Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 11 Badlands (Day 2) June 13, 2009

Captain’s Blog
National Park, South Dakota

We are now in Mountain Time so we were both up at 6AM – our circadian is still functioning on Eastern Standard Time. The day is clear and sunny with no rain expected. It’s a great day for exploring and hiking. Poor Jewel doesn’t get to hike with us – no dogs allowed.

Our first stop this morning was at a minute - man missile site. Unfortunately we did not get to tour the control station because the number of people allowed on the tour was limited and booked well in advance. We were able to tour the missile site and view the missile in the silo

Developed in the 1950’s, the Minuteman I missile and intercontinental ballistic missile , was part of a triad of air, land and sea based nuclear weapons. Due to innovative solid-fuel technology the Minuteman I then II could be deployed from unstaffed underground silos, launched by crews stationed miles away, travel over the North Pole, and arrive at a target in 30 minutes. Unlike the movies – once launched there was no stopping it from arriving at the intended destination. The Minuteman II’s 1.2 mega-ton warhead was the explosive equivalent of more then one million tons of dynamite.

We were surprised to hear that during the cold war there were 150 active missile sites in South Dakota alone. Today there are none in South Dakota but 500 nuclear missile sites are still deployed in the upper Great Plains keeping our nation’s defense systems on alert.

Our next stop was in Wall to visit Wall Drug the largest drug store in what is claimed as the world. In 1931 Dorothy and Ted Houstead bought the only drugstore in the little town called Wall on the edge of the Badlands. The business had not grown much by 1936 despite seeing a lot of cars drive by without stopping. On a hot July day Dorothy came up with the idea of giving free ice water to weary travelers. And the rest is history.

Today Wall Drug is a huge tourist attraction covering 68,000 square feet with dining options, stores selling a variety of items and a huge animated T-Rex and amusement area for children. Today, they still offer free ice water and a five - cent cup of coffee- refillable.

We drove the 29-mile circle tour of the park taking in all the view - points and changing vistas of the Badlands. Every vista was breath taking and as another camper’s description of the Badlands - “enchanting.”

We then joined a park Ranger for a fossil talk.
It was very interesting to learn of the different fossils that have been unearthed here. We walked the area and were able to see a fossil still embraced by the earth. This particular fossil should have been a successful recovery but vandals ripped the skull from the earth surrounding it so it was deemed a useless dig because without the skull they could not identify the fossil.
Part of a fossilized jaw bone and teeth - difficult to see in the picture - this is part of the destroyed fossil that leaves the animal source unidentifiable

We were looking forward to the evenings’ presentation on astrology but got rained out. The lightening in the distance was spectacular to look at and the sunset was a vibrant purple and orange – also spectacular. Anther great day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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