Last week, Emma and I went to South Dakota as guests of the tourism board, and I found out just how much I’d neglected my own backyard for the first 27 years of my life.
Despite having grown up in Iowa, which borders South Dakota, I’d never visited. I also had no interest in changing that, and had even leveraged against taking a detour to see Mount Rushmore during our Great American Road Trip. I was pretty sure I knew what South Dakota had to offer.
(which I could see plenty of in Iowa)
(which, meh, so there’s some dried up lands or something.)
I was wholly unaware of this:
As it turns out, the Badlands are perhaps the most poorly named landmark in all the world. The WTFLands would be more apt, because that’s exactly the reaction one has when one suddenly sees a moonscape explode onto the prairie.
This is the sort of place that fuels conspiracy theories about UFOs and aliens making Earth landings. It makes no sense, and its ridiculousness is as beautiful as it is bewildering.
And I grew up just eight hours away.
I also, as it turns out, grew up about 10 hours from the Black Hills National Forest, a sprawling collection of hills and pines. It is here where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play.
(The buffalo also nurse.)
As Emma and I were shuttled around the state, we constantly wished for more time. More time to pan for gold, more time to hike among the spires, more time to walk through the woods and whisper to the wildlife.
But now that extra time will require another plane trip, another vacation that is saved and planned for. Now we live another day away, and it’s driving me nuts to know what I didn’t take advantage of then.
And isn’t that how it goes? We all have treasures in our own backyards, places other people board planes to visit, and so often we take them for granted. It’s so easy to ignore the simple pleasures.
How far are you from South Dakota? Do you visit the national and state parks within driving distance of you?
Emma and I were guests of the South Dakota tourism board. They paid for our flights, lodging, attraction admittance, and food. If you’re planning a trip to South Dakota in the future, I highly recommend getting in touch with them for help planning your itinerary.
You can see more of my photos of South Dakota here.