Thursday, June 26, 2014

JESS IN SOUTH DAKOTA: BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK

Last month, my now-fiancé (more about that here, and even more coming soon) and I set out for 1,000+ miles of driving through South Dakota and back for eight days of camping, hiking, and beautiful views. Spoiler alert - it was the best trip ever!

After a 3 AM wake up call, a two-hour nap in a random parking lot in Wisconsin, and an (out of the way) pit stop at Mall of America in Minneapolis, we finally made it to South Dakota - home of great faces and great places! We ended at our first overnight destination at Badlands National Park in the wee hours of the morning (that nap in Wisconsin put us way behind schedule) and definitely were not going to attempt setting up our first campsite with only a headlamp on. Sleeping inside the car was our only option! Unsurprisingly, it was completely uncomfortable and horribly cold, and while you'd think that would set the tone for the trip, it just gave us something to laugh about the next morning. And another reason for morning yoga.

Welcome to South Dakota!
Wearing an Urban Outfitters sweater, Warby Parker sunglasses, and a Gap tee and tank.

We decided to come to South Dakota to celebrate my fiancé's birthday (and he obviously had some plans of his own) because of the abundance of national and state parks for some epic hikes. (Side note: while this was my first camping trip, my fiancé is an Eagle Scout, so he's pretty much a pro at it.) Our first hike of the trip was the Notch Trail, a moderate to strenuous 1.5 mile hike with a log ladder (time to battle my fear of heights) to reach the gorgeous views of the White River Valley. Oh, and watch out for rattlesnakes! Thankfully we never saw any, but just hearing them a couple feet from you sends chills up your spine. 

What's crazy and breathtaking about Badlands National Park is that the formations make you feel like you're on another planet. No, it's not the set from a sci-fi movie, it's real and it's in our own backyard! Anyone who is up for the drive and a little bit of hard work, you won't regret it! Now, get those imaginary hiking boots on and come up the Notch Trail with us (and see our little hiking mishap - don't worry, no bloggers were hurt in the making of this). 




The ground is crazy looking!



I did the log ladder!
The view made it totally worth it!

Do you see the scary log ladder?!

Bring it on.

All this open space... Just for us!

For this hike, I wore Warby Parker sunglasses, my favorite GapFit long-sleeve tee (no really, I wore the same shirt in three different colors on this trip), and a GapFit tank and pants. If you're into hiking and need a good pair of boots, Vasque has been nothing but amazing for my feet! I've used them on previous hikes, but they never needed any breaking in. It's like walking on clouds, seriously. For jewelry (I had to accessorize, of course), I wore a few of my favorite Pura Vida Bracelets. Every purchased bracelet helps give local artisans full-time jobs in Costa Rica. They're completely waterproof, so I never took them off during my entire trip. And I've got the tan lines to prove it! (Comment below for a coupon code to get 50% off your entire purchase.)


Love Pura Vida Bracelets! Got the arrow one for my fiancé. 



The markers for the hike were a little hard to find, so we may have gone off path a little... Sorry, park rangers! We ended up at this opening with a stunning view, but wait, there was so much more to walk up. My fiancé decided to explore a bit and all I heard was a gasp. Scary, right? I freaked out for a second until I heard his voice again to tell me to come up where he was. It was pretty steep, but I went for it! The hike was supposed to be strenuous, right? The wind was so strong at our new viewpoint, I could barely stand up! I snapped a few photos while laying on my stomach and headed back down to the real end of the trail.

The view from the first clearing.

I took this photo laying down!

The scary way down.

Look what we eventually found!

The actual end of the trail versus where we ended up. Oops!

After a stop at the gift shop for my postcard obsession, we had the most delicious Sioux Indian tacos with buffalo meat for lunch. I originally ordered it because it's served on frybread and duh, bread. If you ever get the chance to try it, order it - it's to die for! After lunch, it was time to go to our home for the evening. For the campers out there, we spent the night in our MSR Hubba Hubba NX - awesome tent with a lot of headroom and it kept up with the strong winds of the prairie with absolutely no issues, we highly recommend it!

Our little home for the night.

Dining room and bedroom.

Time for dinner!

The following morning, I wished my fiancé a very happy birthday and we took the scenic route through Badlands National Park. Even if you don't hike or camp, you definitely want to pay the park fee (it's only $15!) just to do this drive - there's a lot of parking spots to take in the view and snap a few a lot of photos.

Good morning! How's that for a room with a view?!

Happy Birthday! How perfect was this card?!
Birthday card from Moorea Seal.

Our first wildlife of the trip!


The dark red formations (bottom of photo) are from 67 to 75 million years ago!


The drive through Badlands is amazing!

I hope you enjoyed Badlands National Park as much as I did! (The following photo is a lie, sorry - we entered the park in the middle of the night and couldn't snap a photo until the next day.)


Next stop... Wall Drug and Mount Rushmore! See you then!

Jess

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