Even with diligent planning and preparing, a trip can look amazing and adventurous on paper but the reality turns out to be a huge disappointment. Such as we learned this past July, when we decided to test our adventurous nature and stay in an 1880’s homestead. No running water, no electricity, out in the middle of nowhere in Interior, SD just south of Badlands National Park. The homestead sits on a family farm, about fifty yards from the White River. The weather forecast for that weekend was topping at around 100 degrees for a high and 80’s for a low.
No electricity? No problem! We have a badass camping lantern. No running water? No problem. We have the river close by and we bought some Dude Wipes, yes that’s right, Dude Wipes for a wet nap shower. We also bought some backpacker meals, firewood, a small pot and about 6 gallons of water. We were ready. We were pumped. This was definitely going to be a unique experience.
But little did we know, that fate had its own plan for us. The drive down to the homestead was absolutely breathtaking. A winding river valley, lush and green and rolling hills. It was very picturesque. Finally, the moment has arrived! We were there! We got out of the car and started walking towards the homestead, when suddenly we were attacked! It initially started off slow, but the more we disturbed the grass the more vicious it became. We were being attacked from every direction, we couldn’t escape! We were surrounded with no way out! I ran back to the car and grabbed the only weapon I had. I couldn’t see them so I blindly aimed………..then pulled the trigger. I doused myself with as much Off repellant as I could stand. Then I courageously ran back to my husband to save him from those blood sucking little demons.
It helped, a little. We stepped inside the homestead hoping for a reprieve from the massacre. There were screens on the homestead windows, but there was no breeze so it was like sitting in a sauna. The screens also were full of holes so, you guessed it, there were mosquitoes in there too.
Now normally, the Badlands and surrounding areas don’t receive much rain. They have a more desert like environment. But this year was a very wet season which creates the perfect environment for mosquitoes to breed.
At that point we weren’t sure what we were going to do. There was no way to cook our food in the homestead, so we’d have to go outside and build a fire at some point. We thought perhaps, a fire would deter the mosquitoes. But we were wrong. We barely got the fire lit. Well, maybe since it was so hot, we’d hang out in the river to cool off. Remember how I said, it had been a really wet season? Yep, the river was flooded and moving pretty fast. So, no swimming on this trip. And unfortunately, when I’m bitten by a mosquito, the site welts up to the size of a silver dollar and I already had three large welts forming on the back of my arm.
We were defeated. We were literally soaked in bug spray. The little bastards must have been some mutant hybrid demon, that our puny mortal bug spray had no effect on. So, we decided to move on.
We looked nearby for different lodging, but what we found was either full or just a little to sketch for our taste. So inevitably I started looking online for lodging in Rapid City. And I found the perfect place. The place that would make up for the whole horrible start to our vacation. Glamping!
So, at this point our trip took a complete 180. We went from roughing it with no running water or electricity to a canvas tent with a king size bed and private bathroom. We had stayed at Under Canvas in Keystone last year and loved it, so we couldn’t wait to experience it again. And guess what? There were no mosquitoes there! Hooray! We still ate our backpacker meals, we just didn’t have to boil our own water. They were actually pretty tasty and very easy to clean up.
The next morning we were up early and headed for Custer State Park to find the buffalo. The last time we’d driven through the park we didn’t get to see them at all. So this time we were determined. The drive is beautiful early in the morning. We only saw 2 other vehicles out for a drive. When we were about halfway through the park we stopped at a visitor center and they gave us an approximate location for the buffalo and the mules that call the park home. And we found them! Although they were not that close to the road, they were still close enough that you could hear them grunting.
Now this can’t be said enough. Buffalo are not the lovable, docile creatures they appear to be. Buffalo and very grumpy and will knock your ass down if you encroach their personal space. Now, as I’m writing this, I’m starting to see a stark similarity between the buffalo and me when it comes to personal space. Hhmmm. So, I guess you could say that buffalo are my spirit animal. Keep your distance!
After leaving the buffalo, we headed in the direction where the mules were said to be hanging out. Just like in Yellowstone, there was a traffic jam where the mules were hanging. There were multiple families with kids feeding the mules apples and granola. A word to the wise, the mules get a little aggressive when there’s food around and will push their way in to grab some. So keep and eye on your surroundings and watch your fingers! If your fingers are in the way when they come in for a bite, they will get you! Not on purpose of course.
Even though I didn’t have food for them and they didn’t want anything to do with me because of it, I still managed to get two of the greatest selfies I have ever taken!
The rest of our trip was spent relaxing and driving the winding mountain roads. We took a drive on needles highway and stopped for a short hike. We eventually ended up in Hill City and stopped by Prairie Berry for lunch and then over to Miner Brewing Company for a couple drinks.
Robert Burns said it best “The best laid schemes of Mice and Men often go awry. And leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy”. We left for the weekend with one adventure planned and ended up having a completely different one. Fortunately, it turned out to be a pretty great experience compared to how it had started.