We made a mad dash across Minnesota and then South Dakota to the bad lands. The wind continue to persist for most of the trip which limited me to 55 mph. The landscape goes by very slowly. Not that the country isn’t beautiful. There’s a great rest stop on I-90 just before the Missouri river. Some really spectacular views. Lewis and Clark must of just been in awe.
We arrived in the Bad Lands National Park after about 14 hours of driving. A long day, but considering there was not much in the way of interesting stops, it was probably for the best. The camp ground here is primitive with no hook-ups for our trailer. Not a big deal to me and my wife who are accustomed to tent camping, but our kids are a bit put off by the lack of electricity. They’re adapting, but not without protest.
It rained the night we arrived in the Bad Lands. Let me say that again for effect. It rained hard. This has been the wettest Spring in memory here in the Bad Lands. The place is actually green. Really green. People who have lived here all there lives (a few from the Dust Bowl era included) have said the weather is absurd. The place feels lush. Temperatures are in the 70’s. Meadowlarks flit about and the cacti are blooming. It’s not even close to being desert like.
While we may not be getting the hot temperatures and desperately dry conditions I was expecting, we are seeing lots of wildlife. Bison roam freely, deer and mountain sheep can be spotted if you look carefully, and then there are the ubiquitous Prairie Dogs. The little rodents are just everywhere you look.
The Bad Lands are a unique geologic formation that is different than just about anything else you’ll encounter in the West. The colors and variations are wild and unexpected. Many people more famous than I have commented on the spiritual effect the place can have on you and I for one can only add that they’re right. It’s a remote, desolate, hard and yet endearing place that you would do well to spend some time in.
South Dakota is a lonely place. The landscape dares you to make a living from it and the shear expanse makes you feel little and unimportant. It’s hard to imagine settlers coming out here 150 years ago and making a go of it. The solitude and hardship seems like it could be soul breaking. Obviously, I’m not what you would call the pioneer type.
There’s a little town just outside the park boundary called Interior. By small I mean the city jail, school (elementary and high school), water works and telecommunications services all exist in a single block. Other than a bar advertising ice-cold beer and a gas station, there’s not much to recommend the place. Hard to imagine there are people who have lived there for 80 years.
Tomorrow we are traveling to the Black Hills, famous for Mt. Rushmore and the 1874 gold rush. Should be an easy travel day.