On our way to the badlands, we stopped at a Midas in some town in South Dakota to get an oil change. The man at the front desk asked why we were going to the badlands. He said prepare to be bored. He turned out to be very wrong.
The drive through South Dakota was really pretty. The scenery has gotten increasingly more picturesque as we’ve gone further West. The South Dakota landscape turned from sprawling farms and open land into rolling, green hillsides. “This is totally where the teletubbies was filmed,” says Sarah.
When we made it to the badlands, we were like, “what was this dude talking about, this is sick!” Sorry Midas dude, you have poor taste in nature.
The rock formations were unlike anything I’ve seen. They reminded me of the drip sand castles I would make as a kid. Sarah say it reminds her of the land before time. The Badlands were formed from wind and water carving out volcanic ash deposits, forming sharply eroded buttes, gullies, and ridges.
We set up our camp before exploring the badlands more. Our site was a grassy field, encompassed by a view of the Badlands. We already decided, as we set up our tent, to wake up the following morning early enough to watch the sunrise. Once the tent was set up, Sarah pumped up her air mattress while my two inch sleeping pad self inflated. I will continually be making fun of Sarah’s glamping for the next 7 weeks.
What’s crazy about the Badlands is that you can just walk right out into the canyons and it’s like wandering through another planet. you’re completely surrounded by these tall, jagged, rock formations. And, at this time of the year there was hardly anyone else there. Except bunnies….so many bunnies.
After walking the fossil trail, exploring the prehistoric grounds of 33 million years old extinct species, we drove further through the park to find a place to watch the sunset. We picked a spot where a professional photographer had set up two cameras on a time lapse. If he was setting up here, this must be an ideal location. Watching the sun go down over such a unique landscape puts this up there as one of the best sunsets I’ve ever watched.
Once the sun went down so did the temperature. We knew it would be cold at night here, but it felt really cold and the wind wasn’t helping. There are no campfires allowed in the Badlands, so we had bought a propane grill for situations like this. What we neglected to do was set it up while it was still light out. Cold and hungry, we set up the grill, had some dinner, and cleaned up as fast as we could so we could be a little warmer inside the tent.
After a rough nights sleep – we both kept waking up because we were so cold – our alarm went off at 5:15am to get up for sunrise. Sleepy eyed and frigid, we dragged ourselves out of the tent, blankets in hand, into our camping chairs and waited for the sun. Not only was the sunrise beautiful, but the sun slowly thawed our cold bodies as it rose over the Badlands.
A bit more awake and motivated we made some coffee and breakfast. Sarah bought a to-go concentrated coffee creamer that she was very pleased with. “We’re going to go on so many adventures together, little guy!”, Sarah stated. Caffeinated and fed we packed up our camp and drove through the rest of the northern unit in search of wildlife.
Our first wildlife sighting was a female bighorn sheep perched on a wall. I could hardly see it without looking through a zoomed in camera lens, but Sarah saw it right away with her god damned spidey vision. When we finished up at this expansive overlook, we continued on to the Yellow Mounds.
The Yellow Mounds are exactly what they sound like. Mounds striated with a yellow hue. The yellow layer in the mounds is a byproduct of chemical reactions that broke down the decaying jungle that once existed here. It mindblowind to think about how the land we were standing on was once a dinosaur-filled jungle.
Just past the Yellow Mounds was a field filled with prairie dogs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of one animal in one spot like that. They’re all standing in that perked up position looking cute n’ shit.
The last bit of our drive was in search of Bison. We headed to the primitive campsite further down the road, knowing that there is a herd that hangs out over that way. There were a few Bison roaming the campsite. One was right next to someone’s tent. I think I’d be a bit nervous to step out of tent in the morning and have a bison standing a few feet from me. We saw a few more Bison on our way out then headed onward to Yellowstone National Park with a stop at Mount Rushmore on the way.
Next Stop: Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Glacier