The Badlands really was a bust for me. I know it’s a beautiful place, truly unique, but for me it was a hot, dead, wasteland…and maybe mostly that’s because I wasn’t able to use the generator…or make coffee in the morning. I WAS excited for the RV park/campground outside Keystone, SD. Spokane Creek Cabins and Campground. The drive there was pretty intense – winding, hilly roads through the Black Hills. I see why so many motorcyclists were on this road! The downside to Spokane Creek was no reception and poor internet, but the splendor of the area, friendliness of the staff and other guests far outweighed lacking reception. The park is located in sort of a valley of the Black Hills. There’s plenty of rocky areas to climb for the beginner and advanced hikers, a lovely creek the kids were splashing around in and racing little boats down, a pool, mini golf, a small gas station, and restaurant/convenience store/gift shop that has surprisingly very good pizza. Actually, I didn’t so much mind being able to completely relax without the distraction of texting and Facebook. I heard plenty of parents cheer not having the internet because their kids were outside playing with the other kids. I intended on staying there only a night, but extended it to two. It was just so, peaceful. In comparison to my night in the Badlands, this was a complete 180 in enjoyment and comfort.
Spokane Creek is the perfect place to stay for a family vacation. There were several families in their big fancy RVs and campers (okay, okay, there were popups and tenters too. I was the only van… -_-). What I thought was especially cute was the kids on the playground – complete strangers to one another, but they were planning games together for later and inviting one another over to their sites for bonfires and s’mores. It was funny, this girl was planning whatever game with two kids swinging and when she went running back to her site she turned around suddenly and yelled back, “by the way, my name is” so-and-so. It made me think of Megan and camping with her family in Park Falls, Wisconsin. Megan was my childhood friend, next door neighbor, and someone that, for a very long time, I thought of as a sister. She was my best friend and I took care of her.
Megan died when she was sixteen in a messy car accident. Her sister and boyfriend, also a good friend of mine, were in the car with her and didn’t survive either. This was twelve years ago and even though so much time has passed I find myself still missing her. The year before her death she invited me to camp with her and her family – RV and popup camping, that is. Nothing rugged here. Had to bathe in the lake, though. I met her grandparents (coolest grandparents ever! So much junk food, mmm), cousins, aunts, and uncles. We played tag and hide and seek with her little cousins, swam, and hiked solely to find bars on her phone (yes, in 2001, at age 15, Megan had a cell phone…I didn’t get a cell phone until I moved out of my parents house at age 20…) to call Chris, her boyfriend, and ask him if so-and-so liked me back. I tried pigs feet for the first time there (grandparents brought them, not bad actually), and learned how to make a dessert pie with sandwich bread, fruit filling, and a camp fire. My parents never took the kids camping and the only kind I ever did up until this summer is tent in the backyard with the neighbor friends. This was Megan’s family’s summer tradition and they were kind enough to include me. I felt fully part of the family after that. So now, although I don’t think of Megan so much anymore, when I’m in these RV park/campgrounds, this memory returns and returns with a humbled smile.
The first night at Spokane Creek there was a pretty crazy storm. Thunder, lightening, hail, and a nervous Izzy. Needless to say, we didn’t sleep much that night – Izzy was so scared I knew I was going to be staying up some time comforting her so turned the light on and watched The Little Mermaid. Oh yeah, on my trip I have brought many-a-Disney movies to watch. Even at twenty-nine a gal still needs to have her princesses with her! As the storm roared on I poked my head outside – I was across the creek from the tenters – and called out to see if anyone was getting rained out. Although it’s just a van I’m in it’s dry and there was still room. No one seemed to need the help and the next morning I didn’t hear of anyone sustaining any damage. It was a good conversation piece, especially with the owner, Darrell, whom I was able to meet while moving spots (had to go from site 24 to 29). I offered him some of the coffee I just made, but he wasn’t a fan of the flavored stuff. Why is it no one likes flavored coffee? I don’t like PLAIN coffee! Heehee!
I was lucky to stay another night because I met a really great family from Des Moines, Iowa – Kerri, her daughter, daughter’s friend, mother, and sister. I was getting ready in the bathroom when Kerri and the girls came in to take a shower. We talked and got to know one another while she showered (:P) and I was putting on makeup. When she got out of the shower she invited me up to their site later that night for s’mores. I’ve never been good at making friends – I’m shy so don’t often take advantage of opportunities to meet other people, but I wanted to join her and her family. I had already broken my first rule of not talking to strangers on this trip in the Badlands so might as well keep going! I spent the afternoon exploring Keystone, Custer, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse. $11 to get into Rushmore and Crazy Horse! Eleven dollar pictures, is all!
I didn’t want to show up to Kerri’s camper empty-handed so I stopped and picked up soda and watermelon to pass. That’s a good thing to have ’round a campfire, right? I thought so. No one had any because they had just finished eating, but there were beers, chocolate, and marshmallows to pass – which turned out to be my dinner. Kerri’s family was amazing. The girls were hilarious! They showed me videos they took of terrorizing their gramma when they went to the bear exhibit near Rapid City. I felt like I was part of the family – I too like terrorizing my mom for a chuckle with things like spiders and walking out on the ice. Her mother, sister, and I also talked about our travels – they come from South Carolina and are also putzing around the country. They offered good advice and information about Work and Stays – finding RV parks or National Parks that were looking for campers to work for a week or more in exchange for staying for free and possibly a few extra bucks. In fact, the park we were at was doing that with a few RVs. I inquired about it on my way out the next day and asked for them to call if they wanted extra help. I would definitely go back to that place!
Kerri came by the next morning to say goodbye and remind me about asking about working and staying. We exchanged contact information and I look forward to seeing her on Facebook soon. I wanted to stay at Spokane Creek longer, but I was excited for my next stop, Bighorn National Forest and to see Wyoming for the first time!