Even though we camped last night, thanks to our new ice chest, we enjoyed the luxury of cold orange juice and yogurt this morning. I know it doesn’t sound like much to get excited about, but bike touring camping is pretty bare-bones. We didn’t waste any time getting on the road and driving to Badlands National Park. I’ve never been to Badlands before and I liked it. It has lots of nice scenery, almost as good as Bryce Canyon. Compared to other scenic areas in the Western U.S. it’s no stand out, but since we just came through a long stretch of fairly flat and unremarkable terrain, it felt more surreal than it otherwise would have. We had been told to be on the lookout for bison in the park, so when we saw a lone bison in the distance we thought “cool, we saw one”. Then a few miles up the road we saw about 800 more! The park staff had recently rounded up about half the bison in the park to count and tag them.
Slideshow of photos from the Badlands:
After the badlands we continued west towards the Black Hills of South Dakota and Mount Rushmore. We stopped at Mt. Rushmore for a quick look before finding a campground. Neither of us has been here before and it’s cool to see the mountain in person. While there we ran into a guy bike touring on a unicycle! And you all thought we were crazy. He was also headed west, but I hope he doesn’t run into too much cold weather before he reaches the Pacific.
Despite the close proximity to Mt. Rushmore, our campground for the night is half empty. It’s obviously not the high tourist season, but we don’t mind the lack of crowds. After setting up our tent and a quick dinner we drive back to Mt. Rushmore to see the evening lighting ceremony. Oh, we did stop for ice cream first. The lighting ceremony consists of a short film about the lives of the four presidents who are carved onto the mountain. Then they illuminate the sculpture and the ranger leading the program asked all the veterans in the crowd down to the stage as they lowered the flag for the day. My favorite part was seeing the Big Dipper in the sky just over the sculpture as the sky got dark. Tomorrow morning we’ll come back one more time to get some photos at sunrise.