For better or worse we told everyone about our cross country trip. Part of the reason was because we were in disbelief that we were actually going and the other part was to learn from others who have taken these roads before us. Some of the advice was useful like don’t forget to wear rubber gloves at the dumping stations.
Some advice was obvious like remember to pack extra socks. But some advice just enhanced our trip beyond our expectations.
We told folks we were visiting Mount Rushmore as part of our trip and many trusted friends and family told us to visit Crazy Horse monument as well as the Badlands while in the area. So now I tell you, if you ever visit Mount Rushmore make sure to take the time to visit Crazy Horse and the Badlands. You won’t be disappointed.
We were less than motivated our second morning in Keystone. We were still in a wee bit of a fog from the Independence Day celebration but Dennis and I weren’t content to sit around and relax. Why should we relax? We’re on vacation and there are way too many businesses ready to take our money. We opted to take our time and stay local. Our first decision was to visit Custer State Forest but uncharacteristically, Betty the GPS, gave us a bum steer and we missed the turn. Being the dedicated travelers we are, we said screw it and decided to go straight to Crazy Horse instead.
For those as ignorant as I, Crazy Horse was an Indian Chief who fought and defeated Custer in the Battle of Little Bighorn. About 60 years ago, the Lakota Indians commissioned a tribute to him and all Native Americans in the form of a mountain carving that makes Mount Rushmore look small in comparison. The carving is of the Indian Chief on his horse pointing to “the land of his people.”
It was spectacular but unfinished. Due to lack of funding, Crazy Horse the monument probably won’t be finished in my lifetime but there was still so much to see and learn it’s worth the 20 minute drive from Keystone.
The visit starts with a brief and very interesting movie about the history of Crazy Horse and the monument. At the risk of embarrassing myself, I’m going to be honest, I didn’t actually watch the movie but Dennis and the boys thought it was terrific. I was finally coming off my 3 day stress high and just crashed. Yes, I fell asleep the second the lights dimmed. It gets worse. My nap consisted of several head bobs with my mouth wide open. I’m certain drool only moments away. Dennis was quick to nudge me before the snoring started to disturb the other guests.
At least I was well rested to see all the beautiful handmade Indian artifacts and learn more about their history.
The next day, we knew we had a fair amount of driving in front of us to get to our campground in Fort Smith, Montana but we had yet to make time for the Badlands. Several people told us not to miss Badlands but it was 2 hours in the wrong direction. I wanted to go to North Dakota and Dennis wanted to stop at Deadwood but we traded in those 5 hours and backtrack to Badlands National Park. I’m so glad we did, it was incredible.
Knowing time was limited, we opted to take the scenic drive rather than park and hike. I didn’t know what to expect because everyone just told us “You have to see it”.
I think we were only in the gate 5 minutes when we pulled over to mingle with the Mountain Goat on the side of the road. Part of me wanted to pet them but I kind of knew they’d literally kick my ass if I went too close so I used the zoom on my camera instead. Once we looked past the Mountain Goat, we were stunned by the massive and intricate natural canyons and rock formations. As we continued our 45 minute drive through the park, every turn offered a different and unique sculpture and geological miracle.
I can’t even being to describe the incredible views we experienced.
Red clay rocks were layered with sandstone offering beautiful contrasts in the distance. Some areas were rich with vegetation while others could have been confused with the surface of the moon, lifeless craters and nothing green in sight. Parts of the Badlands are known for their prehistoric roots. Fossils and other findings from millions of years ago make this area a treasure for geologist and geeky kids alike.
I’m sorry I didn’t get to see North Dakota but I can’t imagine it could have topped our visit to the Badlands. So take my advice, follow the advice of those you trust and you won’t be disappointed. To see our complete photo album, visit Snapfish for Crazy Horse and The Badlands