt bed and among the many rocks. Either way, it was pretty cool to see.
The drive from the Spiral Jetty to Casper was 8 hours long and I didn’t have any other planned stops. I spent the night there and got a restful night’s sleep before waking up for an early start to Rapid City. I’ll be honest, I started hating the flat-ness of the plains since I was used to seeing mountains, but I had heard so many wonderful things about the Black Hills and the Badlands that I was looking forward to exploring the outdoors in a part of the country I’ve barely visited.
I have lived in South Dakota for four months and so far it’s been fantastic. The food, the people, and the sites are amazing and I’ve definitely got more road trips planned out for this new year.