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Badlands TRIP REPORT, or "I survived!!"
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“Alternate title,"The ranger won't kill us on this hike, right???!?"
This is L--O--N--G... so for those of you more visually inclined (and who like funny cutlines), go here for photos (including a cameo by the Corn Palace, enough bison to make Crash Bang sick and a surprise marriage proposal!!):
And now, the tale.......
Whatta deal. For my vacation I went from the frying pan into the fire, literally, as the temps took off from high 90s at home to 108 degrees in the southern Black Hills just north of Edgemont, South Dakota.
I was going west to participate in the U.S. Forest Service’s Passport in Time (PIT) program recording rock art in Craven Canyon. More on that in another report, along with my peak bagging after it was done.
This is about the trip out and a crazy hike in Badlands National Park.
I was bummin’ about my trip because I really wanted to backpack at Harney Peak, or Wind Cave National Park or SOMEWHERE, but last summer similar temps spelled disaster for me, so I knew it would be out. And that sucked...
I was checking all over the Net for things I might do instead. Found a “Wild Adventure Hike” offered at the Badlands every Saturday, Sunday and Monday. You had to be there at 7:30, demonstrate hiking agility by hopping up and down skirting and a railing around a temporary visitor’s center (total refurbishment of current one to be done by this fall, I understand), have sturdy hiking boots (hey, that I could do) and tons of water.
You also need to sign up in advance, which I did. They would take a limit of 8 people and the hike would run around 3 hours.
I took off from home on Friday night at 7:30 for the Black Hills, cursing as I went past each closed rest stop on I-90, looking like a victim of war with all the barricades, due to the MN state government's inability to set a new budget before the fiscal year ended June 30 (they settled it while I was gone).
First break was just into SoDak, humming “great faces, great places, South Dakota.” (wow, the jingle is now an indelible part of me!)
Second break was at the requisite, to me anyway, CORN PALACE at Mitchell. LOL! Ya gotta love the Corn Palace, marketing genius that put Mitchell on the map. So sometime after midnight I made the trek into downtown Mitchell and snapped a shot of it as drunken cowboys spilled from bars and roamed the streets, lol. It only takes maybe 15 minutes. You have to see it!
Then I was off to Chamberlain, sitting on the banks of the Missouri. There’s a nice rest stop there, complete with a Lewis & Clark display, plus a lovely view. At 2 a.m. I was pooped, moved things around in the back of the Cherokee (back seat down) and took advantage of the little bed area I had made under it all and locked the doors.
I knew I had to be up in time to drive the two hours yet left to the Badlands. Woke up at 6 a.m. and was pissed! I’d miss the hike! But WAIT! Wasn’t there a switch to Mountain Time Zone (from Central) somewhere???!? Indeed! So I was right on schedule.
Arriving, I quickly changed into hiking clothes, got my water prepared and did my hopping up-and-down routine to show Ranger Ben my agility. There were six of us on the hike, Ben and also a girl volunteer. (What you don’t have to go through to get a national parks job these days! Might as well be indentured slaves! Lol)
Around 8, we headed into a drainage right across from the visitors' center area. We went up something called Telephone (or Telephone Pole) Canyon… and marveled at spots trying to figure out just how the telephone poles got there!
It was a ton of fun and I’d highly recommend the free hike (well, after paying the park entrance fee). We went up what amounted to slot canyons (OK, you didn’t have the huge vertical walls of the versions found further west, but the drainage was definitely narrow.)
One place a few of us needed an extra arm to climb up some “walls” as they are called, made of flaking off materials. Yet another place we had to chimney up a small vertical area.
We looked for fossils, which are virtually EVERYWHERE there, and saw some cool ancient teeth of some creature. We saw the ranger ask some horseback riders just what they were doing in this area, which he thought was off limits to them. We walked through this awful weed that I forget the name of, but it leaves stickers and straw-like tendrils on everything. It became a theme for the trip, picking that out of laces! We avoided prickly pear cactus, which can pierce most anything.
Finally we were way up high and had to come down a “slump” drainage, where a bunch of dirt had collapsed at some point. It’s in these areas that the little green bushes grow.
It was pretty high and pretty steep. Some went down it on their butts for an additional safety edge. It was way too easy to slip.
I barely kept off my butt, figuring it would rip out the seat of my old pants (only to later that same day rip them up sitting near a cedar or ponderosa pine or whatever those trees are). One place we went over a narrow spot maybe a couple feet wide with a little exposure. Although slightly freaked, I confidently (and QUICKLY!) strode across.
