“In fact, just about all the major natural attractions you find in the West – the Grand Canyon, the Badlands, the Goodlands, the Mediocrelands, the Rocky Mountains and Robert Redford – were caused by erosion.” ~ Dave Barry
Tuesday, after spending the afternoon at 1880 Town, I finally made it to The Badlands. Of all the places I hoped to see on this Great American Road Trip, The Badlands were on top of the list. I was not disappointed.
My National Parks Pass allowed me free access. I bypassed five miles of incredible natural beauty, the crux of The Badlands, to secure a campsite at the Cedar Pass Campground. Camping is limited to only two campgrounds and the sites go quickly in the summer; you can reserve a site at this campground but the other campground, in The Badlands Wilderness, is first come, first serve. I didn’t have a reservation but still, by getting there at three o’clock, I scored a great site on the outside edge of the campground on a high spot overlooking part of the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.
Shade from the desert sun
Parts of “Dances With Wolves” were filmed in the grasslands out there.
After staking my land claim and pitching my tent, with camera in hand, I retraced the last five miles to see all that The Badlands had to offer.
These signs were everywhere but the odds of seeing an actual Rattlesnake in the wild are, according to a local park ranger, close to winning Powerball or being struck by lightning.
For a short time that evening the mellifluous orange sun and the refulgent full moon danced in the twilight sky together, each striving to illuminate its share of the celestial stage until the solar sphere skated off behind horizon’s curtain, a billion stars blanketed the night sky in a gleaming chorus and the lunar orb ascended high to center stage. It was a magnificent performance!
I decided to try some nighttime photography…
I awoke to a glorious sunrise, packed up my gear and pulled out of the campground. Adjacent to this campground is a touristy camp store and a restaurant where I had both dinner last night and breakfast this morning. It’s convenient but if you choose to eat there you’d best have a lot of time, patience and a high tolerance for lackluster food. The store there has plenty of camping supplies and other survival nessecities like…jewelry.
One other note: No campfires allowed in The Badlands.
Route 240 intersects with Route 44 and continues northwest near the restaurant. After choking down my cold breakfast I headed in that direction with the goal of driving the 35 miles to the other side of the national park, to Sage Creek Campground, in what is known as The Badlands Wilderness.
Route 240 is a newly-paved road that winds through more of The Badlands rugged beauty. Behold!
Along the way there is one section where the rocks, the entire landescape appear to be painted. Mother Nature can be so beautious!
Rim Road is a gravel road off Route 240, on the left, at about the 22 mile mark that will take you to the other campground.
Taking the left onto Rim Road I made a new friend…
…and then I met the rest of the family. I was taking a picture of one Desert Bighorn Sheep when then rest of the family circled around and surrounded me, cutting me off from my escape vehicle. All I could do was stand there, take pictures and hope that none of them were in a bad mood, especially the male ram. They were close enough for me to hear their breathing!
I made it back to my XTerra unscathed and continued down the road to the second half of this Badlands adventure…The Badlands Wilderness!
I hope you live a life you’re proud of, if not, I hope you find the strength to change.
The gam continues…