Our last major stop on our East Coast Escape Road Trip was Badlands National Park in South Dakota. We arrived in the evening just in time to head into the park for some star gazing. A huge full moon made star watching difficult, but lit up the surrounding landscape giving the night a truly magical feel.
The next day we were in the park bright and early to try and get some hiking in before the temperature rose. Most visitors to the park only drive the loop road stopping at the scenic overlooks, so once you get off the road you pretty much have the park to yourself. We decided to hike towards Deer Haven and didn’t encounter any other visitors.
Hiking through the badlands is like being on the surface of another planet where someone made hundreds of dribble castles out of sand. There are a variety of formations and the colors can be quite spectacular. The Younger Fives had a blast climbing the various outcroppings, but soon found out that even though the formations are highly prone to erosion (The Badlands average one inch of erosion per year) they are very rough and can really scrape up your skin.
As the sun moved overhead the valley floor quickly heated up and all too soon it was time to return to the car and continue on towards home. As we drove away from the Badlands we all agreed that this national park ranks as one of our top favorites, and we all hope for a return visit.
As a family we have always been a fan of the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her descriptions of the life of her and her husband are interesting and engaging (especially for younger readers). On our recent trip across the country and back we were able to stop off at two historic landmarks along the Ingalls Wilder Trail.
The first stop was at the childhood home of Laura’s husband, Almanzo Wilder, just outside of the town of Malone, New York. The Wilder Homestead isn’t the easiest attraction to find (they definitely need more road signs). However, the grounds and tour more than make up for the 30 minutes that we spent looking for the homestead. Our tour guide was very informative and engaging, giving us a comprehensive tour of the school house, barns, and house. We spent the most time in the recreated barns that house many artifacts from the time when the Wilder Family farmed in Upper-state New York. We were most impressed with the original house and the very large tree growing outside the front door. Several families have lived in the house since Almanzo and his family left, but the foundation is still original, and you can see the black spot that Almanzo made on the wall as described in the book Farmer Boy.
Our second stop was in the town of De Smet, South Dakota where Laura Ingalls’ family moved in 1879 when her farther Charles took a job with the railroad. The family stayed in De Smet and started a homestead. When visiting De Smet there are many historic sites to view including the cemetery where Pa, Ma, Mary, Carrie, and Grace Ingalls are all buried. For our tour of the area we decided to visit the original homestead that Pa started. There are five humongous cottonwood trees still standing today that Pa planted back in the 1880’s. From the homestead we walked a trail leading along the Silver Lake slough. We then headed into town to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society where we were able to view the original Surveyors’ House that the family stayed in and Laura wrote about in her book The Long Winter.
There are many more historic sites to visit along the Ingalls Wilder Trail each with amazing history. Five of Hearts would love to visit where Laura lived near Walnut Grove, Minnesota as well as Rocky Ridge Farm where Laura and Almanzo lived in Missouri until their deaths. Until then we will keep enjoying the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder.