The first part of my cross country road trip showed me the beauty of letting go and becoming aware of the amazing opportunities that are always around us. From taking a chance and listening to another person’s recommendation to stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway when heading into Utah to taking a chance and order grilled quail at a restaurant. Life is about experiences, chances, and exploration. (To read more about part one of my cross country road trip click here.)
Part 2: Salt Lake City, UT to Rapid City, SD
Now part 2 of my 3 part adventure from the west coast to the east coast brought me into completely new territory. My father and I traveled through Utah, across Wyoming, and into the northwest of South Dakota. I have skied in both Utah and Wyoming…but I had never seen these states in the summer, yet alone in their entirety. And wow this is truly God’s land in Wyoming and South Dakota.
Day 3: Traveling from Salt Lake City, UT to Rapid City, SD
663 Miles, 11 Hours
We woke up early and headed out of Salt Lake City to travel across Wyoming. Our route took us from the southwest to the northeast of Wyoming using the 80 and the 90. We chose these directions in order to stop at Devil’s Tower before reaching Rapid City, SD. If you go this way you must stop at the pit stop along the Oregon Trail. Independence Rock signals this rest stop on the 80. This state landmark is a historic resting point for weary travelers since the move out West in the early nineteenth century. I highly recommend stopping here and stretching your legs with a walk around the rock. When you walk around Independence Rock you can see the initials of earlier travels that date back to 1810! It really gives you an amazing perspective of American history, exploration, and determination for a greater tomorrow.
I fell in love with eastern Wyoming. As I previously mentioned, we made our last pit stop to see the Devil’s Tower. It is quite out of the way off of the 90 but completely worth it. A storm was blowing in when we stopped but the cool breeze, overcast skies, and ominous calm was quite settling. The wind rustled through the trees that lined the road and swiftly moved across the high grass on the open field to my other side. The silence allowed you to stand in awe of the amazing glory of Devil’s Tower. Although the name is ominous, the site is glorifying of nature’s mystery and abundance. I truly began to appreciate the strength and sanctity of the national monument in that moment. (For more information on Devils Tower please go here.)
Late in the evening we arrived in Grand Rapids, SD. Weary from the many miles we put it we called it an early evening and went to bed as soon as possible.
Day 4: Discovering the Badlands and Getting to Know Grand Rapids, SD
We set out for an early adventure to get to the Badlands National Park before it was too hot. Unknowingly, we chose the wrong direction and ended up on the south end of the park. But from here, we decided to follow the signs for the driving loop. This turned out to be one of the best experiences! Now it is a long drive…but with the right playlist and no expectations it is 100% worth it. I would highly recommend having a SUV or some sort of lifted vehicle to maneuver over the terrain on the loop. You get the chance to pass the grasslands, buffalo, prairie dogs, scenic overlooks into the black hills, and plenty of opportunities to drive a back country road. We stopped at many of the overlook points. After almost completing the loop we found what we set out to do early that morning – hiked.
It was quite hot by noon but we both were determined to get outside, stretch our legs, and take in the badlands by foot. We hiked up Saddle Pass Trail and I continued on to Medicine Root. Now when you see that Saddle Pass Trail is rated as difficult do not take that warning lightly. I enjoy strenuous hikes but know that you need proper hiking boots, a hydration source, and patience to scale this trail. It is about a 1/4 mile but it is up hill and with very loose gravel. It is worth the view at the top…so keep going until you reach the plateau! Medicine Root is also a beautiful hike. It is very easy and flat – but try to accomplish this hike early in the morning because it has little shade and no water sources.
After the hike we drove back to Rapid City. Now I had no clue what to expect in Rapid City. We found a nice pub to grab a beer and dinner…but after dinner we stumbled on pure magic. There was a community beer and street festival. I have never experienced anything quite like it. The live music, sense of togetherness, dancing, and libations made each person come alive and have a smile. No matter your age or background you were accepted and encouraged to just go with the flow! Rapid City, thank you. That was just the pick me up I needed before another full day of travel.