The top had a spring and… there it was five treasure chests full of 5,000,000 pieces of gold. There was only one thing that startled the girls… a skeleton staring straight at them. *This is my master, the ghost* the dragon thought to Mellisa. “Oooooooooooh” The skeleton moaned. Suddenly, a faded man was lying in the skeleton. I’m the ghost of Badlands Mountain, my name is not important but I will tell you anyway. I am Charles Goff the 3rd.” A jolt of energy ran through Mellisa’s body. Why did she recognize that name! “Wait, are you Charles Henry Goff?” asked Mellisa. “So, you’ve heard of me.” “You’re… Ana’s dad!” “Yes, I am. I came searching for this treasure right after she was born . I’ve wanted to see my little darling since but have been unable to. I’ve only seen her once.” “What if we bring her to you instead?” asked Mellisa “would you!? You can use the dragon to get there and back!” replied the ghost. “Yes we will. See you in a little while with your wife and your daughter.” said Kristiana. The girls climbed back on the dragon to go to Wall in search of Ana and her mother.
It took about twenty minutes to fly from the Mountain. The whole town was alarmed at the sight of the blue dragon. “Wait! We’ve come in safety” shouted Mellisa. “We’re looking for Ana and her Mom.” Ana and her mom made it to the front. “What do you want?” “We have a surprise. Get on!” answered Kristiana. Ana and her mom climbed on and they immediately took off. “I can see the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation! It’s much bigger than I thought it was!” exclaimed Ana. “Wow!” said Ana when they got to the top. “What is that!?” she exclaimed as she noticed the skeleton. “That’s what we needed to show you” said Mellisa. “Just wait and watch it” Ana and her mom’s eyes widened when they saw Charles. “Charles!?” asked her Mom. “It’s me Sandy.” “Daddy!” yelled Ana when she saw him. Both Ana and her mom ran over to hug him. “Thank you girls!” Charles told Mellisa and Kristiana. When Ana and her mom were finished talking with Charles, they returned home to Wall. Mellisa had just one last thing to say: “So that’s the whole secret of Badlands Mountain. The mystery is solved!” An adventure of a lifetime for Kristiana and Mellisa.
The next morning, Kristiana couldn’t wait to begin their adventure up Badlands Moutain. Finally it was 6:00 a.m. the agreed upon meeting time so she went to meet Mellisa at the Yellow Mounds. Mellisa was already there. “Well, Good Morning. Are you ready?” “As ready as I’ll ever be!” Kristiana said excitedly. “Well let’s start our journey then. I hope we live to tell about this someday, even if we don’t make it to the top. We would have at least tried.”
Mellisa lead them on their way on the trail to the top of Badlands Mountain. The first boulder came crashing down just five minutes after they started climbing. “That was fast! I wasn’t prepared for boulders this soon. Oww! I caught a bone in my foot. Give me a few minutes to get up… Ok let’s go!” “That was faster than I had predicted.” commented Kristiana. “It must have not been to bad an injury.” “I brought some herbal medicine from Ancient Hunters overlook that we collected yesterday” replied Mellisa. “The Ancient hunters used this same remedy when they were wounded. Now let’s move a little faster to try and avoid some of these boulders. Just let me know if you get tired!” “Ok.” Kristiana said.
Shortly after the first boulders they saw the first trap.”Watch out!” screamed Mellisa. “That’s the first trap. It’s a very small pit though so I think we can just jump over it. I’ll go first.” Mellisa jumped and got to the other side easily. “Now you jump over it.” Kristiana jumped but this time, a giant plant leaped out of the pit and ate her. “No! I will kill you plant!” Using her strength, Mellisa snapped the plant at the base and raised the head up so she could get Kristiana back. She pried opened the mouth and pulled Kristiana out. Fortunately Kristiana was fine, just a little slimy. “That’s just the first trap, and the easiest. So try to be a little more careful next time” said Mellisa. The girls continued on with their journey.
