Many years ago, Abby and her family traveled to the open rangeland of Wyoming to hunt and camp. She wanted to return and see the sites as an adult, so we decided this would be a good time to go.
Driving to Nebraska via Cawker City, Kansas and Ogallala, Nebraska
We drove from our home in Ada, Oklahoma, through Kansas into Nebraska, and on the way stopped and shot the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas, which, as Abby pointed out in a video clip from the day, “is not a haystack.”
We also stopped at a place called The Chubby Pickle by the side of the road in Phillipsburg, Kansas.
Scott’s Bluff National Monument, and Carhenge
We stopped by Courthouse Rock and Jailhouse Rock in Nebraska, which was interesting, but which didn’t make very many pictures. We also stopped at Chimney Rock, which was interesting from a historical perspective.
Scotts Bluff National Monument was the first feature of the day that made any significant pictures. We drove and hiked at Scotts Bluff, which is a 19th-century landmark on the Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail.
Carhenge was one of our most interesting stops. Exactly like it sounds, it is a replica of Stonehenge, made of grey painted cars. It was a beautiful day, and the light and sky were perfect for it.
Devil’s Tower National Monument, Sundance, and Black Hills National Cemetery
It was a nice day, but hot. We drove to Devil’s Tower National Monument, where the Marklars were out in force. We left them behind by simply taking the first real trail around the tower, the Red Beds Trail. It was a 2.8-mile trail that took us the long way around the Tower.
Next was Sundance, Wyoming, and after visiting we named this trip “Sundance.” We saw and photographed a bronze statue of The Sundance Kid.
We made a brief stop at Sturgis to honor Abby’s motorcycle riding history, but rain was rolling in, and we didn’t stop to see much.
Our final stop of the day was the Black Hills National Cemetery, which was elegant, beautiful, and according to Abby, “sobering.”
Wall Drug, Badlands, and Minuteman Missile National Historical Site
We started the day at a tourist attaction called Wall Drug. It was garish, crowded and enormous, but we both had fun.
Wall Drug made its reputation by promising “free ice water” on billboards for miles and miles of highway in every direction, and those billboards remain.
We arrived at Badlands National Park at 10 a.m., and while we saw the whole thing as fascinating, the light was harsh and bland, and the scenery itself was redundant. The Badlands are epic in scope, but not as interesting as, say, the Bisti Wilderness or Angel Peak.
We hiked the door trail, and while the heat wasn’t bad, the whitish formations and brilliant sunlight made it one of the brightest attractions I have ever visited.
By far the most interesting thing about the day was the tour of the Minuteman Missile National Historical Site. It included the tour of a launch facility, as well as a drive out into the middle of nowhere to see an actual missile in its silo.
By late afternoon we drove the length of Badlands, making a few nice images, particularly at sunset.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, and Evening Ceremony at Mount Rushmore
We made two visits to Mount Rushmore, the first in the morning. They were powerwashing the mountain. It was amazingly crowded.
Between visits we saw the Crazy Horse Memorial, and oddity that seems to have turned into a huge tourist affair. The monument itself is on a 100-year completion timetable.
Also, we had an excellent drive through Custer State Park.
By nightfall, we had returned to Mount Rushmore for the lighting ceremony.
Ellsworth Air Force Base and Badlands National Park
We took a tour of the South Dakota Air and Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base, which allowed us to actually go down inside a decommissioned Minuteman Missile silo.
Abby was tired, so I dropped her off at the motel and headed for Badlands, where I had a nice, decently difficult hike and made some really nice images.
On the Road
We were able to see the Enchanted World Doll Museum and the Mitchell Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. Later we photographed Abby in Abbyville, Kansas.