Me and the Badlands!
And so we came into South Dakota, tired of driving, wanting to stop sooooooon. But our target destination was Badlands National Park, and we still had a ways to go. After a grueling 275 more miles, we finally were at the park entrance. But this was unlike any national park I had ever seen. Instad of trees and lakes and wildlife, there was.....nothing. Nothing except the strangest outcroppings of earth and rock I had ever seen. Literally, one minute there were grasslands, rolling hills, farmland everywhere. You turn away to read a few more pages of your now spine-broken book and when you look up, you'll wonder if you're dreaming. It just doesn't make sense. The history of this area dates back to prehistoric time, with dinosaur and extinct mammal fossils having been found here.
Freedom to go anywhere
But that doesn't do it justice. If you've ever been here, you know what I mean. Two worlds colliding at a point...if you aren't paying attention, you miss the transition.
When we arrived at the entrance, we followed the winding roads as they made their way through the clusters of eroded buttes everywhere. At the first 'scenic overlook', we stopped....naturally. For my three companions, they had been here before. That being said, even they were amazed this time around. For me, it looked like another world. As you can see by the pictures, the hills and crevasses and cliffs formed here dominate the landscape. We all explored a few choice buttes for a while, walking up and down the narrow ridges, traveling out to the edge to get that perfect picture.
Not exactly peak season...
Now, I can imagine during peak season that there are plenty of tourists and visitors to the area. But we were THE ONLY visitors at that time. We had the cliffs to ourselves. Eeiry, but special for my first time seeing these oddities.
After our first stop, we decided to go ahead and get to the campsite and set up for the night. I'd never been camping on a campsite before, so this experience was new to me. Since we arrived around 6:30pm, we had to use the automated cashier to pay for our site. Interesting how that worked.....to be out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by prehistoric landmarks, and still....still, we conform by way of technology. What would they have done if they saw we didn't have a ticket by our camping post? Kick us out? Oh well.
Convenient dry creek bed for us to walk along
...we'd leave. Anyways, we paid it nonetheless and moved to campsite #17. There were a handful of people with their campers, SUV's and all-terrain vehicles. We pulled up in a Honda Accord packed to the brim with all our supplies...haha.
Our site overlooked the rest of the national park (without the buttes and outcroppings) on one side, and a massive pack of earthy hills on the other side. After our tent had been set up with ease (the good things about technology), we were hungry, but decided there were more important things on our plate before the sun went down. The hills in the distant were probably about....a mile away, I'd say......and ever more daunting as we walked up to them. From the distance, we were going to the top no problem.
Now that we were within 100 yards or so, we might die if we take a wrong step. The outlook wasn't as promising. Still, armed with our cameras and tennis shoes, we ventured around the dry creek beds, knee-high grass, and towering hills and tried to find a passage up. We got so far into the hills that we were surrounded. By this point, the sun had dipped below the erosions, so daylight was fading fast. A few of us made it about halfway up, but the rest were content to ramble around the 1/3 part of it that we made up. After we had satisfied our cravings for climbing and trudging around prehistoric earth, our appetites yearned for the hearty goodness of Badlands Stew.
What is Badlands Stew, you say? Well.
...consists of cans of corn, baked beans (flavor of your choice), Vienna sausages, white rice, and about a spoonful of Tandorri spice. Why this concoction? Cause it sounded
good. Though I believed it was good at the time, that was because I hadn't eaten in a day or so. In reality, thinking back on it.....WTF?? Wow, we were a little too imaginative with that one, haha. Ah yes, and we only brought three bowls, so we rotated who ate out of the baked beans can every evening. Tonight wasn't my night, thankfully.
After dinner, we noticed that the overhang that formed our picnic area was climbable. Interesting..... After we washed up and packed up for the night, we all climbed to the top.
Sun's almost gone!
Whether it was by coincidence or not, the roof was the perfect width to lay across and gaze up at the stars. Did I mention stars? Wow, I've NEVER seen so many. Then again, I've never been so in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by absolutely no civilization for miles. The stars were many, and some very bright. In the early part of night, while it was still light, we had the fortunate opportunity to witness about 13-14 satellites streaking across the sky. We thought the first one was a plane, but the way it moved and the speed at which it moved, that thing was DEFINITELY in space. It's amazing how we're able to see something man-made so so far away. Also amazing in the fact that if the sun had gone down much farther, we wouldn't have been able to see them at all.
It was the reflection from the sun that allowed them to shine like the stars. Because as you hopefully know....satellites don't emit light....they don't die (well, some do), and they aren't classified by color or as one of Snow White's companions. I could've stayed up there all night, but the weather brought all of us down and into the tent.
And the lasting factor of the night. The weather. See, heading into the trip, we forgot that we were going to be heading NORTH,
so we didn't think at all to bring warm clothes. Of course we brought jackets and blue jeans, but I'm talking about snow clothes...scratch that, blizzard clothes (you'll see later). Clothed in blue jeans and a jacket, I curled up in my not-below-40 degree-rated sleeping bag and fell fast asleep.
Badlands Stew. Tasty....
Unfortunately, I rose fast awake to the awesome sounds of something you'd hear in the beginning of the movie, 'Twister.' Howling winds, quivering sleeping bag, and flashing lights EVERYWHERE. I thought we were in the middle of a tornado before I realized where we were and the likelihood of that happening. Being closest to the tent opening, I peered around the face and saw a most awesome sight in the distance.
In the movies, they rev up the lightning and rain and wind effect to make sure the viewer knows the weather conditions. It doesn't ACTUALLY happen in real life. Or does it? Looking out the tent, I saw continuing streaks of lighning, constantly heard a growling of thunder and God knows what else, and felt the rain sting my face like it never has before.
This was a storm I'd never experienced before, and didn't know what to expect or do. I knew I wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep, but I didn't exactly want to head outside and start doing some sort of rain dance either. After the storm woke up everyone in the tent, we all kinda just laid there until it dissipated a little. Maybe not the smartest idea, but the tent felt safe. Maybe it was the company, maybe it was not being able to see outside, I don't know. But everyone had the same sentiments. Finally...after what seemed like hours, the storm passed and I was able to fall back into now restless sleep.
The Badlands proved their badness after all.