Finally, after hours of avoiding traps and boulders, the girls got to the middle of the mountain. Mellisa was the first to sense the dragon was coming and wasn’t very far away. “Here comes the hardest part, making friends with a dragon…”Sure enough, a blue dragon came zipping around the corner. Using her powers of persuasion, Mellisa started to communicate with the dragon. *We are not your enemies, we just want to become friends* The dragon slowed to a stop in front of them. *You can communicate with me!? Very well then, I may like you, and we can be friends* *Can you take us to the top please, we just want to see it, even if there is a treasure we don’t care about it. We just want to see what the top looks like* *Well, you could be trying to trick me, but you seem like very nice girls I could trust. I guess I could fly you up to the top. Climb up on to my back* *Oh, Thank you sooo much!* The girls got onto the dragons back and took off for the top. They felt the nice breeze in their faces as the dragon gliding up the mountain. ”I can see the White River Valley from here!” Shouted Kristiana “And I can see Castle trail, that’s the trail we took to the mountain!” They zipped around corners, into tunnels, and then finally they flew towards the top of the mountain. The dragon made a jolt upward towards the top.
It was a wonderful day in Badlands National Park. Two girls, Mellisa and Kristiana were racing to Ben Reifel Visiter Center when Mellisa spotted the eerie peaks of Badlands Mountain! Sliding to a stop Mellisa said “Hey! Kristiana, have you ever seen that big mountain before?” “No!” she exclaimed, “It’s called Badlands Mountain. Have you heard the stories about that place?” asked Mellisa. “No, should I know about them?” responded Kristiana. “Are you kidding me?! I’ve talked about the tales of Badlands Mountain with some of my friends! Ok, I have to explain the rumors of this place.” “How many stories are there?” asked Kristiana. “There are four stories in all but I’ll just tell you the main one for now” Replied Mellisa. “Ok” Kristiana said.
Mellisa started: “So, there are rumored to be 5,000,000 pieces of gold at the top put there by ancient mammoth hunters who mysteriously disappeared on top of Badlands Mountain. Many have attempted to climb to the top in search of this gold but only one is said to have made it – Charles Goff the 3rd.” “You mean Ana’s dad?” Kristiana asked. Ana was one of their friends back in the little town of Wall. Mellisa continued “Yes, that’s the one and he has never returned. Many people believe he found the gold and headed for California. Others believe he was killed by a ghost that watches over this treasure waiting for the mammoth hunters to return. Do you want to know why it’s called Badlands Mountain?” asked Mellisa. “Of Course!” Responded Kristiana with a puzzled look. “Boulders fall suddenly on top of anyone who even tries to climb the mountain. People say the ghost pushes them. If the boulders are not successful in keeping away an intruder, he summons the big dragon to help guard his treasure. Anyone who gets even close to the middle is said to be carried off by the dragon and never seen again.” “Wait, what dragon?” asked Kristiana.
“Have you heard any growling at night or even a flash of golden light?” Mellisa responded. “Yes but I was always told it’s just my imagination?” said Kristiana. “It’s not your imagination!” exclaimed Mellisa. “It’s the dragon warning people during the night.” “Well that dragon did a good job, it sure scared me!” replied Kristiana. Mellisa continued, “Yes, anyway every year at least one person attempts to find that treasure and never returns. It is assumed they die because they are never seen again. There is another person that almost made it to the top but just as he reached the peak the dragon swooped down and knocked him down all the way to the bottom. The poor man lost most of his memory so we still don’t know what it looks like up there! I just wish I could see it. Anyway, besides the boulders and dragon, there are secret traps such as poisonous snake pits, and hidden caves. So it’s impossible to get to the top alive!” announced Mellisa. So, do you get the main point, if you even try to do it, you’ll fail and never be heard from again. So don’t get any ideas!”
“But you’re not a normal person” said Kristiana “you have abilities that I have not seen in anyone else. What if you use your powers to protect us, and to become friends with the dragon and the ghost, you could use the dragon to fly up…” “NO! My powers are limited. We could die trying!” replied Mellisa. “But if anybody has a chance to get to the top you do” said Kristiana. Mellisa responded “You do have a good point… If we spend the rest of this day gather the necessary items we could climb Badlands Mountain tomorrow. Fine we’ll leave in the morning. But if I need help you have to do exactly what I tell you, do you understand?” asked Mellisa “Yes I do! Thank you sooooooooo much! I’ve wanted to go on an adventure my whole life, especially a dangerous one!” Kristiana replied “You want to die!?” Mellisa asked. “No! I just want a really cool adventure!” said Kristiana “Oh, I see. Well we better get started on packing our supplies” Said Mellisa and off they went.
