The next morning dawned early again. It does get a tad chilly at night but then 50-52 degree feels cold to this Florida gal. But the goal for this day was multifold: a trip to the Badlands National Park , SD and then an appointment for “Pretty Priss” at Toyota to see what ails her. Seems like she is spitting oil into the pistons, or at least that is my best recollection of what the service rep told me. So down the road she may need an engine job or perhaps find a new owner. But in the short run I just intend to feed her a quart of oil here and there as needed…and treat her more gently and not make her do 80 up the mountain highways. Now the speed in Wyoming on the highways is 80 and even if it was legal, I am choosing to be more moderate in my driving She also got a new headlamp. On the downside a lovely crack appeared in her windshield which I noticed a couple minutes after her visit to Toyota. It is interesting how it wasn’t there when I took her in. Naturally I went back but the manger proceeded to point out all the little dings in my windshield and thus they had no responsibility. He claimed that changing the spark plugs and headlamp wouldn’t cause that. Another bummer. So right now she is cracked, scratched and dirty and spitting oil.
But I am getting ahead of myself. We headed off first to the South Dakota Badlands National Park (North Unit). It was a hefty drive to plan, see the park and be back to rapid City by one o’clock but I took the scenic route all the way. The topography through all these vast badlands of both North and South Dakota is amazing The palette of colors, shades and shadows of the peaks, gullies, buttes, and the rolling hills and prairies must certainly be the inspiration for Crayola’s 120 colors of crayons. I don’t believe that any artist could adequately replicate in any medium the grander of the Master Designer of the Universe. The Yellow Mounds here are truly stunning and unique and no French Fashion Designer in their draping of materials on models would be able to come close to replicating the fold, hues, shadows, the shifting and shimmering, the blending of color that blankets this area and the badlands in its entirety. Since I was only experiencing this harsh inhospitable land from the vistas, I still yearn for the opportunity to experience that wilderness in its harshness. Even from a vista point I could get a sense of the ethereal and spiritual in its vastness and diversity. It is hard to imagine this land has supported human life for thousands of years. I was disappointed to have so little time to explore this land but a major thunderstorm was fast approaching as I was about to leave the park. I hope one day I will be able to hike this land and tread where the Lakota tried for many years.
So back to the not very satisfactory Rapid City experience. I still had some grocery shopping to do and needed to find a laundromat, return the camera I bought that I hated to Target, and go to Best Buy to get the same camera that I lost, as I had liked it so much. Well, Siri took me to the closest laundromat but guess she never got the word. It turned out to be a pawn shop. Wonder if they got started with folks pawning their laundry. There actually had been one there, but the friendly owner directed me to Laundry World. It was quite nice and not at all crowded. So I put the smokey foul smelling clothes in the washer and went to find a grocery store. I asked two people and Siri where the closest grocery store was. All roads led to Walmart. Any one who knows me, knows that I will only shop at Walmart under extreme duress but this was the time for sure. And as anticipated it was a big mass chaotic experience. I was primarily looking for cans of my beloved plain club soda. Well there was flavored club sodas but no plain ones. I even went to the liquor section looking for the small pricey Schweppes or Canada Dry glass bottles but they don’t cary this. They had little small plastic 8 oz store brand bottles or their large 32 oz plastic bottle which are a sure recipe for club soda to go flat quickly. Desperate, I settled on their little 8 oz bottles, got my lunch fixings and was out of there. I hurried back to switch the laundry to the drier. There here was a Pizza Hut next door and it was already around 6:30 pm. I order the dogs and I a pizza. That was about the only sweet moment of the afternoon. They were so happy with their pizza. Finally with a mostly fixed car, a new camera, clean clothes, and some Walmart club soda, we were very very happy to be back at out little tent home in the grizzly campground with no grizzlies.
It was time for a down day or one that involved less crowds and driving. I found an interesting loop hike for the dogs and myself to do. It was called the Iron Mountain Loop Hike in the Peter Norbek Wildlife Preserve. It was accessed off of 16A , an engineering marvel at the time, designed by Peter Norbek. It is 17 miles, 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, 3 corkscrew spirals aka Pigtail Bridges, 3 tunnels and was great exhilarating fun to drive. The hike took us into the Black Elk Wilderness in the Black Hills National Forest.
The most challenging and remarkable ting about this hike was the deadfall. There were so many downed trees that the trail keepers apparently could not keep up with the humungous felled trees over the trail. We negotiated the obstacle course quite adroitly and kept crossing grizzly creek – have yet to see a grizzly. The dogs are in training for their upcoming hike of the Maroon Bells so this 6.5 mile hike was a good test of their stamina. We got out of there without being crushed by a falling tree — I think if had been windy I might have opted not to hike. There are bright warning signs regarding the state of the forest which has been so ravage by the Pine Bark Beetle. I had thought about doing the Needle Way Scenic Drive but was NOT drawn to be heading towards the towns of DeadwooD and Lead. There was no grande finale for the day but just a relaxing time in camp and of course the compulsory campfire. The dogs just don’t get the campfire habit when camping – they retreat to the tent and climb in their beds!