Vacation is such a special thing. It’s time we set aside for ourselves and our family to take a break from our everyday lives. In our house, thanks to my husband who lives with a very carpe diem attitude we always have an adventure in store. Last week was our big trip for this year & we took our week to go to one of our family’s favourite places: South Dakota.
This year we did the trip in three parts, so I have decided to share this trip with you in the same. Three days, three installments. Here we go!
Badlands National Park is between a 10 & 11 hour drive from our house. At 3:45am on Father’s Day morning my husband’s alarm went off and he popped out of bed & hurriedly got ready — he can never wait for vacation to begin (if he’d have his way we’d have left the night before). We had previously agreed that I could wait until 4am to get up — I am not exactly what you would call a morning person, so allowing myself a little time to wake up is in everyone’s best interest. We dressed sleeping kids, grabbed our last minute odds & ends, and we were off by 5am.
The great thing about 5am in mid-June is that there is light out. I made lots of progress on my Capitol Square Market Bag.I was a little worried that it would not be the best car knitting, but I was happily proven wrong. Another great thing about an early start is that I am also usually groggy enough that the first few hours of driving fly by. Before I knew it, we were in South Dakota.It is a land where abstract teepees mark rest areas along the interstate…
And dogs drive cars.
OK, OK, dogs don’t really drive cars, of course. I think that photo is really funny though. And yes, Moose came with us and was an incredibly good boy on this trip. He’s always a such a good boy.
We drove and drove across the vibrant green rolling hills. There is nothing like the Great Plains — it is truly an undulating ocean of green. It is just such an incredibly beautiful area.
By mid-afternoon we spotted the first signs of the Badlands. The hills gave way in parts to the jagged edges of what is oft referred to as an ‘alien landscape.’
Just like the plains, they go on for miles.
With the guidance of my husband and a vigilant eye out for rattlesnakes, these formations are tons of fun for the kids to climb on and slide down.
I took a little time to marvel at the parched land — even with plenty of water, the land dries out quickly here.
Cactus, yucca, and a whole host of other flowers like these lovely scarlet globemallow were in bloom. I have always visited later in the year & have missed this. I’m so glad I got to see it this time!
Badlands National Park is best known for these unique formations, the dry other-worldly landscape, and the fossils they’ve revealed over the years, but our favourite part is the Sage Creek Wilderness Area. Unlike the signature eroded peaks, the Sage Creek area is mostly grasslands and home to lots of wildlife.
The mighty bison are plentiful. And huge. Really, few herbivores are this intimidating to me — most of them are bigger than my car!
There are also bighorn sheep, antelope, mule & white-tailed deer, prairie dogs, and a huge variety of birds that we don’t see at home including one very special one…
The burrowing owl. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a glimpse of one on a fence post like this.
More often, however, they are doing this. They live in prairie dog towns & fly deftly in and out of burrows. If you don’t look closely, you can easily miss them!
Speaking of almost missing something, as we drove down a back road and I was gazing out the window I saw something that caused me to yell out at my husband to stop the car. This usually is followed by a ‘Nevermind, it’s a Robin” or something like that, but this time…
It was this guy — a Long-Billed Curlew. My husband used our scope to take this photo. We didn’t stay long because it became readily apparent that there were not one, but two long-billed curlews in the area and that there was a nest nearby. Seeing this ‘life bird’ and watching it fly and call were one of my trip highlights. It is one thing to see a new bird, but a really special thing to be able to spend a little time observing it just doing what it does in the wild.
We spent our 2days in the park doing some limited hiking — my bum hip prevents me from doing much, so we often do smaller hikes & then wildlife viewing from the car. The kids did have a little adventure up a hill on their own — it is so sweet to watch how careful they are, how aware they are of the natural world, how much they take care of each other, and how proud they are when they get to do these little side adventures on their own.
They are pretty amazing kids.
We spent two nights camping at the Sage Creek Primitive Campground. There is a campground with more amenities near the Cedar Pass Lodge as well as some really lovely, newly renovated cabins, but we prefer the quiet & the cost-effectiveness of the Sage Creek area (camping there is free).
I spent some mornings & evenings knitting. With Moose nearby, other campers often stop to say hi. We even had someone ask to take his picture. Really, can you blame them? He is so majestic — I say this with tongue in cheek because although he is a handsome boy, his personality leans much more toward goofball.
Our last night, we had storms roll through the area, so we opted to try a new drive that skirted the weater. The storms missed us to the south & west, but we stumbled upon an incredible new place. With storms in the background and sun at our backs, we watched a field of burrowing owls huntingAbout 30minutes into watching the owls, a coyote wandered onto the scene. He was beautiful and quickly became the target of dive-bombing burrowing owls. Like the long-billed curlew, this is another memory that won’t fade anytime soon.
This field was the perfect way to wrap-up our two days in the Badlands. It was so peaceful as we watched the owls and coyote. We went to sleep so happy and excited for the next day which we knew would bring us to a new park, a new campsite, and maybe even a little fiber detour along the way.
Many thanks to my husband for taking so many of these beautiful photos & for letting me use them here!