Day Sixty Four: Hungry Like the Wolf: South Dakota (Badlands National Park, Mitchell, DeSmet)

Events of Monday May 18th, blogged Friday October 2nd.

It’s a cold dreary day here in October and it put me back to how the weather was in South Dakota, and it seemed like the appropriate time to chip away a little more at the blog, especially if I ever want to start one for BAWOTD!

Alrighty then. When last we left Annie and I were bunkered down in Marigold trying to stay warm despite the frigid conditions in Badlands National Park. When we awoke it was, quite literally, freezing. Although the wind had died off a bit, it was still gusting with gusto. Several tents had blown over during the night.

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That one guy sat propped beside his sad little tent had actually slept in his sad little car all night. He didn’t look like he was having the best time cooking up a hearty breakfast, so I decided we would be on our way. Others were less enthusiastic.

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And understandably so, when we did stop to do some exploring the wind almost took Annie aloft!

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As we drove along under the heavy, low-slung clouds, the gray prairie grass seemed to mirror the shifting patterns as it danced in the wind and melted into the horizon. And then . . . one of the coolest things ever . . . I spotted a WOLF! He had blended near seamlessly into the grass and he slunk through as gentle as a breeze and for a moment I thought my eyes were still too blurred with sleep to see clearly. But there he was.

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What ensued was a frantic attempt to both exist in this magical moment while also fumbling and grasping for the camera because: OHMYGOD OHMYGOD OHMY GOD… it’s a freaking WOLF! I have to capture this because it doesn’t exist until I post it on the blog . . . and OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD whyyyyy is the camera always in selfie mode . . . relax and focus on the beauty . . .  TAKETHEPICTAKETHEPIC HURRY BEFORE HE VANISHES!

It’s a very lucky thing we were the only ones on the road. Before I knew it he had vanished over the edge, but the feeling of wildness didn’t dissipate for some time.

There were other critters of varying degrees of coolness . . .

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including my closest encounter yet with some random buffalo, which two days ago would have merited Number One on the highlight reel, but today was only a runner up.

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We stopped to walk out onto the prairie, which is an experience I’ve fantasized about ever since my girlhood obsession with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Even though it was brutally cold, the air buzzed with the sounds of summer insects.

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After we left the park, it was a long, long, very long drive across South Dakota.

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The good news is the Speed Limit was 80mph. The bad news is some maniac thought that wasn’t quite fast enough and came within a hair’s breadth of sideswiping us, and then several other cars as he zoomed down the highway. Luckily the SDPD was hot on his trail and I saw him pulled over about 1/2 mile down the road.

Anyhoodle-we finally reached our destination- a purported “corn”acopia of kitschy old timey cool that several people had hyped up to me . . . The World’s Only Corn Palace!!!

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. . . now under construction. Womp Womp.

Most days of the year it’s an architectural marvel with marquee lights and onion domes and an ever changing array of mid-western mosaics crafted entirely out of corn and its related bits and pieces.  But I had stumbled upon it in the midst of a renovation when the onion domes were dismantled and stacked in a corner and the mosaics were in transition.

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It was still pretty cool and all, but not quite the mega blast of awesome sauce I had envisioned.

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I did get to pose with a buffalo for the second time that day though, which is nice.

The inside was in an even sadder state of disarray . . .

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But even the gloomy weather and halfassed displays couldn’t dim this dude’s enthusiasm . . .

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I followed the handy path across the street . . .

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and treated myself to some cheesetastic gift shop delights like a corn shaped pen, roadkill sausage, and an adorably corny shirt.

Mitchell itself was a cute little town, about the size of Purcellville with a real Mayberry sort of feel to it, and cool touches like this proselyting clock.

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 The weather was still cold and windy and it discouraged lingering, so we set off down the open road en route to our final destination of the day . . . DeSmet SD – the setting for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic By the Shores of Silver Lake, and Little Town on the Prairie, and my chance at last to see the places I had read about so many times.

By the time we got there, most of the official exhibits had closed down for the day, but Annie and I did get to walk the grounds of the Ingalls Homestead they moved to in 1880 which was pretty fantabulous. Also, if it was this stinking cold in mid-May, I have a whole new appreciation for the pioneers.

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I headed into town to get the lay of the land and a few provisions, quickly ascertaining that there were no non-scary indoor lodging options, so campervannie it would have to be. Did I mention it was super cold?

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Locating a campsite took a more than expected amount of research, until I randomly stumbled upon a FREE, yes, you read that correctly, TOTALLY FREE campsite at the aptly named City Park in the next town over. I parked literally across the street from a row of houses, there was no one else anywhere in sight, and the bathrooms were locked, but I had my SheWee and some cereal and even functioning internet, so we were set for the night.

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The cooler needed cleaning, the van needed organizing, and I was growing despondent about the trip nearing its end, but it was too cold to deal with any of that. Instead, Annie stole my pillow then cuddled down into the sleeping bag with me and we settled in to watch Game of Thrones on my laptop and drift off to dreamland.

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