Having taken some time away from work Candice and I set out on Tuesday, July 15th to start what would end up being a 2,000 mile road trip. The first leg of the trip brought us to Kilen Woods State Park near Lakefield, MN. When we arrived we barely had time to set up the tent before the sun fell in the sky. The park was pretty small and quiet from what little we were able to see but it was a nice pit stop on our way to the Badlands National Park, and the bathroom facilities were excellent!
Our Campground at Kilen Woods State Park
Random South Dakota Prairie along I-90
The next morning we packed up and made our way to I-90 to complete the drive to the Badlands. We arrived in the park in the late afternoon and slowly drove our way around the park loop road. Stopping at the visitor center and a few overlooks, we finally reaching our destination at the Basin Creek Primitive Campground. Once we set up camp, Candice and I went into Wall to get a few things.
One of our first views of the Badlands!
Bison on the way out to the Basin Creek Campground
Camp set up!
We made our way back into the park to check out more of the overlooks while the sun was setting. However, once returning to the car from the first scenic overlook, I discovered that what had been a slow leak in one of my car tires had now become a rapid leak and it would have to be patched. We slowly left the park, hoping not to ruin my wheel by driving on the increasingly flat tire, and I was able to fix the tire at a gas station. As I tightened the last lug nut we saw a beautiful red sun quickly falling toward the horizon, so we reentered the Impreza and quickly departed for the park as I was hoping to capture the sunset in a photograph.
Missed the sun coming down.
Unfortunately, the tire mishap had delayed us too much and I was not able to get the photo I wanted. We spent some time at an overlook during twilight and drove back to camp once darkness had settled in.
When we woke the next morning, after having some breakfast and coffee, it was time for the day’s activities to begin. Candice wanted to get a run in as she is training for the Women Rock! Half-marathon in August, so I went to see what trails I could find near our camp to hike on. I was able to make my way up along a small ridge above the camp that gave a beautiful view of the surrounding area. As I was sitting upon the ridge I saw Candice running back into camp, so I packed up my camera and ran back down the hill to meet her.
Our next destination was the Tourist trap that is Wall Drug. We spent some time perusing the oddities that the landmark store holds, bought some fudge and souvenirs, and took them up on their often advertised offering of free ice water by filling all of our water bottles.
On the way back to the park we hit up the Prairie Dog Ranch, because why not?!
A Prairie Dog
Our main objective for day two in the Badlands was hiking. With our water supplies replenished, we loaded my backpack with food and my camera gear and started along the Castle Trail. Having initially gotten started in the wrong direction, not knowing about the red stakes that marked the way, we eventually got to the trail and started our journey. The sun was rising high in the sky by this time and the temperatures were heating up. We made our way through the crumbling geological formations and I thought at any moment a Jawa might come out to zap me! Once we were at the Castle Trail/Medicine Route intersection we decided to take the Medicine Route. This part of the trail entered the more prairie-like terrain of Badlands National Park, where tall grasses and small shrubs lined our walking path. Eventually we met up again with the Castle Trail and with the Saddle Pass Trail, we took the latter trail south to a great overlook of the lower Basin of the Badlands.
Candice on the trail.
Once the sights had been seen we strolled back to where the trails met and got onto the Castle Trail yet again now heading back toward the car. A few hours had passed during our several mile hike and we were quite famished at this point, so we decided to visit one of the overlook/picnic areas to cook some dinner.
Mmm Mac & Cheese!
We ended the day by following the sun west and stopping at the many overlooks while making our way back to camp.
Me while we were waiting for the sun to set.