We arrived back where we started 3.5 hours later. Man, the lower we got, the hotter the winds were. It was 100, at least, by that time, 11:30 a.m.
I went in, rested in air-conditioned comfort and bought a small book on rock hounding, which will probably be my next big hobby, lol.
Then I had a great Indian fry bread taco in Interior, cruised around a little, feared when the Jeep water gauge shot up high and it wouldn’t start (but it did within a half an hour, go figure and say a happy prayer).
Around 2 I started the trek to the Sage Creek Campground. Here I’ve always seen buffalo in thick herds. Well, this time, they were up at higher elevations for the most part, escaping those low, hot winds I guess.
I arrived to find one person on the treeless campground. (OK, it DOES have wooden slat shelters over a picnic table at each site for a little sun protection.) There’s also no water there, but yes, non-flush toilets. I thought the one guy had a great idea. He was laying on the picnic table, reclining on a blanket, reading. No tent set up.
So I got a chair out, read quite awhile, laid out my sun shower (had “borrowed” water at the campground near the visitors' center) and relaxed, saying to myself, “If this was winter and you were in this sauna, you’d think it was great.”
Slowly, campers found their way to the isolated spot, with the last stragglers coming in by 10 p.m. I took a hike at dusk into the wilderness area and to look back at the campsite and the huge, looming, ominous pink cloud that surely promised rain (but didn't).
EQUIPMENT NOTE: I decided to use my new Alps Taurus Orion 1 tent, recently purchased for around $65 on sale from REI. It’s totally mesh and I basically got it for this very purpose: to sleep under the stars when hot out, catch a breeze and thoroughly enjoy life. For that purpose it’s great. I put up the rainfly and discovered it pretty much sucks, but that was OK. I didn’t plan to use it. If it started pouring, I’d grab pillow and blanket, leave the sleeping pad and tent and hit the Jeep.
It didn’t rain. It was marvelous.
Sunday morning I took the Jeep on the Sage Creek Rim Road southwest to the skuzzy spot on the road called Scenic. Went just south of there and then west into the Indian Creek area of the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. Last year I’d first found this spot that the S.D. Sierra group has recommended for wilderness status.
I drove down the steep road, scaring a cow and calf away. Down at the basically dry Indian Creek, I followed the road, crossing it again and again. Got used to not being able to see what was under the Jeep’s hood, which was fun (but freaky for a gal like me! LOL!)
On the fifth crossing, I decided it looked a bit hairy coming out for a gal alone, so turned around mid-streambed and headed back. Yeah, I picked up some rocks, too, but hadn’t yet looked at the book to know if they were anything.
I came out and then south to the Pine Ridge Ogalala Sioux visitors' center for the South Unit of the Badlands, which they administer. Got fed up when an Indian interpretive guide could only talk about Little Big Horn National Battlefield, his father and the fact the tribe hates the new statue/sculpture put up there to honor the Indians.
What really ticked me off was he had a bucket there collecting funds for his trip to the park, for him and his six kids to get there. And he was verbally requesting donations! Hey, get a job! I’m not rich by any means, but I don’t put out a bucket at work to raise funds for such a trip!
He also wouldn’t tell me anything about getting to Stronghold Table, site of the last Ghost Dance. Sigh...
I headed west on the BIA road, up onto Cuny Table and took the messy-but-wide gravel road over to go north on BIA 40 (or 41?) to Red Shirt on the rez. I found the “secret” Badlands south unit overlook that’s spectacular. (Heard about through geocaching. However, I didn’t know how to run my new model yet, so that was out this trip, lol)
All you can see in the distance across the horizon is nasty badlands formations. Very cool!
And – imagine my surprise to see spray-painted on a close-up one, “Sunny, will you marry me? I love you, Dan.” >8-O (Sunshine, I only sent Dan up there to go to Isle Royale, not to marry you... but if that's the way it goes... LMAO! ;-)
Crossed the lovely Cheyenne River by Red Shirt. I like this river, but it has very few access points. Which of course intrigues me...
Headed northwest to Hermosa, where I saw a guy almost nailed at the gas pumps and also first heard of the fire near Piedmont, rapidly growing out of control on forest lands.
I drove that highway up to Keystone, drove by Mount Rushmore (hey, it’s guys’ heads carved in rock, which doesn’t thrill me or the Lakota, but yup, I did find a spot to take a few shots from the road).
