From the endless prairies through the Badlands National Park and into the Black Hills National Forest, each offered a vista of beauty punctuated with nature’s wonders. Pronghorn Antelope, geese, songbirds, conifers, and rock cathedrals graced our journey and the scenery was a feast for the eyes. Leaving I 90 shortly after Sturgis (home of the great motorcycle gathering that occurs each year) we ventured onto a small byway (Hwy 34) that cut through Belle Fourche, South Dakota where we connected to Hwy 212. This small highway traversed through peaceful landscapes where the trip took on a leisurely pace as we passed through the Northeast corner of Wyoming before entering Montana from the Southeast. Picnicking along the way, we were able to enjoy nature at some of its best as we meandered to Red Shale Campground in the Custer National Forest, our destination for day 4.
Badlands National Park houses an abundance of fossil beds where the remains of rhinos, ancient horses, saber-toothed cats and others once roamed. Now the home of bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs…and tourists, it encompasses almost a quarter a million acres. Striking geological formations were the result of sedimentation known as Sharps, Rockyford, Brule, and Chadron deposits, all with different colors and exposed through erosion to create a mosaic of colors.
The Black Hills have a rich history as once the home of the Cheyenne and Lakota tribes until the discovery of gold when white prospectors displaced them. Rising out of the plains, these series of peaks reach 7000+ feet and extend from western South Dakota into Wyoming. Perhaps best known for Mount Rushmore, the area is a welcome transition from the great plains and is rich in scenic beauty, lush forests, and an abundance of game. Soon we will be passing through Custer State Park where George Armstrong Custer and 263 of his soldiers died fighting the Lakota and Cheyenne and were buried where the fell.