The Badlands, SD

Day 34 – July 12, 2016

Mileage – 80,829

Hiked – 0.0

Rapid City, SD

It’s only an hour to the Badlands, so Jenney and Kevin decide to let the girls sleep in. Work is commenced on catching up on blogs and cleaning up a bit in the RV. Kevin checks out the dump station at Cabelas, which is free with a purchase. Logan is still asleep, it’s 9am, so Kevin, Jenney and Teryn head into the store to check it out. Supposedly SPF shirts are on sale. The stuffed (think taxidermy) animals are interesting. Many of them we have seen alive during our travels.

No luck with the shirts, we leave the store with a cast iron baking book. Jenney and the girls are excited by the breads and cinnamon rolls, something to look forward to at home. Today feels like it will be the final turning point.

We cover the distance to the famed Wall drug, which we can’t pass up. A quick jaunt into the town of Wall, small souvenirs of the trip acquired, lunch consumed in the RV, and we are off to the Badlands.

The Badlands come up quick. On the way in, we once again find the Prairie Dogs worth a bit of our time. They are comical critters. The fee station sits at the end of the park, but the visitor’s center is on the other end, meaning we will travel almost all the way through the Badlands before we meet with a ranger.

We take a few side roads to vistas, quickly turning around on the washboard that is to be a road. The views of the striped rock towers and prairie lands go as far as you can see. The winds blow constantly as the sun beats down. You can imagine what it would have been like here for to follow the Buffalo or to come across the plain in a wagon. It’s easy to feel small here.

Travelling along, the main road is suddenly jammed with cars, a sure sign of an interesting animal. Sure enough, a big horn ram is just feet off the road. We join the traffic jam, pulling off the road for a closer view. He’s big and well endowed. Check close up ram; though we have seen several in our travels, never this close and with a full set of horns. He doesn’t seem to mind the onlookers.

Hmmm… the signs stating, “watch your step rattlesnakes are common,” gives us pause. No long hikes today, in fact no hikes at all; bummer.

We stop at the visitor’s center and while the girls work on Junior Ranger, Jenney and Kevin set at tentative plan for the next few days. We are a few hours ahead of schedule, which if we get half way to Humboldt, Iowa today means we can potentially hit both Chicago and Chinatown in Toronto. We move our trip to the Born Free factory up a half a day.

The Fossil Science Center at the Badlands Visitor’s Center is the highlight of the day. The Badlands erode at up to 1 inch per year exposing a large number of fossils each year. We get the opportunity to watch paleontologist work on scraping away rock from a find they brought in from the field.

Guided by the junior ranger books we explore the fossil, natural, and human history of the park through interpreted in exhibits throughout the visitor’s center. We learn about the different eras over the last billion years and how they are reflected. We are exposed to the habitants of the park and how they are uniquely adapted to live in an inhospitable environment. We hear stories of the human history of the area dating back 12,000 years and how over the last 200 years we decimated and reintroduced many animal populations in the park. They also allude to the fact that we are only a stones throw away from Wounded Knee. It’s an interesting overview with the fossils bringing in a unique component to the geological element of the park and one of the first introductions of the broken promises made to the Native Americans.

Junior Ranger program complete we head to the car with a sense that now we really are turning home. Badlands NP is our last National Park. We have seen so much, yet left so many places untouched. It feels a little bitter sweet.

Without too much ceremony we get on the road, setting our sights on Sioux Falls, South Dakota.