ADG team members Molly Mann and Ally Cizowski recently returned from a six-day trip to South Dakota, an adventure in which they explored National Parks and Monuments, State Parks, National Memorials, and Historic Sites. They regaled us of their adventures as soon as they got back, and the following is the third and final installment of their adventure.
The Last Leg of the Journey Begins
On the morning of Day #4, Molly and Ally said goodbye to their cabin in Custer and headed east to the Badlands. They got a place to stay in the town of Wall, famous for its iconic tourist attraction Wall Drug.
The first attraction for Molly and Ally to check off on Day #4’s itinerary, Wall Drug began as a pharmacy and general store in 1931 and is now one of the most well-known tourist attractions in the nation. As the story goes, Wall Drug was struggling to get new business during the Great Depression. One of the employees had the brilliant idea to put a sign out front that read, “Free ice water!” Sure enough, this brought travelers in out of the South Dakota heat, and once they were in for the ice water, they stayed for the burgers, donuts, gifts, souvenirs, and memorabilia.
After visiting Wall Drug and taking a brief rest at their new base of operations in Wall, Molly and Ally headed off to explore one of America’s most unique natural formations, the Badlands.
Badlands National Park
Designated as a National Monument in 1939 and a National Park in 1978, Badlands National Park conserves 242,756 acres of sharply eroded buttes and pinnacles, hard-packed clay-based soils, and rock formations. The park also conserves undisturbed mixed-grass prairie. Despite the region's seemingly arid and empty nature, the craggy spires and mounds of the Badlands and the surrounding prairies are home to many animal species, including the endangered black-footed ferret.
A site of rich history and culture, the Badlands has always been significant. Prior to its incorporation into the National Park Service, the region held immense spiritual significance to the Oglala Lakota Indigenous Americans. The highest points in the park, Red Shirt Table and Stronghold Table were reserved as ceremonial sacred sites, the revered locations where Lakota tribes would practice the Ghost Dance, a ceremony to revive the souls of buffalo and deceased Lakota family members.
Today, Badlands National Park is visited by about 900,000 guests each year, a popular and respected icon of the American Midwest. And we can see why! The park has much to offer, from its rich geologic and anthropological history to the wildlife, hiking trails, vistas, and unique formations.
Tips for Enjoying Badlands National Park
Molly and Ally spent the second half of Day #4 and a good portion of Day #5 in Badlands National Park. They explored popular Badlands attractions like Pinnacles Overlook, Window Trail, Door Trail, Fossil Exhibit Trail, and the Notch Trail.
Hiking, hiking, and more hiking! Badlands National Park is known for incredible hiking trails, each offering a unique and special vantage point from which to view the park. Ally encouraged us to check out Window Trail and Door Trail, as these trails offered fascinating doors and windows in the baked clay mountains and rocks, seemingly man-made but not, from which to look out over the Badlands.
Molly’s advice was to check out the National Park Service’s dedicated webpage to Badlands National Park, as access to the park changes throughout the year. Though the Badlands seems arid and almost desert-like, the region does get a fair amount of snow and harsh weather in the winter, and not all of the hiking trails are accessible.
Molly and Ally both recommended bringing lots of water and some snacks when venturing into Badlands National Park, as you are almost guaranteed to spend more time in the park than anticipated! But as a backup plan, there is an eatery called Cedar Pass Lodge located near one of the visitor centers that offers a place to stay and plenty of good food and beverages.
Molly and Ally also recommended spending time in Badlands National Park during sunset. From their time there, they noticed that the rock formations (already brilliantly colored and unique) seemed to change colors, shapes, and sizes as the sun cast its rays on the rocks from different angles. The Badlands looked completely different during sunset than during the day.
Finally, though much of the excitement of the Badlands revolves around the many hiking trails and paths that crisscross the park, the National Park Service has done an excellent job of building accessible ramps, boardwalks, and paved paths for the disabled, elderly, and those who prefer more stable footing.
The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Towards the end of Day #5, Molly and Ally departed Badlands National Park and stopped to visit the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. This site offered an eye-opening history lesson of the Cold War Era, as it is an open-to-the-public missile silo! From the National Park Service’s description of this historic and somber National Historic Site:
“Minuteman Missile National Historic Site’s purpose is to tell the story of Minuteman Missiles, nuclear deterrence and the Cold War. Delta-01 and Delta-09 are striking examples of the alert status of United States nuclear forces during this time period. These sites, along with the exhibits in the Minuteman Missile Visitor Center, help visitors understand the story of one of the most important eras in both American and World History.”
This last stop on Molly and Ally’s departure from the Badlands region was a sobering and meaningful experience. Given that the nuclear arsenal in South Dakota has been gradually decommissioned since the end of the Cold War; Molly and Ally seeing in-person the destructive power that used to be there served as a powerful lesson, an opportunity for the travelers to reflect on the importance of the nation’s natural lands and the responsibility of protecting them through international peace.
Back to Nashville & South Dakota Poster Art… With More to Come!
When we asked Molly and Ally what the most inspirational moments from their trip were, they told us that western South Dakota was highly underrated, that it gave a whole new meaning to “Home on the Range,” that the colors, wildlife, big sky, and endless expanses of untouched nature and preserved wilderness was both awe-inspiring and exciting.
And to help our poster artists and designers here at the ADG Nashville Studio-Store, Molly and Ally took dozens of reference photos of their adventures in South Dakota. You can check out what our award-winning artists and illustrators have already created of South Dakota poster art, but stay tuned, folks. More artwork to come!
Enjoy those trails, wherever they happen to take you.
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer