2016-09-19 Badlands National Park
Leaving Blue Mounds State Park on Saturday, we traveled to the Missouri River and stayed in Oacoma, SD at the Cedar Shores RV Resort. On the way, we stopped at the Cabelas in Mitchell, South Dakota and if we pass this way again, we will stop at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. was nice to have a full hook up for a change so, we did wash, lots of cleaning etc. before walking along the Missouri River. The river is very wide and powerful and the resort has a marina that is sheltered from the river currents and wind by a breakwater.
After a lovely sunrise, we got back on I-90 and started toward the Badlands of South Dakota. Along the way, we stopped at 1880’s town, a restored western town from, you guessed it, the 1880’s. There is an entire town reconstructed from various buildings transported from different spots in the state to create this town. Churches, a saloon, blacksmith, fire department, train yard, stores and other businesses line each side of a main area and are filled with original memorabilia from the era. Interesting stop. Bob had a memorable encounter with a huge Longhorn bull who took exception to Bob getting a little too close to the fence. What horns!!!
We are now in the Badlands camping at Cedar Pass campground in the National Park. We do have electric hookup but the sites here are simply scooped out roadsides and there is no water hookup. We’re fine though as we filled our tanks before coming into the park. Site 92 is really not large enough for us to park the truck too behind us because of the way in which the folks in front and behind us parked but, there is an open site on the other side of the street so, the truck is there for the time being.
The weather has been beautiful but relatively warm – 85 degrees for the past several days. The sky is so blue it looks fake. The moon is just passed full so the desert around us is washed with a silvery light all night. The stars are not as bright as they would be if the moon was not as full but still there with no light pollution at all. There are no train sounds and the only sounds we can hear are the cattle lowing in the distance. During the day, though, in the words of America in “Horse with No Name”, “the heat was hot and the ground was dry but the air was full of sound.” The air is filled with the sounds of western meadowlarks and mountain bluebirds serenading us with their melodic songs. I had only ever seen one meadowlark so it was a joy to see them everywhere here in the campground and in the desert too. Their bright yellow breasts seem to match the golden sunflowers, rabbitbrush and other golden flowers. The mountain bluebirds are more subdued in color than their eastern and western cousins but that flash of blue is still lovely. I’ve seen a red-shafted flicker and a magpie and on a badlands trail, there was an unidentified grayish bird as well. The cicadas are buzzing and Roadie has been trying to catch the grasshoppers.
We hiked the Cliff, Door and Window trails into the Badlands. The sandstone spires are reminiscent of the sand castles you build at the shore with fantastical shapes molded by the wind and water over time. They are pinkish with bands of color running horizontally. Where there is more moisture, cedars thrive; their blue berries no doubt food for the chipmunks that scamper about with tails raised. On the flats, prairie dog villages abound though according to a sign, they carry “the plague” (bubonic?) so getting too close is not a good idea. Who knew? Have seen many other prairie dog towns before and this is the first time we have seen a warning about the plague.
Rattlesnake warnings are also ever-present though the park ranger told me there have only been three bites in 15 years so....We did see a snake but not a rattlesnake – a greenish striped one moving from one side of the trail to the other.
After hiking all morning, we returned to the RV, picked up Roadie and drove southwest to the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands where you can drive for miles on unmarked trails. It was a lot of fun though a little scary because of the narrow trails and the uphill and downhill slopes. We had to turn around once when we came to a “downhill” – straight downhill –but at least we could sort of see the road so headed toward it. There wasn’t a map of the area so you were on your own but we did see an antelope “playing” in the dried grasses.
All in all, a wonderful day with a lovely sunset. By the way, when the sun comes up here, it pops over the knife-edged mountains like someone released a rolled up shade – all of a sudden, it is brilliantly in your face! At night, it pops under the horizon and though there is a residue of light, it is generally gone and the desert turns black. Awesome! I love these wide open spaces.
We saw some local cowboys herding their large group of cattle along the road. They were not on horses but instead, about three of them were using motorcycles. We spoke with one guy and he told us that they were trying to get the cows over a river though we didn’t see anything resembling a river. He mentioned that it was faster using the motorcycles and less stress on the three horses they would have to use. It was such a surprise, though, to see this big herd of cows coming toward you on the road being “driven” by motorcycles. What a different life these folks live compared to ours.