Saturday, July 9, 2011
Blue Skies and Red Rock: South Dakota Trip, Part 4
A little farther north I pulled off to snap a photo of Bridal Veil Falls, no easy feat without a tripod, given the crazy wind that morning that had the aspen blowing sideways, not to mention dirt roads whipping up a frenzy of dust.
I arrived in the town of Spearfish before noon, and by that time I was a woman on a mission. I wanted to see Devil’s Tower, in eastern Wyoming, up close and personal. During my family’s cross-country trip in 1970 along this route, we stopped there early one morning. We could see this natural wonder jutting up into clear blue sky from miles away, and the surrounding red rock gleamed in the morning light. Having gotten my first taste of red rock in the Badlands just a day or two before, I was a sulky 13-year-old when Dad said we didn’t have time to hike around the base of Devil’s Tower – also known as Bear Lodge. We had a long travel day ahead of us in 1970 that would take us across the entire state of Wyoming to Yellowstone, which would reveal yet more wonders to my young eyes. This time, however, I was in charge of my own itinerary, and I had until nightfall to get back to my cabin near the Badlands. I was going to take that hike around Devil’s Tower!
“Big Wyoming” is very big indeed, and I was reminded of the state’s motto as I wound my way back to I-90, detouring west to avoid a road closure, on sparsely traveled roads across the prairie. Some 100 miles east, I returned to a comfy cabin in Wall, and watched a big South Dakota sky as the sun set and a thunderstorm rolled across the prairie.
More prairie, with glimpses of both free-ranging buffalo and the Badlands in the distance.
I reached the western edge of the park on that road, then doubled back east toward the more traveled, and paved, parts of the Badlands. I had dutifully paid for my 7-day pass the Monday before, and had it at the ready, expecting to go through an “official” entrance for the Badlands. But somehow I did not encounter one on my route. I did, however, encounter sights like these, which still leave me awestruck, even if my mid-day photos don’t do justice to the light, the rock, the magnificence of this place.
Near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, I attempted a bit of hiking, on the Notch, Window, and Door Trails. I'm guessing this is explains how Notch Trail got its name.
Alas, I was near the end of the Badlands loop road, and it was time to get back on I-90 and begin my trip home. Fortunately, I eased into my return trip with a stop in Mitchell, SD (home to the Corn Palace) and a fine dinner at Chef Louie's.
I brought my appetite with me that night, and was glad I did. First up, great bread and butter.
Entrees come with soup or salad and a side, so I settled in for the house salad with blue cheese.
And because I'm always a sucker for Bearnaise and asparagus, I opted for the Filet Oscar.
Chef Louie's is actually a very unpretentious place, and in addition to having a delicious meal after a long day, one of the things I most appreciated was the service, which was both welcoming and efficient. I chatted with the manager, who was kind enough to give me a copy of the menu to pass along to a co-worker who is organizing a trip to South Dakota in September. One of the things he said to me was: "We just try to offer good old Midwestern hospitality." When I told him I was born in Nebraska, he nodded and said, "OK, then you get it."
Because one can never get too much of a good thing, I of course had to indulge in dessert, this lovely creme brulee.
Hope you're enjoying your summer, wherever you are! And please stop back for an announcement in the next few days . . .