From the ‘Oh Ranger’ book:
Starting 65 million years ago, weather patterns shifted, and the area now called the Badlands was lifted and transformed by geological forces. The black, muddy floor of an ancient sea that once covered this area was compressed into a band of 2,000-foot-thick rock known as the Pierre Shale. Forests flourished and withered away. Volcanoes laid down a thick layer of ash and rivers repeatedly flooded the region, depositing sediment. These successive layers of matter often held the bodies and bones of animals now long extinct and preserved for posterity as fossils. Wind and the rushing waters of rivers now long vanished eroded the dry, fragile soil, coursing through different layers of harder and softer rock, gouging out channels and gulleys, and carving cliffs, spires and odd rock formations.
Erosion continues to this day, frequently revealing long-buried fossils. Drawn by the fossilized remains of saber-toothed cats, miniature camels and horses, and huge rhinoceros-like beasts known as titanotheres, scientists discovered millions of years of geologic history buried in the multicolored layers. One of the world’s richest Eocene/Oligocene Epoch fossil beds is located here, yielding a wealth of information of the ‘Golden Age of Mammals’ of approximately 25 million to 37 million years ago.
It’s so fascinating how these National Parks came to be what they are today. When we arrived at Badlands Visitor Center, the kids were happy to discover the Junior Ranger program was all about fossils, focusing of course, on those found within the Park. The Ranger chatted with them for a while, showing them samples, then gave them little ‘cakes’ of hard baked sand, which they carefully dug through to find shell ‘fossils’. It was a great activity, kept them occupied for a good while; they were thrilled to find some shells. I’ve searched for the ‘recipe’ online and can’t find anything similar, the ranger couldn’t remember the exact combination of ingredients but mentioned he used sand and Epsom salts, the search will continue – I could hide all sorts of things in there!
As well as showing all the kids (there was a small group of 7 – we were over 50% of the attendance!) different casts of fossils, he also took them out to a rocky area where a saber-tooth skull fossil had been discovered. They all eagerly looked around to see if there was anything they could find. It was a great program, well worth staying the extra time for and they were sworn in for their 50th Junior Ranger program, GO VALENTINE KIDS!
So, it was a late start to the travel day but we made good time, leaving before noon. We stopped at ‘The World’s Only Corn Palace’ in Mitchell, SD. We would certainly have passed this by had it not been suggested by the Outback couple at the campground. The first Corn Palace was built in 1892 when the city of Mitchell was just 12 years old. The idea was hatched by Louis Beckwith and L.O. Gale to showcase the crops grown in the area and to attract immigrant farmers to settle here. Along with the Corn Palace, a festival was planned to celebrate the harvest. Renowned to this day, over 100 years later, the tradition of the Corn Palace continues. The Corn Palace is known around the world as a folk-art wonder on the prairie of South Dakota.
Each year a new decorating theme is chosen and the outside of the Corn Palace is stripped and redecorated with new corn and grains. In early summer the process begins with removal of the old grasses and grains. Over the summer, 3,000 bushels of milo, rye, oat heads, and sour dock are tied in bundles and attached. The corn murals have to wait until late summer when the corn crop is ready. Over a half million ears of corn, in 12 different colors, are sawed in half and nailed to the building following patterns created by a local artist. They were a-maize-ing!
After another couple of stops en route for essentials (including wood for the floor in the camper, in an attempt to resolve a very soft floor issue around the air vent where the slide struts are underneath – not sure if it’s because we’re using the slides so often or walking over the area constantly but either way, it’s not great and a tad worrying) in Sioux Falls and across the border into Minnesota we went: state number 43.
Pipestone is a small town just over the border; the campground is along Hiawatha to the very end of town, opposite the entrance to Pipestone National Monument. By the time we rolled in, given that we lost an hour during the day, crossing back into the Central timezone, it was 9pm. The kids ran off to play in the huge sandbox while Dave and I battled the mosquitoes before I took refuge in the camper to sort out beds. When the kids came in, they were covered in bites, poor Caitlin had 5 on her face alone, ugh, we hate (this is the one time the kids will let me get away with hate – not a word we encourage the use of) the tiny, blood-sucking, buzzy things, there is more OFF in our future I fear!
States visited: 49!
visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800
Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)