The Great American Road Trip: Part Three — The Badlands

Sunrise Run

Nine or ten days in the car stopping off at American sites of great natural beauty and historical wonder.  With three kids.

The results were surprising to us all.

Click here to read Part Two.

Day Four:  The Badlands

Running Girl started the day perfectly (for her) — a six mile run through the western town of Wall, South Dakota.  Part-way through the town, she found a jogging trail.  What could be better?  The sun was coming up.  The temperature was sublime.  All was bliss.


After breakfast, we headed for The Badlands National Park.  A GIANT snake was lying dead in the road right in front of this sign at the entry to the park.

At the gate, TM asked the Park Ranger at the gate if they had anything worth seeing.  She replied humorlessly, “Sure, one mile ahead.”  This is what we encountered at that point:

Then we turned around and went back to the cabin to get the camera that had been forgotten (Don’t ask.).

After the stony silence in the car, we returned to the park.  When we came to the next overlook, a gentleman pointed out a black dot on the floor on the canyon a few miles away.

The dot (in the middle of the green area) turned out to be a buffalo! Click on the picture to enlarge it.

How cool is that?

We then picked out another one further away.

The teenagers were smiling!

Continuing on, we came around a hairpin turn and The Fashionista yelled for us to stop.  We pulled over to the side of the road and she pointed up at the rocks above.

He's called a "pronger"

A little further on, we encountered this fellow sitting placidly alongside the road:

Obviously a relative

If you’re keeping score, so far we have encountered only cool wildlife and no (live) snakes.

A few miles down the road, a sign advised us that we were entering the Yellow Mounds area.  Yeah, right!  Yellow hills.

Well, actually yes (and many other colors as well):

We journeyed on.  Our western background music continued unabated.

We made one discovery after another, stopping at each outpost.  The scenes we discovered were incomparable.

At one point, Running Girl and The Major got out to study signs that showed us the difference between native prairie grasses (good) and prairie grasses imported by early settlers (bad).  We learned that prairie fires were good in that they cleared away the bad plants to allow the good ones to thrive again.

We looked down into the valley deep below.  We studied the sites of prior pioneer settlements.  Very few people lasted here.  Years of drought and other hardships created “starvation homesteads” which were eventually abandoned.

Beyond the valley lie the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Lakota reservations.  The Sioux were forced to live there.  They have survived.  However, according to many sources, this is the poorest area in America.

We were hankering for more wildlife.  We found it a short distance away:

It's hard to see. But, there are hundreds of prairie dogs in this photo. Click to enlarge.

Eventually, we made our way to the eastern end of the park.  There, we got out of our vehicle and went on short hikes.  The hills in this end of the Badlands are monochrome.  The air was hot and still.

Some of us climbed!

Children began to complain.

We stopped for a picnic lunch under a covered shelter near the visitors’ center.

After lunch, we played catch with a ball at the bottom of the Badlands.

Although it was only 1:00 p.m., we were all tired.  We made our way back to the cabin.  The kids all fell asleep in the car.

After a nap and some laundry (hey, it’s a long trip), we decided to venture into Wall to check out the sights of this western town.

For a while it was alright.

However, Island Boy ran out of gas in the middle of the aptly-named Wall Drug.  A four-alarm tantrum ensued.  We had clearly asked too much of the little guy.

Back to the cabin.

We had a home-cooked dinner (spaghetti) outside the cabin.

After Island Boy fell asleep, TM and RG slipped away to look at the stars under South Dakotan skies.  We found a romantic spot called Sage Creek.

Did we forget to mention that this was our 19th wedding anniversary?

— The Major & Running Girl


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: