The Dakotas: Planning

Cedar Pass Area, Badlands National Park

Prairie Sunflowers, Cedar Pass area, Badlands National Park

With the exception of a lovely long weekend in Florida in March with my parents, by Labor Day 2014 Sean and I had not taken a real vacation in 2014. This was due both to the whims and vagaries of his firm and that the summer months are busy at Openlands. (For comparison, by Labor Day 2013, we’d already visited the Virgin Islands, California, and Florida and had driven around the whole of Lake Michigan.) It was past time for a vacation. It was time to sleep in a tent.

We decided upon a trip to the Dakotas (and Wyoming). We’d hit three parks: Badlands, Wind Cave, and Theodore Roosevelt, plus three monuments.

I’d been itching to go to Theodore Roosevelt since reading Edmund Morris’ biography of him two years ago. I’d even thought of visiting the park between my time at Marwen and my time at Openlands.

Badlands National Park would be my first revisit, and it would work toward the goal of calibrating Sean’s and my parks. Before this project started, he’d been to one that I hadn’t, and I’d been to four that he hadn’t. His visiting Badlands would begin to shrink that disparity.

Finally, with Wind Cave so close it would be our first big, multi-park journey of the project (a must if we are to visit all 59 National Parks before we’re 50).

I want to say that we considered other options, but really we didn’t. From the start, this trip was all about the Dakotas. The only major consideration was whether to rent a car in Chicago and make it wholly a road trip or to fly in/out of Sioux Falls or Rapid City. After a little research, flying to Rapid City and renting a car there was the clear cost-benefit choice.

I worked on a draft ten-day itinerary that allowed for two nights each at Badlands and Wind Cave, two nights in each of Theodore Roosevelt’s units, and a night at a motel near Devils Tower. Within that, I tried not to over-cram our plans, allowing for flexibility and time for relaxation.

The Dakotas, September 5 – 14, 2014

Day One (Friday, 9/5)
Travel American Airlines 3164 ORD/FSD 9:30 – 11:05am
Arrive at Badlands National Park (3.5 hour drive)
Sleep: Badlands NP (Sage Creek Campground)

Day Two (Saturday, 9/6)
Badlands National Park
Sleep: Badlands NP (Sage Creek Campground)

Day Three (Sunday, 9/7)
Arrive at Wind Cave National Park (2.25 hour drive)
Sleep: Wind Cave NP (Elk Mountain Campground or Backcountry)

Day Four (Monday, 9/8)
Wind Cave National Park: Natural Entrance Cave Tour, 9am
Jewel Cave National Monument: Scenic Tour, 2pm
Sleep: Wind Cave NP (Elk Mountain Campground or Backcountry)

Day Five (Tuesday, 9/9)
Harney Peak and Cathedral Spires
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Scenic Byway-Spearfish
Arrive at Devils Tower National Monument (4 hour drive)
Sleep: Devils Tower NM (The Hulett Motel)

Day Six (Wednesday, 9/10)
Arrive at Theodore Roosevelt National Park (4 hour drive)
Sleep: T Roosevelt NP South Unit (Cottonwood Campground or Backcountry)

Day Seven (Thursday, 9/11)
Petrified Forest
Sleep: T Roosevelt NP South Unit (Cottonwood Campground or Backcountry)

Day Eight (Friday, 9/12)
Elkhorn Ranch
Arrive at T Roosevelt NP North Unit (1.15 hour drive)
Sleep: T Roosevelt NP North Unit (Juniper Campground or Backcountry)

Day Nine (Saturday, 9/13)
Sleep: T Roosevelt NP North Unit (Juniper Campground or Backcountry)

Day Ten (Sunday, 9/14)
Travel American Airlines 3469 FSD/ORD 6:05 – 7:45pm (8.5 hour drive)

One thought on “The Dakotas: Planning

  1. Pingback: Zion National Park: Through the Tunnel to Zion Canyon | As They Are: Exploring the National Parks

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