Thursday, July 3, 2008

Gray Skies Can't Ruin the Badlands

When I was 13 my grandmother took me on a tour of many of the western National Parks including Yosemite, Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Teton National Forest, and the Badlands. It was a privilege to have the opportunities to see all of those beautiful places. The Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments were the memories that stuck with me the most, as I think when I was younger I probably appreciated the marvel of the human engineering involved in constructing those monuments. Over time, though, I think that I've come to appreciate nature more, and was very excited to have the opportunity to get back to the Badlands and see what it was all about.

Unfortunately I awoke to gray skies and was immediately met with rain when I pulled into the Badlands National Park, but the weather couldn't deter the true beauty of the landscape. I was truly taken aback. I think it would be a great place to spend some time, and would love to come back for an extended trip.

I drove the roughly 20 miles through the Park on the Badlands State Scenic Byway (Route 240) and then instead of exiting the park up towards Wall, South Dakota, I turned west down Sage Creek Rim Road (County Hwy 509) and took the roughly 25 mile drive down what turned out to be a dirt road through the northwest side of the park.

I then exited the park southward and passed through the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands and then the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. When I got further south into Northwest Nebraska, the very nice State Trooper Cerney stopped me to welcome me to the state. He invited me to slow down to take in some of the scenic farm vistas his state had to offer. I politely thanked him for his gracious invitation, and was back on my way.

I hit the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming at about 4:30 in the afternoon and snapped a few pictures of some rock formations that I found pretty interesting.

Spent the night with my buddy Brett, to whom I'm very grateful for the hospitality. We hit a few bars which were slow on a summer Wednesday evening while the University of Wyoming wasn't in session, but it was a neat town to see.

Woke up this morning and took Route 287 from Laramie down to Fort Collins, Colorado, which was a very picturesque drive, and then headed into Denver to spend some time with my younger sister Janis.

Not sure if I'll be on the road tomorrow or spending a little extra time here. We'll see.

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