One night my best friend Grace and I went to Panera for dinner and started to work dreaming up a road trip. A national park, for a week, just the two of us. We thought maybe Big Bend, but it was too remote, so we looked up a list of national parks. We saw Badlands. South Dakota, 14 hours away from home. And then we were like “okay sounds good!”
We spent a lot of time planning the trip—looking up things to do in the surrounding area, looking for cute hotels to stop at along our long drive. It never really felt real until we were in the car headed north and we were like “omg this is happening right now.”
If I’m being honest, I had no idea what Badlands would be like. I wasn’t even sure if it would be cool! I literally looked at one picture before we went. After this trip, I can tell you the Badlands of South Dakota is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever laid eyes on.
In true Alison fashion, I took A LOT of photographs. This is my favorite set of personal work I think I’ve ever created. So here they are, in order!
Day 1: Geneva, NE
On our first day we left Denton and drove about 8 hours to a teeny, tiny town called Geneva, Nebraska. We stayed at the Hotel Geneva, a cute little inn located right on the town square. After checking in, we wandered around the square to take pictures (duh) and then ate an unimpressive dinner at some bar. We were still hungry after dinner so we went to Dollar General and bought frozen taquitos and ice cream and watched some movie that had Elvis in it??
Day 2 & 3: Badlands National Park, SD
We spent pretty much our whole second day in the car and setting up camp once we arrived at the KOA. The only interesting thing we did on day 2 was play card games with our drunk, British camping neighbors Lee and Craig 🙂
Day 3 was dedicated to just exploring the park. We started off the day by getting up at 5am to get cute and take pictures at sunrise, which are the images you see above this text. The park was so peaceful that early in the morning, and it was kinda magical to see the sun come up over the huge rocks.
The rest of the day we spent in the park hiking and BECOMING JUNIOR RANGERS. Things we did: that. Also we went into this like canyon thing and there were a butt-ton of people but I took some of my favorite landscape and documentary photographs ever. The black and white photograph is of a little girl I saw standing on top of the canyon looking around her and it’s one of my all time faves ever ever ever. I took one just like it on film, and I can’t wait to see it processed. I wish I could find her family so I could give it to them.
After dinner we decided to go on an adventure and drove down a gravel road and then we found this magical tree with magical light in a magical grassland. Also I fell in mud. But it was worth it lol.
Day 4: Mount Rushmore, SD
I honestly didn’t take that many photos this day because it was lowkey a trainwreck. We left for Mount Rushmore at around 9am and about 30 seconds after leaving the KOA a low tire pressure notification popped up on my dash :,)
We went to a gas station where the clerk called the local ‘tire guy’ aka some old man that fixes tires out of his garage. After our bro Pat fixed the tire we drove to Rapid City where we bought a new tire, got blizzards at Dairy Queen, and drove to Mount Rushmore to see TJ and the boys. Also, we wore matching t-shirts that said “Thomas Jefferson is my homie” so pretty much that was iconic.
Day 5: Keystone, SD
The first half of our first day we spent on an 1880s STEAM ENGINE. It was pretty much the most exciting thing ever. I didn’t take that many digital images because I was kind of on a film craze this day (I shot a whole roll and a half smh).
On our last night in the park, we drove to a lookout at sunset for–you guessed it–more photos. It was really cloudy this day, so it was almost completely dark when we took these. I shot most of them on a tripod at a really high ISO lol.
Day 6: Garden City, KS
On our way home we stopped in Garden City, Kansas at the CUTEST bed & breakfast of all time. It’s was in an early twentieth century house and all the rooms were named after bible verses and our host made us THE BEST french toast of my life. If you’re ever passing through Kansas, 10/10 would recommend Sunnyland B&B.
The next day we drove home to Denton and screamed Mamma Mia all the way home and were a little bit delusional. It was a really really good trip :,)