“Listen to the mustn’ts, child, listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves then listen close to me –
anything can happen, child, anything can be.”
~ Shel Silverstein

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Wednesday I transistioned from the rugged rockiness of The Badlands to the softer rolling prairies of The Badlands Wilderness, all part of The Badlands National Park in western South Dakota.

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I easily found the Sage Creek Campground. It’s first come, first serve here so being noon time I had my pick-of-the-litter of campsites, although I wasn’t too worried if I didn’t get a site because here in The Badlands Wilderness you can camp anywhere you wish, up in the hills or down in the valleys – just no fires and they prefer that your campsite not be seen from the road.

Sage Creek Campground

Sage Creek Campground

I pitched my tent, loaded my backpack with food, water and other survival gear, then picked a direction. It was only noon so I still had eight hours of daylight to explore the land. Off in the distance, on the other side of milky Sage Creek, was a small herd of bison, or buffalo, or what ever you wish to call these magnificent beast; being a huge fan of the movie Dances With Wolves I prefer the Lakota Indian word…tatanka. Regardless of what they’re called, I’ve read enough to know that these are unpredictable, sometimes-aggressive, extremely powerful mammals who can locomote over thirty miles-per-hour! This was my first time seeing or interacting with tatanka on their turf – I proceeded with tentative stride. My goal was to climb up and across that hill formation…without getting trampled to death by the local residents. IMG_7566 I had to circle around to the left using the cover of grass and trees. It was an arduous task on this sweltering 96º day, as with each step I kept my eyes wide open for rattlesnakes, tatanka and tatanka “land mines.” This is the reverse view from atop that hill formation. The campground is in the top left corner and five tatanka are scattered about the field. IMG_7615

So I climbed down from that gravel-topped hill to this point, turned around and took this picture. Do you see the tatanka? I didn’t. I walked right by and somehow didn’t see him grazing over there in the grass. IMG_7654 Now you can see him. If he decided to charge I would’ve had no defense. IMG_7655 Luckily, I did see this land mine! They were everywhere!IMG_7663
IMG_7683 I made it back to camp about six hours later, had some grub, chatted with my Canadian neighbor Stephané for a while and then fell into my pillow.
Sunset back at camp.
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I had heard that this valley, this prairie was notorious for strong winds. That night I found it to be true. For just a few hours that night, perhaps from eleven to three in the morning, the gale force wind was so strong that my tent was folded over on top of me. Some people abandoned there tents and slept in their cars: I was so tired from hiking that I just slept through the tempest as best I could. When I awoke in the morning one of my high-grade aluminum tent poles was permanently bent out of shape from the windstorm’s constant pounding.
By sunrise the wind had slowed to a steady breeze. At six in the morning I unzipped my tent door, crawled out onto the ground, stood up, turned around and saw…
IMG_7727 He was using the shelter pole as a scratching post! IMG_7731 He was larger than the tent that Stephané was still sleeping in!
After he wandered away I got inspired to go for an early morning hike up into the hills, behind the camping area, on the opposite side of the valley from yesterday’s hike…
Coming down the other side an hour later I met these two pals…
What a beautiful morning hike!

…and so ends my three days in The Badlands. What an adventure!
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I hope you never let life’s land mines stop you from hiking your chosen path.

The gam continues…

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