We’ve reached the last day of our South Dakota trip, which might have been the sweatiest. Pro tip: hiking in the Badlands during the middle of the day is not the best idea.
We got a later start on our fourth day because we packed up our campsite and said goodbye to the wonderful Big Pine Campground and our new friends Ron and Angie. We decided to head home on the fourth day instead of a fifth day, and visit the Badlands and the Minuteman Missile Site on our way home, since they were about two hours east of our campground on I-90—right on the way home!
We’ve been to Badlands National Park once before, about ten years ago. We hiked the Notch Trail, a trail famous for its wooden ladder, in the middle of the day, with no water, in dead heat. I complained the entire time, and my dad got so mad at me. When we got back to our car that afternoon, we realized it was 105°F. Maybe my complaining was slightly justified, and I’m not sure I ever completely got over it.
So naturally, we had to do this hike again. Though we still did it in the middle of the day (and the Badlands has no shade) and my face got just as red as it did last time, we remembered to bring water and I think I complained slightly less. As tough as the hike may have been, I love the Badlands in all of its weirdness, and the Notch Trail is one of my favorite hikes ever.
On the way out of the Badlands back to I-90, we stopped at a place that I’d found in my research about sites in South Dakota and knew immediately I had to make a trip there. The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is a former launch control facility for Minuteman-II missiles, installed during the height of Cold War tensions. There’s three main parts to the site: the visitor’s center, Delta-01 (the launch control facility), and Delta-09 (a missile silo. The launch control facility (the part I was most excited to see) unfortunately requires ticket reservations that sold out by the time I was looking at them a week before our trip.
To make better time on the way home, we decided to only stop at the Visitor’s Center. I wasn’t expecting much, but y’all—I was blown. away. You know my love for museums and anything relating to the Cold War, and this exceeded so many of my expectations. It’s definitely now one of my favorite museums—ever. It reminded me a lot of the Newseum in Washington, D.C., which is another one of my favorite places to spend a day or three or ten. The Visitor’s Center is so well done and I couldn’t help picking up a few fun souvenirs (and some books as well)! If you ever find yourself on I-90 near the Badlands, you absolutely must stop by and take a look—I hope you love it as much as I did!
And with that, we drove the seven hours home and our trip came to a close. Being surrounded by nature again was so re-energizing and invigorating and I loved exploring new places and re-visiting some old favorites. Until next time!