The Badlands

Upon waking up by accident at 6AM, I realized that the alarm didn’t go off (which I was certain I set the night before) and it was almost sunrise over the Badlands National Park. Sunrise was at 630AM, so we had a very short time to get dressed and dash to the park entrance, which luckily was only a 15 minute drive from our cabin. Elana was driving today, and did an awesome job getting us there fast, deer at dawn be damned.

We entered at the entrance nearest our lodging (on the West side). Oddly enough there’s no data on Google Maps for the park (which was fine since we were entirely unplugged for the 4 days anyways), but there was a National Park brochure we picked up that had this map on it. The Badlands formed a loop with the highway being the top of the loop. For this morning, we would come in from the West, exit from the East and then take the highway back West to Wall.

Badlands National Park Map

Badlands National Park Map

We bypassed the money dropbox at the park entrance since we were short on time and hit it up on the way back in. Good thing too because we wouldn’t have been able to get a receipt and proved we paid otherwise since no one was on duty that early in the morning (and we needed the receipts for later entrances).

I had done a lot of research the night before on finding the perfect place to set up and watch the sunrise (Doors and Windows and the Yellow Mounds came out on top, plus we had a recommendation from someone we met along the way for Doors and Windows). That plan was out of the window now, and we just ending up stopping at a few random places as it struck us.

It was worth the rush, because we made it JUST in time. I captured this Panoramic from our 3rd stop, the Yellow Mounds, which offered the best view of the sunrise in the entire park.

Badlands Sunrise Panoramic

Badlands Sunrise Panoramic

We had a perfect view from the Yellow Mounds since the sun was rising (obviously from the East) and the viewpoint was looking West – so you could see the landscape change from dark to light as the rose and cast its rays directly on the Badlands.

Badlands Sunrise

Badlands Sunrise

Here’s another one I particularly like with the road beckoning us to follow the sunrise, and the cloudy sky starting to clear ahead.

Badlands Sunrise

Badlands Sunrise

And here’s a shot of the Badlands contrasted by the prairie, which we took a little bit later on our morning drive.

Badlands Prairie

Badlands Prairie

We also stopped at the Doors and Windows towards the Northeast park entrance but there was no great shots, except for of this cute (and tame) bunny rabbit.

Badlands Bunny

Badlands Bunny

Afterwards we went to breakfast and explored Wall. Read about that here.

After Wall and a CJ nap, we went back in to the park via the same West entrance near out cabins. We stopped at Prairie Dog land right before the park entrance and observed these funny creatures (it wasn’t really a “land” in the sense of Disneyland – it was just a prairie, which is their natural habitat).

Prairie Dog in the Badlands

Prairie Dog in the Badlands

took a side road South out of the park and explored the Indian reservation area, where the Southern half of the Badlands was located on. We had been advised not to stop or dawdle, or cross off the highway onto Indian land because we could get shot at. Kind of hard to believe but we still heeded the warning.

Indian Reservation

Indian Reservation

Along the way we saw some horses.

Indian Horses

Indian Horses

That detour took us about 2 hours and we didn’t see a whole lot of anything. The South part of the Badlands isn’t as magnificent as the North park where the Visitor’s Center is located. I would say skip the Southern drive.

We did see a herd of buffalo roaming on the hillside. We think those 2 on the top right are just fake outlines.

Buffalo Herd

Buffalo Herd

Upon reaching the park, Elana was in need of lunch so we stopped at the Visitor’s Center, gift shop, and restaurant towards the Eastern side of the park. Elana had some fish while I ordered Kuchen, a local custard-like cake dessert (Kuchen means cake in German) with chocolate chocolate chip ice cream made by the University of South Dakota dairy department. it was delish and not too heavy.

At this point we set out to find a good hike. It was an overcast day so the conditions were good for a long hike.

Badlands Gray Day

Badlands Gray Day

We unintentionally did a really *really* long hike – probably 6 or 7 miles, since we started at the Medicine Root Trail Loop but then ended up going up and over the pass at Saddelback.

Badlands Hiking Trails

Badlands Hiking Trails

Here was the view from the Medicine Root Trail – it was essentially flat, easy, and mostly prairie.

Medicine Root Trail - Badlands

Medicine Root Trail – Badlands

Then we climbed up Saddleback and came up and over the other side back to the road. This was very steep and difficult.

King of the Mountain

King of the Mountain

Then we had a 3 or 4 mile walk back to our car, and we were competing with our plans for the Badlands Sunset.

CJ and Elana

CJ and Elana

As usual we weren’t where we needed to be when we wanted to, so we ad-hoc’d it and took some random pictures of the sunset as we finished walking the final leg.

Badlands Sunset

Badlands Sunset

Badlands Sunset

Badlands Sunset

We thought the Badlands sunset was actually more spectacular than the sunrise.

Badlands Sunset and Sky

Badlands Sunset and Sky

And here was our last shot as the sun disappeared and cast an orange glow into the sky, which cast a Halloween-like, eerie mood over an already other-worldly landscape. Did I mention we felt like we spent the whole day on Mars?

Badlands Sunset Silhouette

Badlands Sunset Silhouette

We got back to the room by 8PM and were off to dinner in town after I took a quick shower.

therestlessroad

About therestlessroad

The tar in the street starts to melt from the heat
And the sweats runnin’ down from my hair
I walked 20 miles and I’m dragging my feet
And I’ll walk 20 more I don’t care
And I’ll wander this world, wander this world
Wander this world, wander this world all alone
I’m like a ghost some people can’t see
Others drive by and stare
A shadow that drifts by the side of the road
It’s like I’m not even there
And I’ll wander this world, wander this world
Wander this world, wander this world all alone
Well I’ve never been part of the game
The life that I live is my own
All that I know is that I was born
To wander this world all alone, all alone
Some people are born with their lives all laid out
And all their success is assured
Some people work hard all their lives for nothin’
They take it and don’t say a word
They don’t say a word
Sometimes it’s like I don’t even exist
Even God has lost track of my soul
Why else would he leave me out here like this
To wander this world all alone
And I’ll wander this world, wander this world
Wander this world, wander this world all alone
–Jonny Lang, “Wander This World”

2 thoughts on “The Badlands

  1. Elana

    So I had a grilled cheese for lunch, not fish. But since those were the only two things available for me the entire trip, you had a 50/50 chance of getting it right, so good guess. I still think it’s strange that you eat like a bird 🙂 Sell that prarie dog photo to Natl Geographic! It’s the winner of the trip, IMO.

  2. Detail, Schmetails. Grilled cheese, fish – tom-A- to, tom-ah-to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>