|Day 5 - Badlands National Park, SD
||[Aug. 11th, 2004|10:00 pm]
Trip Odometer: 1760 mi|
So the Meteors we saw last night were very likely the Percids – based on a sign at our campsite in the Badlands that advertised the ability to take a nature walk tomorrow night to see them. Sigh – we’ll be long gone.
Anyway, after leaving Snake Creek this morning we crossed some relatively hilly terrain until we made it back to I-90, which resumed the flat cows-and-grass view (along with the occasional Wall Drug sign) for most of the rest of the morning. There are a few other places that seem to be copycatting the Wall Drug strategy, which I can only believe is amazingly successful, given that after 300 miles or so people have got to start to wonder, “What is this place, anyway?”
We stopped in Belvedire, SD for gas and because I was amused by the name. We also mailed a few post cards to people. The gas station people (who seemed to be most of the town – and the town’s grocery store) directed us a few blocks further “downtown” toward the water tower, where the post office was. As we progressed, there were a few buildings but most were abandoned. Including the Post Office! After a slight bit more exploration we found where the post office had moved too, and mailed the post cards. The woman at the post office wanted to be sure that they post cards were addressed – apparently she gets a large amount of unaddressed mail (who’s sending it, I have no idea – the place was a ghost town).
We arrived at the badlands somewhat suddenly, rocky crags just suddenly rose up out of the plains and we were there. On the way into the park we stopped at a small general store that had a bunch of prarie dogs that were trained to eat the food supplied by the store. They looked fat and happy, and duckmonster had a good time looking at them.
The badlands themselves were quite a sight to look at. Where it was flat, it was desert-like or sandy covered with (generally brown) grass. Where it wasn’t flat there were large outcroppings of limestone and other soft rocks, heavily weathered and eroded over the years by wind, rain, and other water. Overall, the area defiantly deserves its name of “Badlands.”
We proceeded through the park to our reserved site, which was several miles on the other side. Several miles turned into many miles, and when we finally got there it was out of view of the main park, appeared to be run by a bunch of scary hicks, and they had lost our reservation. We ran back to the national park’s campground which was empty (and didn’t take reservations) quite hastily, and got a site. We set up the tent (which was quite amusing in the high winds of the Badlands), finally got some sealant on the seams (something that hasn’t been done since I bought it), and headed to the Visitor’s Center for lunch and a tour through their museum to get acquainted with the area.
Next, we headed further back along the Badlands Loop road, parked somewhere convenient and set out onto one of the (marked) back country trails for a 6.6 mile hike along the Castle Trail and Medicine Root Trail. Apparently we were in good shape since we made it about 45 minutes quicker than their estimate. Note for next time: be sure to bring several quarts of water with you when hiking in the desert, between the two of us we ran out a few trail markers before the end (but still within sight of the car). Also, the Camelback things are tremendously awesome – I recommend one to you if you’ll be doing any sort of activity that might require water. On the hike we managed to see some jackrabbits and prarie dogs, along with some (apparently) Irish hikers.
Also on the hike we ran across (twice) a few antelope. The first time they were way up on one of the bluffs and out of our way, but the second time they were directly on the trail. We stared at them. They stared at us. Eventually, we walked off the trail a few hundred feet and, giving them wide berth, continued on our way. However, at points (especially when we first rounded the rocks that had them come into view) we were 30 feet or less from them. Quite exciting, and I’m glad they didn’t startle.
Dinner was pineapple chicken which we ate after a quick trip into town for the pineapple at the town’s grocery/hardware/liquor/pawn shop. We also passed the City Jail on the way back to the park, which was roughly the size of a men’s room. There must be a lot of crime in Interior, SD. Dinner turned out to be quite tasty, but during the cleanup process the sun finally set and the wind picked up a LOT – to the point where we were having trouble keeping the dishes and pots on the table, taking the notes for the journal entry was quite a task (the lantern also had trouble continuing to keep going).
Tomorrow is Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills, along with finally getting to Wall Drug and the rest of the Badlands Scenic Drive.