Hiking the Badlands, Seeing the Corn Palace

Trip Start Jun 26, 2008
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Trip End Jul 11, 2008


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Where I stayed
Mitchell, SD KOA

Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Sunday, July 6, 2008

Today was a magical day in Badlands National Park. In the morning at the KOA in Interior, Bret let me sleep while he took the kids to play minigolf. I showered and met them for the pancake breakfast, where the kids didn't eat anything - $12.00 down the drain. But, Bret and I enjoyed the pancakes and bacon and coffee, sort of. "I hate this coffee," Bret said of the Dunkin' Donuts, massive, ground-coffee pack that I bought from Costco. "It's bitter." It was true.

We left the morning open for the kids to decide if they wanted to go back into the park and hike. "Yes!" they declared. First, we went to the Fossil Trail, a short walk with a boardwalk. Then, Bret and the kids crossed the street to Cascade Trail, which they liked because it didn't have a paved path. "Don't you want some water and sunscreen?" I yelled. No answer. I caught up with them and after 15 minutes into the hike, we returned to get water. Back in the RV, we looked at the trail map to decide where to go next. It was a good thing we didn't continue on Cascade Trail - it's the longest in the park. We decided to go to Notch trail, unpaved, which met the kids' requirements, and Moderate to Strenuous - "Those afraid of heights should avoid this trail." The kids informed us that they wanted to be able to climb rocks. We decided that we would just go in a little bit to explore and turn around. On the way to the trail, we met an 8-year-old boy looking for Monarch Butterfly caterpillars on Milkweed. He had three in his hand and the kids helped him find two more. He was putting them in a butterfly net. "I have a chrysalis already," he said. That prompted a vigorous search by Harmond the rest of the morning for more Milkweed (which we found) and caterpillars (which we didn't find).

On the "moderate to strenuous" Notch Trail, I brought a plastic bag with water and apples instead of our small backpack - not sure why (note to others to better prepare). It would have been helpful to have my hands free for the 30-step log ladder that we had to climb to get to the upper part of the trail. I thought for sure that my kids were going to lose their lives on the crumbly-dirt cliffs, but Bret assured me that they would be fine. Needless to say, I didn't allow anyone to go too far on that trail. Harmond was begging to carry on after following the path along the edge of cliffs, but Mom (yes, me) was too freaked out to allow it after each of the kids slipped on the trail. The trip down the log ladder (bolted in at the top and bottom and connected by steel wire) was a little more hairy, and complicated by an older couple who insisted on climbing up while our family was climbing down. A family of four watching us and waiting at the bottom asked us nervously, "Is it worth it?" And, the kids responded with a resounding, "Yes!" I added cautiously, "We went far enough so the kids felt like they were climbing the cliffs and then we headed back."

After a great morning of hiking, we set off for Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the Corn Palace. On the way, in remote South Dakota, we saw two people sitting on camping chairs on the crest of a hill. "What are they doing?" I asked. "Oh, they must be sitting, enjoying the view." Then, we got closer and we noticed a big rifle pointed over the hill. Hunting for something - not sure what.

The GPS would get confused every time we left the specified route to get gas or stop at a rest stop. "Recalculating..." it would say. At one rest stop ramp, it instructed, "Continue, 67 miles," which made us laugh.

We rolled into Mitchell, South Dakota at 7:00p.m. with Harmond and Bret REALLY wanting to see the Corn Palace. "That's it?!" Harmond said, disappointed, when we walked in and it's nothing on the inside but a basketball stadium that sells Corn Palace stuff. Bret declared that it should be on the list of "1,000 things NOT to see before you die." We walked into a restaurant for dinner, but we couldn't identify anyone that worked there, so we headed to the campground for a cookout and our own drive-in movie theatre, thanks to my computer on the picnic table and our camping chairs. The kids turned on their glow sticks and sat in our laps as we watched "Over the Hedge." I still get a kick out of the way the raccoon describes humans, "They all drive around in these things called SUVs because they are slowly losing their ability to walk." And yes, I do own a SUV!

Speaking of places to see, outside of the Badlands, we stopped for some gas and food in Kadoka, South Dakota at a restaurant called The Happy Chef. This should be on the list of 1,000 Places to Visit before you die. Clearly a local favorite, Bret and I spotted what other people were having and ordered from their suggestions. I had an awesome beef sandwich on homemade, thick bread toped with gravy and mashed-potatoes on the side. Bret had a Sloppy Joe to die for. Then, we all finished with Root Beer Floats.
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