South Dakota

An account of my two trips to the western reaches of the American Heartland.

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Hey there, lovely readers!

I hope you’ve enjoyed following along with my travels as they occur in real time! For better or for worse, though, I never salvaged or recorded much of my travels in a blog format prior to 2017, so much of the early journeys in my life are scattered by my imperfect memory. :/  This will be the first of several posts that attempt to relive those journeys and bring more of the United States to you, my fans and followers.  I don’t have pictures for almost any of what I will recount, and I might miss out on some details I once cherished, but hopefully you still find these glimpses entertaining and helpful in planning future travels.  Pictures of probably everything about which I’ll write can be found on Google or elsewhere, so, for the sake of my own integrity, I won’t post any pictures unless I have taken them or am in them (as is true across my entire site).  Happy reading!

This first post will cover my two vacations to the west side of South Dakota and Mount Rushmore.  The first time was my family’s only vacation in my upbringing, while the second was my college cross country team’s training camp in August 2013.  South Dakota was the fourth state I ever visited, behind Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (in that order).  Although it’s not on my list of places everyone should see in the U.S., here is what I remember about my adventures there:

When I went with my parents, we traveled all the way to Mount Rushmore and back over the course of a week or so.  We stopped by the primitive carving of Crazy Horse Monument (which is still rather unfinished but much more defined than it was in the early 2000’s), drove through the cactus flats in South Dakota, and stopped to see the Corn Palace in Mitchell.  We brought some small cacti home and planted them, and they actually thrived for several years before dying.  In fact, we still have a seed or two from the offshoots of the cacti.  My sister Sara and I enjoyed climbing the large rocks in the Black Hills, and we all found the Corn Palace entertaining.  For those who don’t know, the Corn Palace is a building made completely out of corn.  From husks to stalks, to kernels and more, every possible part of the corn plant has been included in the construction of the structure.  Sure, it’s the typically Midwest attraction that most people find bland, but it’s interesting if nothing else.  In addition, my family and I visited the Badlands while we were in South Dakota, and my parents found them more interesting than my sister and I in our younger age.  The Badlands are basically a series of massive canyons with red and white striation in the rocks; whether or not they are worth the drive is a call you’ll have to make, I’m afraid.  They strike me as similar to the mountains and canyons in the American West, so they aren’t my idea of a paradise.

When I went to South Dakota with my college teammates, we took a very similar route and made stops at the Corn Palace and Mount Rushmore.  We didn’t stop in the Badlands, but we drove through them on our way to our training camp near the Wyoming border.  On a driving-related note, one main interstate crosses South Dakota from west to east, and each property extends for miles upon miles.  The state is one of the most desolate in the country, so I recommend emphasizing your destination over trying to see sights along the way.

For running purposes, I didn’t care for the elevation and struggled quite horribly, but our time near Spearfish made the area memorable for me.  There are nice lakes and campgrounds in the Black Hills area, so, for the outdoorsy types, South Dakota might be a fine destination.  Part of our training for the week also included running (or more like trying to run) up Harney Peak, the highest U.S. point east of the Rocky Mountains.  It was brutal, but the view at the top was decent, and the run down was quite a rush! 🙂

The rest of what happened in South Dakota is either super-specific and related to running more so than to travel or is lost to my memory, so I’ll go ahead and stop there.  I recommend that you research the Native American influence in South Dakota and Iowa (mostly the Sioux tribe) if you wish to gain a better cultural understanding of the area, but I won’t profess to know much about it myself.  I hope you find some use in this post, and I hope you look forward to reading about the other places I’ve been!  See you again soon!

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