What The Heck Is In South Dakota: An Unexpected Adventure

What the heck is in South Dakota? That was my immediate response when John asked me if he could book us a trip there for Memorial Day weekend. He had been wanting to go for a while, so even though it wasn’t exactly the trip I had imagined (I was thinking Moab for Arches National Park), I reluctantly agreed. We headed to South Dakota with plans to see Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park and Wind Cave National Park. John had booked an “authentic” teepee in the Black Hills of South Dakota for us to stay in. Yes, you read that correctly. A teepee.


“It doesn’t matter where you’re going, it’s who you have beside you.” – Unknown

When we arrived in South Dakota we explored the town of Custer, which is the town next to where we were camping (teepee-ing? Is that a word?) It was pretty cool to see a town of such historical significance. Next we went to the Crazy Horse Memorial, which I recommend even though John would tell you to skip it. One man and his family have been working on that memorial since 1947. It’s also the world’s largest mountain carving! Speaking of mountain carvings, Mount Rushmore had never been on the top of my list of things to see, so I was surprised when it turned out to be really cool and my favorite part of the trip! After gazing at the giant faces of our forefathers and eating some of Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream (apparently he wrote the first ice cream recipe in America and it is delicious) I was feeling pretty dang patriotic.


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” – Thomas Jefferson 

We spent the next day driving up to Badlands National Park and exploring. We saw our first rattlesnake here and it was awesome (and terrifying)! The landscape looks so strange in Badlands National Park, like something out of a sci-fi movie. The most bizarre part is that it pops up out of nowhere in the middle of a bunch of cow fields! The visitor center is in the middle of the park, so you get to drive through and see most of the park before you get there. We always get our National Park Passport stamped, so finding the visitor center is a must for us!


“Life is a great adventure…accept it in such a spirit.” – Theodore Roosevelt

On our way back we stopped at Wall Drug. We had passed no less than 164 signs for this place on our drive there, so we had to see what it was all about. We had never heard of this place before, but apparently it’s a world famous tourist attraction that got its start in 1931 by putting up signs for free ice water. Now they have all kinds of crazy signs along the road that make stopping by a must. We ate lunch there and got the free water, 5 cent coffee and homemade donuts that we saw advertised for miles.

If that wasn’t enough for one day, we also stopped at a local winery called Prairie Berry, which was delish! I recommend the Red Ass Rhubarb. And if THAT wasn’t enough for one day, we then went on a hike near Sylvan Lake. Don’t be dumb like us and start a hike close to dark without knowing how long or difficult it is. Or without any supplies. It was an absolutely beautiful hike, but probably not our smartest move.


“Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.” – Sean O’Connell, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 

On our last day in South Dakota we went to check out Wind Cave National Park. Of course the only way to experience Wind Cave National Park is by taking the one hour tour down into the heart of the cave. I was mildly terrified the whole time, but it was definitely interesting! One fun fact about Wind Cave National Park is that it’s currently the sixth-longest cave in the world and 95% of found boxwork formations are in this cave.

A weekend that I didn’t have high hopes for turned into one of our favorites trips! John does have some good ideas every once in a while. What is an unexpected adventure you have been on before? Share with us in the comments!


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