Westward Wanderlust Day 1

The journey has begun! Starting in Eagle River, WI we drove West.

Hwy 8, WI

Slowly smoothed by glaciers, the landscape of Western Wisconsin is flat and lake-spotted. Hwy 8 slices a swath of grey road through Aspen, Cottonwood, Maple and many pines. All the trees are vibrant, deep in the lush of summer. Huge grey and white collections of cumulous clouds billow above as we meandered toward Minnesota.

Driving through Minnesota at night is a fairly uneventful drive. The darkness of Hwy 23 is rarely interrupted by anything of note, except for the ominous, simultaneous red flashes from a line of wind turbine in the distance. And, Olivia, the corn capital of Minnesota:

Olivia, Corn Capital of Minnesota

We crossed into South Dakota in the middle of the night, and pulled over for a few winks. D woke me with this:

Ah, yes. Corn in the morn’ – my favorite.

Just like paint by number.. corn by number…

We crossed the Missouri River

and continued toward our first destination:

Ranger D-rock


Didn’t see any, but we were aware!

Badlands National Park, 82 degrees, 1.18p.m. MT. I loved the landscape of the Bandlands. Barren, and endless, with the biggest sky I have ever seen, it is nothing like the tree covered farmlands of Wisconsin. I could not get over how incredibly BIG my surroundings seemed. We clamored over the untamable erosion formations, picking further and further points to reach and balance on. It was amazing.

The Badlands, South Dakota


I mean, this doesn’t even look real!

Despite the apparent lack of life of the Badlands, we were able to get our first shots of Western wildlife.

One of MANY prairie dogs.

The Bandlands were a great place to reflect on the enormity of our natural world. You feel so small, yet so immersed in this bizarre alien landscape. So awesome.

Communing with the Badlands

Yea Badlands!

We left the Badlands more than satisfied with the first National Park experience of our trip – our appetite wet for what was to come next. However, our next stop was less than awe inspiring. As we had seen SO many signs for the famous Wall Drug in Wall South Dakota, we decided to check it out. I will tell you right now, this is the ONLY reason to go there:

Jackelope in the Wall Drug Backyard.

One quick stop in Rapid City at the Firehouse Brewing Company for an amazing cup of gorgonzola ale soup, delicious Artichoke Dip, and an Extra Pale Ale later, we were headed to Mount Rushmore.

Next, we headed South through the Black Hills…

The Ponderosa Pines in The Black Hills

Just a few switchback turns…

… and encountered a lot more wildlife

Mule Deer Side View

Mule Deer Doe

Pronghorn eating.

A friendly reminder from the National Park Service

We did see one buffalo in the Black Hills, but the pictures we got of the elk were much better.

Stare down with a Bull Elk.

Another bull elk heading up hill in mid-grunt.

Finally, we decided to camp around dusk, right outside Wind Cave National Park, our destination for tomorrow.

Our tent at sunset.

As we have entered the mountains, internet and cell phone reception is very difficult to find. I will try to keep up with this journey on inkinthebranches, but the old pen to paper journal has become the main record of this trip. Posts will appear when a sufficient amount of service does. (So family and friends that are trying to get in touch with us, email is probably the best option-we try and check it at least once a day, but again, service is very hard to come by. We are safe and sound-don’t worry.)

As we are embarking on this trip, we have with us an incredibly helpful book that was just published this year by our friend, Mike Oswald called “your Guide to the National Parks”.
Mike, we’re putting your book to the test this summer, and so far it has served us well!
Next stop, Wind Cave National Park!

12 thoughts on “Westward Wanderlust Day 1

  1. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us! Wow awesome photos! Amazing what God has created for us! Keep on enjoying what Mother Nature has in store for you. I can’t imagine the stars out there! Keep safe and have the time of your lives.
    We love you!
    Mary and Mark

  2. AWESOME! Looks like you guys are having a great time. We’re sooooo happy for you! Enjoy! Send more pics! 🙂

  3. Love the pictures and your beautiful description of all that natural beauty; you truly have a talent there, young lady! Keep it up and thanks a million for sending them. I had just asked your Mom on Saturday (in Wausau) if she had heard from you guys and hadn’t yet; know she’ll be glad to hear your fine and having a fantastic trip. Stay safe. Love you – Aunt Cindy & Uncle Fluffy.

  4. Wow, that was all in one day?! Nice pictures. I don’t know what your future touring plans are, but if you are touring the area for a while I would recommend, Custer State Park (if you want to see bison), Harney Peak hike via Sylvan Lake (great views), and a short drive to Wyoming to see Devil’s Tower. Have fun, stay safe.

  5. What fun! My oldest friend just did a similar trip in an RV with her two teenage daughters and cranky husband. Yours looks much more peaceful.

  6. What a fun trip and so nicely journaled. Have a fabulous time. Now that you have seen Mt. Rushmore – you can fondly refer to it as “The Heads”. Looking forward to more updates. Aunt Chris

  7. I think the antelope with the mullet is my favorite picture 🙂 What a fun trip! I took a similar one in middle school – what I remember most about Mt. Rushmore was the fudge in the gift shop. Figures. Miss you!

  8. Pingback: Death Valley to Zion | inkinthebranches

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