I’m a little late with my First Friday Five because I was on that rarest of things – a vacation. I’m haven’t even had a chance to upload all my photos yet, having walked in the front door of my house less than ten hours ago.
My guess is “Let’s go to South Dakota” isn’t the first thought that comes to mind during the vacation planning process and yet, it should. Here goes my first Friday five in countdown form, plus links to relevant websites.
5. The Corn Palace in Mitchell SD – Who knew corn was so artistic? The exterior murals change every year and are fashioned entirely from corn and native grasses. This is as good a place to stretch your legs as any since South Dakota is over 400 miles long traveling from East to West.
4. Mount Rushmore National Memorial – The giant faces are pretty darn impressive, but don’t miss the historical interpretation sites to see how the work was done. This visit I learned the dynamite blasters became so skilled, they could blast away the rock to within inches of the final surface visitors see today.
3. Custer State Park – Located in the Black Hills, you are pretty much guaranteed to see wildlife at this massive state park and everyone in the vehicle gets in for less than the cost of a ticket to some of the drive through zoos in the area. Go early in the day or at dusk for best viewing. We saw buffalo, prairie dogs, pronghorn antelope, mule deer and more birds than I can name. Plus you can do the needles highway drive which is beautiful, but not for the faint of heart or vehicles over 8 and a half feet wide.
2. Jewel Cave National Monument – I don’t do caves – not since I had a panic attack and had to be led out of a tour at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, but the kids wanted to go. Since I had given them a lecture about everyone needing to make a few compromises, I had an obligation to go. We did the scenic tour. Between the open caverns and the beauty of the formations, I forgot to panic. Plus – where else can you see a 22 foot formation called “bacon.”
1. Badlands National Park – In my opinion, this wind carved landscape is one of the most beautiful places in the world and worthy of a multi-day visit. Bring sturdy hiking shoes, a sense of adventure and lots of water. The Badlands is an open park, meaning there are no limits on where your feet can take you. If you can get to that grassy knoll atop a steep rock face, go ahead and have your picnic there. If scrambling up rock faces and returning to the ground via loose rock slides is not your thing, then at least stop to look around and admire the scenery. The Badlands erode at the rate of an inch a year. Geologists estimate you only have another 500,000 years to visit before they are gone.
Wherever your travels take you, I wish you a safe and happy journey, and if you have a minute, I’d love to know your favorite vacation spots.