Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Goodlands

A few years ago my wife and I drove from Minneapolis to the Black Hills in South Dakota, with a one night stop near the Badlands. It's about a 600 mile drive, so we made a day of the trip out, making a couple of stops on the way to break up the drive.

First was Blue Mounds State Park, near the border of Minnesota and South Dakota. It's just north of Luverne on Interstate 90, or at the bottom of an ancient sea, depending on your perspective. We hiked around and up the pretty rocks and saw some Prickly Pear cactus. *Cactus*, in Minnesota! The hike went longer than expected; we had to claw our way through some thick trees and brush to find a place we could get to the top of the quartzite cliff. Then a picnic lunch before moving on to...

...the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota! They were rehusking (more or less) so that the outside of the building wasn't fully decked out in eary finery, but it wasn't bad as far as tourist traps go.

We made it to our hotel in Kadoka early enough to check in and head over to the Badlands park loop for a couple of windshield stops to see the mounds in the setting sun. We resisted any stray urges to visit Wall Drug, which is lurking in that area. It had been our determined plan to *not* go there, but after countless bumper stickers and billboards, my defenses were weakened. Fortunately Kathy stood firm against it.

In the morning we ate some greasy breakfast at the hotel, checked out, and made our way back to the Badlands. I was glad we had the chance to visit the night before and see everything in shadows. It created some good visuals and pictures. The new day was overcast and grey. (Which in itself was appropriate for exploring a place called the badlands, of course.)

We like to hike/walk on our vacations. Sometimes we'll pick up an "easy day hikes" kind of book for help in finding local trails, but for this trip I relied on the Internet. We particularly liked the Notch Trail. It wasn't long, but was a fun hike with beautiful surroundings and views. Down a canyon-ish kind of trail, up a rope ladder against a cliff, around a scary ledge, and in to an alien landscape. The kind of place that's just fun to poke around and explore rather than try to cover a lot of ground.

We tried a couple of other trails and then it was time to strike out for the Hills. We never did stop at Wall Drug.