The afternoon sun was beginning to wear on us. Fortunately we had placed a gallon of water in the trunk with a few glasses in order to keep hydrated. After our early afternoon ranger program, Lysa and Kristy wanted to climb the hills. I was ready for some rest so we retrieved our camp chairs from the car and watched as both of the children climbed up and down different hills. The air was getting a little stagnant from our seating area. There must be some movement in a different location so off I went in search of a breeze. The beautiful thing about our chairs is they fold up quickly and stow in a bag containing a strap for easy mobility. I began exploring different areas, climbing up and down just like the kids but for a different reason. Finally I found a satisfactory location – on top of a butte. This must have seemed a little weird as other families were stopping and taking pictures of me in my chair resting on that butte. You know you’re doing something right when you’re purposefully added to another family’s photo album. We continue to laugh about this to this day.
Off to our final ranger program of the day as we continued to explore more of this great park. At this point the Lysa and Kristy were beginning to grow tired of walking and the thought of another mile stroll through the prairie was not an exciting idea. Being the troopers that they are, they accepted this final program although there seemed to be more resistance than I was happy with. There celebrating began as this program came to an end and it was time to return to the hotel. Of course, the return trip required us to drive back through much of the Badlands prompting a number of stops that were of interest on the way to the visitor center. The sun was beginning its nightly journey towards the horizon leaving us before we were ready. As a result our stops became fewer and quicker while we traveled back to Wall. A brief stop for another meal and then back to the hotel for some much needed rest before continuing our journey.
Absolutely a great start to our adventure around the monopoly board!
We rose early, quickly took in a continental breakfast courtesy of the hotel we stayed at, and headed south on 240. We traveled through Buffalo Gap National Grassland and came upon our first entrance where we decided to stop and take the requisite photo next to the Badlands National Park sign. Back in the car heading further into the park we stared at the unique landscape unfolding in front of us. Sage Creek Rim Road was the first turn off we encountered requiring a quick decision: do we continue on or take this turn. Sage Creek Rim Road it was hoping to find a spot nearby in order to stop and study the list of events and map that where handed to us at the entrance in order to get a bearing on where we want to go. Our first stop was at the Hay Butte Overlook where the map and events list were quickly forgotten as we got out of the car and focused our attention at the amazing hills sitting before our eyes. This is a moment forever engrained in my memory as I was struck by the beauty of colors, textures, and shapes creating this incredible landscape. I could no longer feel myself standing as this moment became very spiritual for me while I became a part of this place that has existed for thousands of years and will continue to be here long after I am gone. After accepting this, my attention turned to other family members taking in all there was to see. Down in the valley roamed one loan buffalo. Our first wild buffalo experience. The day had just begun and I had experienced all that I expected. What more could there be?
We could have spent the entire day just exploring this one area in the Northern portion of the Badlands but there was much more to see. Grudgingly I returned to the car as we looked over the list of events. Ohh, there’s a ranger program starting in 15 minutes that sounds interesting. Unfortunately we were 30 minutes away from the meeting place so this wouldn’t work. The next ranger program of interest didn’t start for over an hour at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center so maybe that would be a good place to start. Everybody returned to the car allowing us to head back towards 240 which would wind through the Badlands and end at the visitor center. There were many places that begged for us to stop as the scenery continued to be amazing and show us different views. We resisted in order to get to the visitor center to learn more about this park. Once at the visitor center we began looking over the models on display showing the evolution of the Badlands.
