Thursday, October 8, 2015

Badlands National Park

During our summer road trip, we saw more interesting sights that I could squeeze into my real-time posts. Now that I'm back home and have fished all 548 photos off my devices, I have a few more road trip stories to share. 

To catch up on the rest of the trip, start here.

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The story goes that the French fur trappers who wandered through this place bemoaned the lack of water and difficult passage, and deemed these to be "bad lands,"

I fervently disagree.

Granted, I had a cooler full of chilled beverages, Google maps and a team of National Park Rangers to usher me through. But on our half-day tour of Badlands National Park, I found goodness to behold around every corner.

^ Approaching from the east, this canyon land marks the unofficial beginning of the American West, and on those merits alone, fills me with excitement and a spirit of adventure. Take that, you South Dakotan corn fields - here the frontier begins!

^ While the first vistas in the park allow sweeping views of the distant rippling rock formations, the scenic drive soon winds up, in, and among the stone walls. While my family happily took in the sights from within the comfort of the air-conditioned car, my restless spirit demanded that I get out and explore each and every stopping point, at roughly three-minute intervals.

^ Any patch of wilderness tender enough to nurture wildflowers is a softie in my book.

^ I'll admit that the midday sun was scorching, but these picnic shelters went a long way toward providing some comfortable shade. In the interest of full disclosure, I must point out that the seats - made from recycled plastic - bowed in the center, apparently having melted from the heat. Yikes.

^ Continuing our looping westward drive, we noticed storm clouds piling up on the horizon. 

 ^ And sure enough, just a few minutes later, the heavens opened up and the glorious rain poured down. For the rest of our visit, we drove in and out of these squalls, adding to the drama and charm of the landscape.

^ Here and there we discovered areas of soft, flowing table lands, prairie green from summer rain, with just the tips of rocky ranges peeping up far beyond. I just wanted to spread out a blanket in that lush grass and eat my lunch all over again.

^ More rocky ravines. More cloud bursts.

  ^ More precious clumps of flowers.

^ And a constant wild wind, buffeting my ears and whipping my hair in every direction. It was fierce and lovely.

^ As we edged closer to the western perimeter of the park, the steep, sharply pointed cliffs abruptly gave way to older, rounder formations. Tinged with layers of pink and yellow sediments, these geologic layers date back to the times when this was a sea, and then a jungle, and then a sea once again.

It seems that this land is indeed ever-changing, reinventing itself over the eons, transforming beyond recognition from one age to the next.

So don't let those old fur traders fool you. This may have been a "bad land" in their day and age, but for us, these are very Good Lands indeed.

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