Today was going to be a very busy day and it started very early. We got up at 5am, got ready quickly at the bathroom block and all jumped (more like crawled) into the van to see the sunrise at...

We were in a bit of a rush to get here in time for sunrise as we had had to wait for a few people getting into the van a bit late. When we got here bleary eyed we walked from the road into the wooden path across some of the badlands and then headed off track to get a better view of the sunrise from one of the peaks on the landscape. Most of us went one way and a few others went a different ways.
Walking on the landscape was like nothing I've ever felt, it crumbled a bit beneath your feet but was also hard and rock like. A sand clay and soil mixture.
Once we got into a good viewing location we just stopped and took in the sunrise. It was fairly cloudy but we could still see it and the colours were amazing, well worth the 5am start.
This is one of the most beautiful places i have been to, a 'beautifully broken' craggy landscape. It is amazing to see these kinds of landscapes during sunrise or sunset, it makes it feel even more incredible. I loved this part of trek, having these built in to the itinerary was one of my favourite parts of the whole experience.

After a while we heard the others who were quite a distance away but because it was so quiet and peaceful you could hear them. One of the couples on our trip had just got engaged!!! Congrats guys!
After cheering for them we took in a bit more of the sunrise and all regrouped to walk back to the bus taking in the views of the sparkly engagement ring on the way. What a way to start the day.

We drove back to the campsite and all tried to get back to sleep and rest for an hour or two before packing up and getting into the van to leave the beautiful badlands and head to...

By this time it was bright sunshine and a lovely day. We stopped here to visit Wall Drug. It is a roadside tourist attraction that is a shopping mall with a drug store, gift shops and restaurants, they are not individually run but run as a single entity. We all headed straight into the restaurant to get breakfast, it was a hearty breakfast to keep our energy up after the early start. We were all still excited from the newly engaged couple and after a chit chat over food we all went off to explore what Waldrug had to offer. It is a cowboy and western style drug store and shopping area, with a huge rabbit statue in the middle!

Whilst here we saw the camping group again as they had just arrived. A couple of them rushed over to us and explained how when they left the Badlands campsite a ranger had stopped them and said a suitcase had fallen out of our trailer when we left. They hadn't taken it with them as they didn't know if they would see us as they didn't know how far ahead of them we were.

We quickly finished our visit and headed back to the van to find out. The trailer hadn't been locked properly by one of us as Jake asked us to lock it up (blame the early start), so we started the long challenge of pulling the bags out to see if one was missing….it was!!
After a few debates, we had no other option but to head back, we couldn't leave someone without their suitcase! It wasn't like the iPad that we could catch up with later.

After a detour back to the Badlands, which the newly engaged couple were especially happy about as they didn't think they would go back to the spot they got engaged, we found a ranger station and they told us to head to the information centre. We went and Jake and the missing suitcase owner and another headed inside, they managed to get it back. They were questioned about what was in it to make sure it was theirs, which was apparently hard to prove! After discovering a smashed beer bottle in the suitcase we were all happy to be reunited, especially the owner as the panic of loosing a suitcase was more scary.

TOP TIP: Or moral of the story, learn how to lock the trailer properly or tell the trek leader its not been done or you don't know how - it's amazing nothing else fell out!

We started our drive for the day again, a bit behind schedule and because we had already made the Wall Drug stop it meant a long drive. But a few hours later we arrived in...

As we drove into the mountains the sunshine had disappeared and the snow had started! So when we pulled up in the van and walked towards the entrance to Mount Rushmore it was very cold. We walked through the flag lined entrance which opened out into a viewing area and got an amazing view of Mount Rushmore.

It is much smaller than I expected and was quite far away but still looked incredible. To carve such detail into the rock is quite a feat. We didn't stay here too long as it was very cold and the snow was getting heavier so we headed downstairs and into the information centre where we went into a cinema and watched a film about the history and making of the monument.
I would have liked to walk closer to Mount Rushmore on some of the paths, but some were closed and it wasn't sensible due to the weather.
We then went into smaller groups and got some cash out the ATM, and grabbed a snack and drink. Then we all headed back out into the snow and back to the van to warm up and make our way to...