During the course of this examination we stumbled upon the junior ranger program. Wow! A program directed completely at children. The kids received a booklet and needed to complete a certain amount during their adventure and then explain what they had learned to a ranger. Once the ranger is satisfied with all the kids learned, the potential junior ranger pledges to help keep the park as it is so other can learn and enjoy this special place. Upon completion of the pledge they receive a junior ranger badge. Both of our children decided to accept the journey to become a junior ranger. Fortunately, the ranger program we had made this trip for was a junior ranger program which would help them earn their badge. As the program wound down it was time for the board signature. I quickly headed towards the car to get our National Parks edition of Monopoly board and rushed back where the rest of the family was sitting. We asked the ranger for an odd favor – to sign our board on the Badlands property. He did so with an excited demeanor. Lysa and Kristy completed their necessary requirements and received their first junior ranger badge. Our first park complete! Time was passing as if with a purpose and we were starting to get hungry. What is available for food nearby? There was only the restaurant in the visitor’s center providing a meal without having to travel some distance. In we went for a bit of food, something to drink, and some refreshing cool air. After some rejuvenation we headed back out to explore a trail or two before the next ranger program of interest. There were two ranger programs on our agenda for the remainder of the afternoon and many stops throughout the Badlands just to enjoy the landscape.
Once we made the decision to travel the National Parks Monopoly Board it was time to look over all of the destinations. After studying the board for a little while we decided to embark on our first journey closer to home so that we could find out what we were in for in a little more familiar territory. Knowing that this was going to be a summer expedition we saw a cluster of parks near Southwestern South Dakota which included Mt. Rushmore. After discussing this trip a little while it was determined that we wanted to be at Mt. Rushmore for the Independence Day celebration which dictated our travel dates. A little further east resides Badlands National Park and would be a good destination to begin our Monopoly Travels. While growing up I had friends who had visited the Badlands tell me about them but I really had no idea what to expect. The thought of going to someplace called “the Badlands” didn’t have a great appeal as it conjured up images of Mel Gibson in Mad Max. Visiting someplace with such an imagined bleak landscape didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Keep in mind that I had not looked at any photos or video of this place and was basing my opinions strictly on the name. Well, it’s on the board so there must be something of interest and in order to be a Monopoly Traveler we at least need to stop and check it out.
I remember planning for this trip and all of the time spent researching directions, places to stay, and what to expect in the Badlands. There was a lot of uncertainty because we have never taken a family vacation like this before. Where do we stay? A Campground or hotel? What are these national parks all about? What are we going to drive there? Use our own car or put the miles on a rental vehicle? The first thing to do was plan our agenda to get an idea of where we want to visit and departure and return dates in order to get this time off from work. We knew we wanted to experience the Independence Day Celebration at Mount Rushmore so the next question was do we want to explore the Badlands before or after Mount Rushmore?
It was decided to make the Badlands our first National Park and stop there before continuing on to Mount Rushmore. Now we had a date and could start planning departure dates and times along with where to stay to make this happen. I researched camping because that would save some money and the kids love to camp. After thinking about this for a little while we realized that we would have to pack our camping gear along with everything else we needed for a 10 day trip and room in the car. In addition, we would have to set up and take down our camping gear almost every day. Understanding these pieces helped us to decide on staying in hotels. Next was to figure out which hotels to stay at and in which cities. In order to know that we needed to know where exactly Badlands National Park is and how to get there. Fortunately the national park service has a nice website the gives this information along with planning information and what we could expect while visiting while in the Badlands. This helped to fuel our excitement to get to the Badlands and experience all that we could. In addition we would get the opportunity to stay in Wall, South Dakota and visit the highly popular Wall Drug. I grew up hearing about and seeing advertisements for Wall Drug. Now I would get to see what this place is all about.
It was the summer of 2009, our day started out by getting into the car at 5am in order to arrive in Wall by late afternoon. A stop in Sioux Falls took a little longer than anticipated as we took time to enjoy the waterfalls where we were interviewed by a local TV news station about our travels and also exploring a local butterfly house gave great enjoyment while delaying our arrival in Wall. Finally heading out of Sioux Falls, we had to take a bathroom break in Mitchell South Dakota for an unauthorized stop at the Corn Palace. If you haven’t been there, it is interesting how art can be made out of corn to decorate a large building. Yet another delay in getting to Wall. All of these unplanned stops can create memories that were never expected a make a family trip such as this more enjoyable with more to reminisce as time goes by. We entered Wall early in the evening with just enough time to find someplace to eat and explore Wall Drug. Wall Drug is basically a little mall with a number of small shops inside set in a frontier motif. Up Next…the Badlands!