To the Badlands
Aug 28, 2014
|THURSDAY, AUGUST 28, 2014
Since we were in the big town of Rapid City we decided to do laundry while we had a choice of vendors. We stumbled onto a really good one this time. It was very bright, clean and welcoming. As a bonus they supplied the laundry detergent because they didn't want their machines to over-suds and clog up. Reasonably prices also. We were able to charge the laptop and they had free wifi. They offered dry cleaning and laundry service, tanning booths, showers and were a Seattle's Best franchise - very diversified.
Stopped at Cabela's after finishing the laundry. It was a quick trip through since Tom doesn't fish or hunt. Still, it was an interesting visit.
We set out east on I-90 towards the famous town of Wall,SD, the entrance to the Badlands. The Badlands NP is surounded by the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. We decided to drive the 12 miles to the Sage Creek Campground. The views and colors were spectacular even with the cloudy skies. The literature said it would remind you of a moonscape - that claim is correct.
When the homesteaders first moved into the area they found a butte whose slopes were too steep to send cattle up to graze. Rather than waste the grass growing on top, when the grass was ready to be baled they would disassemble a baler, haul it to the top, reassemble it and bale the hay. They would then form a slide apparatus to send the bales down the slope. This is now known as Hay Butte.
A little further down the road we found a prairie dog town. As we got out of the RV you could hear a couple of the prairie dogs whistling a warning to the rest of the "town". We did see one little dog at the edge of his burrow as he was whistling. There were acres and acres of burrows along the route.
A large bison herd calls the Park and Grasslands home. We saw three bison as we went back to check out the campground. We didn't see any Pronghorn today. Forgot to mention the Pronghorn is a goat-antelope, a breed unto itself.
We went back to Wall to visit the famous Wall Drugs. All the way from exit 62 at Rapid City to Exit 109 at Wall we were bombarded by billboards and signs advertising Wall Drugs. Oh my, talk about oversell! A glorified souvenir store. The did have some outstanding Western art and pottery (all way out of our price range) but the rest was same old, same old. Just substitute Badlands for Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, etc. on the T-shirts.
Ate at the Cactus Cafe. Let just say the soup & salad bar was the highlight of the meal. Stopped at DQ to help our taste buds recover.
We headed back to Sage Creek Campground. Four deer crossed our path and disappeared in the tall grass as we started down Sage Creek Rd. A bison ambled in front of us near the campground and four bison were in the tall grasses near the tent area.
We were treated to a beautiful sunset. The clouds were all pink and purple, breathtaking.
The Sage Creek Campground is run by the US Forest Service. It is a free campground with no services except pit toilets. There is no water available. Basically a remote area to park or tent. There are probably 35 units here tonight. Find a spot, park or pitch a tent. One family has set up an 8 ft. screen and are projecting photos they have taken on their vacation. It's a very quiet spot. There is a corral for horse campers. None here tonight. Looking forward to a dark night, no Walmart parking lot lights shining in the windows.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 29, 2014
This day started with an absolutely beautiful blue sky, bright sunshine with puffy clouds. Three Bison were roaming around the campground perimeter when we woke up. They were leisurely munching grass and posing for pictures with everyone watching them.
We need to get a bumper sticker for the RV: "We brakes for wildlife and beautiful scenery!" It took us 4 HOURS to traverse the 33 mile Badlands Loop! Oh my, such stark beauty. As we ascended from the valley where we camped the prairie winds were blowing - hard. The grasses looked like waves on the ocean and the blowing dirt had a sting to it. Along the route we went from grasslands to mounds to pinnacles to great towering walls.
At Sage Creek Basin we found a group of bison behind a fence. Not sure if the fence was keeping the bison in or out. In 1907 The US Government was offering families 160 acres of land in the area. If they would homestead it for 5 years the land would become theirs. It was a hard land to farm. Short growing season, little rain, strong winds and prolonged drought. Many families did not stay the 5 years. Some lasted until the Depression and drought of the 1930s and some stayed and their descendants remain today. During the Dust Bowl era the Government bought back much of the land from the farmers and this land became part of the Grasslands Preserve. There are areas where a farm/ranch sits in the middle of the Grasslands area and that land is usually fenced. There is also a cooperative where sometimes the cattle are allowed to graze in the Grasslands. So we don't know if the bison were on the wrong side of the fence.
A little further down the road we found another Prairie Dog town. The signal went out again but this group was very brave - they skittered over to take a look at us. I guess if we didn't move we weren't a danger to them. When prairie dogs abandon their burrows and move on other animals move in. The empty burrows provide shelter for the blackfooted Ferret, rabbits, rattlesnakes and swift fox.
Following our previous experience we know if cars are parked where this is no pullout it means wildlife. This time it was Big Horn Sheep. 6-8 of them were sunning themselves on the rocks near the road. A half dozen more were deeper in the valley resting on the rocks.
We lost count of how many stops we made. Each bend in the road offered a new view. At Burns Basin you could almost picture the Indian camp set up for a buffalo hunt. Viewing the land from Homesteaders Overlook you realize the hardships the people endured trying to make a living off the land.
The sky started clouding up at Panorama Viewpoint and a few raindrops fell. That didn't stop us from walking the Fossil Trail. Of course the warning sign at the beginning of the trail made us pause a moment: Beware - Rattlesnakes! But we only paused for a moment.
The sun again shone after we visited the Reifel Visitors Center . We took a hike around the Badlands Overlook and then headed out of the Park. I know my pictures won't do justice to the beauty of this Park. I wish everyone could experience the Badlands - outstanding.
We stopped at where the locals eat at the Star Restraurant in Murdo, SD. We also crossed into the Central Time Zone at Murdo. We overnighted at the Mitchell, SD Walmart.