Black Hills National Forest, SOUTH DAKOTA:

We arrived in another area to see the Crazy Horse monument. It was still snowing and even colder now, so we all headed straight inside to the information centre and another cinema to watch a film about the making of the Crazy Horse. We spent much more time here, taking in art work, the gift shop and artefacts.

At the end of the gift shop you could see the Crazy Horse in the distance out the window, the others stayed inside but I headed out onto the decking into the snow to get a better view. I didn't last long and then we all headed together back to the van.
It was a shame about the weather and most of the group didn't want to spend long here or at Mount Rushmore. There was the option to get a bus ride closer to the monument but as no one else wanted to, and we were running behind due to our suitcase debacle earlier so I was a bit disappointed to be back at the van so soon. This is one of the downsides of group travel, if most of the group does or doesn't want to do something it can be difficult for you if you have another opinion. I could have said i'd wanted to but it seemed silly to make the rest of the group wait for one person. Although it wasn't the best weather and the views of it were obscured a bit because of this so it was onwards and upwards (more like down, to get off the mountain).

Jake drove us into a town, Hill City where we could get an early dinner and told us this would be our last main food stop for the day. Jake headed off to fill up the van and have a bit of downtime. The snow was still coming down so most of us went into the local diner. We all had a decent meal and 45 minutes later Jake was back to pick us up. Then it was back in the van and onto...

Deadwood, Black Hills, SOUTH DAKOTA:
It was still cloudy and lightly snowing as we pulled into Deadwood, but with the name, it made this place seem all the more mysterious.
Deadwood is famed from the 1800s and a time when it was a lawless society with shootouts and past residents being Wild Bill and Calamity Jane, proper american west country!

We got parked up and walked to an old style saloon, Saloon No. 10. This place felt like you'd stepped back in time. It has sawdust floors, and the walls are covered in memorabilia from the past.
It's a bar, museum and place to gamble all in one. It also prides itself on being a recreation of where Wild Bill Hickok was killed, even having the chair he was shot in pride of place above the door for all to see. The card hand Aces and Eights was the hand he supposedly held when killed and is known as dead man's hand.

We wandered around for a bit taking it all in, then sat down for a drink. Some of the group went to another area out the back for card game gambling. Everyone over 21 got their hand stamped which had two guns on it to signify the gun slinging town.

After this we headed out. The rest of the town was a mixture of old and new, mainly new posing as old which gave the town a really unique feel. It was another place where the cleanest of the streets seemed odd against the 1800 style bars and shops.

We made our way back to the van and then we started our drive to where we would spend the night and it was snowing really heavily still as we passed through Sundance, Wyoming. The weather cleared up a bit as we made it to our ninth state...

Devils Tower, WYOMING:
We pulled up to the KOA campsite as we were staying in cabins again tonight. We had reached the ninth state of our trip. It was the usual routine of 3 to a cabin and we all went into the same groups. It was already getting dark by this point in the day. My cabin mates and I quickly put our stuff in the cabin and were the first to the shower block again. These seemed older but were much larger. The toilets were on one side of the building and the shower cubicles were all on the other side.
After wandering back in the dark most of the group were celebrating the engagement with some drinks in one of the cabins as it was pretty cold.

TOP TIP: Pack for all weathers, as a day in mountain areas can mean it is really cold, it snowed for most of the day so even when we passed into an area that was snow free it was still freezing. Not many of us had thick layers to wear especially to bed but you do need it. If you don't want to pack thick layers buy them cheap at Walmart or pack lots of clothes you can wear together on colder days, leggings under trackies or jeans etc. 

I chatted with some of the others in another cabin and then had an early night after a long day, all ready for tomorrows adventures...

ITINERARY (LISTED):                           Sunrise in the Badlands - Mount Rushmore
ACCOMMODATION:                            Devils Tower KOA - Devils Tower, Wyoming

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