South Dakota/Wyoming Road Trip: Day 1

I’ve traveled all over the world and to all seven continents, but this fall I had to check out a place that’s just down the road from my home in Golden and yet I’ve never been to…South Dakota. Our plan is to explore the Black Hills of South Dakota, head east to The Badlands, then spend some time in Wyoming with a stop in the Bighorn Mountains, where I used to live in my younger days. The weeklong journey starts in some place new and ends in a place I once called home and hadn’t seen in nearly 30 years.

My wife and I began our journey very early on a Sunday morning. Heading out of the Denver area, we drove through fog-blanketed plains for several hours until we finally exited the dreary skies of the lowlands for the blue skies of the Black Hills. Our first stop was at the second longest cave system in the world: Jewel Cave. A fascinating 1 ½ hour ranger-guided tour takes you through a labyrith of tunnels and massive caverns all covered in intricate layers of crystal. One could spend months or even years exploring the network of tunnels, but this pleasant walk was enough for me. Chronic clautrophobia will always prevent me from doing much spelunking.

That evening would be my first visit to Mount Rushmore. Our goal was to get some interesting sunset photos with the presidential carvings. There weren’t enough clouds for a decent sunset, but after the sky grew dark, the view of the carvings gently illuminated by a waning moon against a background of brilliant stars was nothing short of perfect. The park service gave a short presentation in the amphitheater, followed by the shining of bright spotlights on the statues. The light show was OK, but I think the moon was doing a nice job of it on its own.


About Mike

I have a passion for adventure travel that began in 1989 with my first overseas trip: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Having never been to a foreign country, Africa felt like being on another planet; I knew then and there I was hooked on travel. Since that time, I have visited all seven continents and dozens of countries. I’m using the experience I’ve gained in planning my own trips to help my clients plan their own adventures through my adventure travel company ( After working as a firefighter for the US Forest Service in California and Wyoming for three years, I moved to Durango, Colorado where I graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in accounting. After graduation I moved to the Denver area where I worked in a Big Eight accounting firm to obtain my CPA license; soon afterward I began a career as an auditor with the Colorado Department of Education. My background in accounting helped me develop detailed-oriented skills that have been extremely useful in researching and planning my own travel over the years. I think this provides a unique asset to my clients in putting together their adventure travel plans. I currently live in Golden, Colorado with my wife Valerie, who shares my love of adventure travel. I’m an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club where I lead trips for club members and have taught ski lessons in their Telemark Ski School. I enjoy skiing, mountain hiking, trail running, photography, and astronomy. I take any opportunity I can get to explore new places, whether it’s on the other side of the world or just down the road.
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