Then I was off southwest to Edgemont, where the PIT would occur. It was a new area to explore… and I couldn’t wait to see the Indian rock art in Craven Canyon.”
“Wow, I survived to the end, only to feel like I've been left hanging, waiting for the next days adventure, while wondering how much more punishment Liz's jeep will tolerate.”
“Fun pics, liz. Been to that are myself and, yes, the Corn Palace rocks the Dakotas!!!”
“Nice pictures, lizs.”
“Great read lizs! Thanks.”
“WOW great report and pics!!!
do the bison just stand there all the time? Is there Bison protocol like with bears? Obviously I've not been around any bisons.”
“Cool trip and report! I love fossils...
Congrats sunshine and Dan!”
“"I was bummin’ about my trip because I really wanted to backpack at Harney Peak, or Wind Cave National Park or SOMEWHERE"
Quite a change from the non-backpacking liz of yore, eh?
“WOW....thanks for sharing your TR ( which I loved) and the pics!!!!!!!”
“I spent over a year in the early 1980's in the Badlands of the Dakotas and Wyoming with an oil exploration crew
fossils and artifacts everywhere
and the seasonal changes were very cool.”
“Nice TR and pics lizs--I know that area well! I've had to do some work down on the Pine Ridge Res. and have been down through Scenic and Interior to Wounded Knee. We were down in a gravel pit south of Interior along Potato Creek that was loaded with Pliocene or Miocene horse and camel bones and teeth(we didn't take any, of course!)
...and the Corn Palace is a must-see!”
“Many moons ago, my family and I passed through the same area on the way to Yellowstone. No hiking, but we did get to see the Corn Palace. There's also a Mustang museum for any classic car fans (assuming its still there after 10 years).
Good point, cindy lu. Lizs actively looking for backpacking areas? What's next? Prosecutor cooking only Mountain House meals? :):)”
“that was not me, I have been home in Milwaukee. I have witnesses”
“Great TR lizsbaby!
I'll have to look at the pics tonight.”
“Re: Bison "etiquette." LOL!
They can run up to 35 MPH, so you are supposed to steer clear of them. However, they most always hang out at the Sage Creek primitive campground in the Badlands. And they cross roads. So you can get really close to them in your vehicle. (like I said, when I was sitting about 3-4 ft. from one in the Jeep, I wondered just how those horns might rip through the window and into me!!! >8-) eeek!!! LOL!)
Seems every time I've gone to this Sage Creek area I get good close-ups of buffalo. And they do wander right through that campground, among the tents. It's pretty neat!
YES -- ME -- LOOKING TO BACKPACK!! *GASP!!!* lol
spalpeen, LOL, that still kills me, that spray painted proposal. Too funny! :-P”
“That Sunshine is SUCH a hussy! ;-)
Just kidding, just kidding!”
“Great pics... and, yep, I was one of those indentured slaves for quite some time, lol”
“yeah Stovey, those two just met when spalpeen went to Isle Royale. Sunny was the gracious hostess before he left on the ferry -- and on the trip back.
AND HOLY SCHAMOLEY, LOOK WHAT HAPPENS!
LOLOLOL! again, too funny and coincidental. ;-P
Also, that "holy schamoley" reference?? It was heard on the Badlands hike by a woman from the D.C. area. We all commented on it and figured we'd use it somewhere. :-)”
“I sure wish sunny could have made lizs' canoe trip.
Damn higher education! ;-)”
“Yeah, Stovey, you would have been spray painting a proposal in the Badlands, too, to Sunny. ;-P”
“well if it isn't lizsbaby! welcome back”
“Sounds like a great trip, Lizs :)
Glad to know your beloved Jeep is still well too!”
“Thanks, monkey-lovin' girl!”
“Cool TR! I enjoyed reading it.
In a few weeks we are headed that way. I think I will make it a point to stop at Mitchell to check out the Corn Palace.”
“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.
COMMUNICATION!!! Sheeeeesh! Guys, if you're gonna propose, put it where the girl will see it! If you haven't got the guts to ask me to my face then the answer is NO.
Oh, and Stovie, You're gonna pay dearly for that hussy comment. You might start sleeping with one eye open. Just a suggestion.”
and "hey" back at ya, MDSHiker! So are your temps in the south as warm as hell, err, where we live here up north?? LOL!”
“Oh, and Stovie, You're gonna pay dearly for that hussy comment. You might start sleeping with one eye open. Just a suggestion.”
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