spent the night in what I thought was a remote camp area within the
Badlands National Park. It seemed remote because we traveled 30
miles or so of dirt to get there. But, we came in the "back door"
to the area. There were plenty of regular cars in the camp area,
but no RVs or trailers. It seems that the dirt road to get there
scared them off. The wind was strong and we had rain during our
travels. Indeed, there had been a thunderstorm in Hermosa, SD
that blew down power lines that required us to detour around the
damaged lines. We traveled the county roads that were muddy and
the mud made a mess. But, the camp site was level and that is
pretty much all we need. for an acceptable camp. Next morning, we
left the Sage Creek area to check out the Badlands and see what was
The photos below are what we saw.
little fellows are omnipresent on the prairie, thus the name Prairie
Dog. These are not dogs but rather rodents and are reviled as
pests by the farmers and ranchers in the areas they inhabit.
dog burrows act as tripping hazards for cattle and cause many broken
many places, the ranchers shoot the dogs on sight. But, that is
hard. The dogs have an organized society and bark alarms when
danger is sensed (usually from hawks or coyotes). But, they learn
about hunting as well and therefore require substantial "set back"
ranges to actually succeed in hitting them. If you are green
minded, don't worry: shoot all you want, it just causes them to breed
Badlands are really mud hills. There are many areas in the west
that have mud hills as interesting as these, but the area covered by
these structures is quite large. And, the interface of the grassy
prairie with the mud hills provides an interesting contrast of colors.
the way, we passed this lone buffalo bull.
trail went up a ridge and provided a nice view.
valley area was covered in dark green prairie grass.
badlands area was due to an uplift followed by erosion. The
underlying strata is not grass-friendly and therefore is free of any
uplifted ridge was deeply eroded.
the south, the erosion resulted in a set of pinnacles.
the trail, we passed this nice home-brew camper based on an Isuzu
chassis. This rig is a 2wd so it would be restricted to the same
roads as a regular RV.
parting view of the opposite side of the Isuzu rig.
overlook provided a view of the intricate mud hills.
of folks were viewing the mud hills.
passed an interesting structure on the cliffs along the trail.
low areas had prairie grass which was verdant green. The bedding
of the strata is clearly visible in the photo above.
grassy areas provided nice color contrast to the tan colors of the
hills. Any low area that had persistent water also had some form of
larger brush or trees.
of the hills were banded by the various strata that comprise the
road near the visitor center passed some small peaks.
formations here are quite similar to those found at Calico, CA or in
the Anza-Borrego State Park in eastern San Diego county. It might
even be the same strata, I did not check.
small spires were visible from one of the pull-outs on the road.
the prairie surface is eroded, it exposes the barren strata below.
still blows me away that he underlying strata is so unfriendly to
vegetation of any type.
parting shot of the badlands showing the interface of the prairie grass
with the eroded badlands.
real story here is not the cheesy stucco prairie dog statue but rather
the 2 folks to the left who are in awe of the 1017 as we rolled past.
got bombarded with signs for Wall Drug in Wall, SD for 20 miles.
They go to extremes to bring folks to their store because, to put it
bluntly, there isn't jack in Wall, SD save this 80' stucco dinosaur.
our entry into Rapid City, SD we did a fuel stop and then went to the
local Cabela's store for a few items. We spent the night in Rapid
City at an RV park where we did chores like showers and laundry.
Next morning, we took in a tourist attraction called Reptile Gardens
where tourist exploitation was raised to a high art, second only to the
Disney franchise. I decided to not take my camera inside which
was an OK decision. The facility was worth the $15 per head they
charged, but nowhere near the world-class San Diego zoo. I guess
I am a zoo bigot now. After the lizards, et al, we headed west
past Mt. Rushmore. On the west side, we got the "profile view" of
Mr. Washington. Look closely at his right nostril and you will
note a mistake. The drillers failed to follow the plan resulting
in a divot that was not in the original design. A close inspection of
the photo (not available in this reduced resolution version) will
reveal the original drill holes. Also note the pucks on the top of his
head as well as some kind of radio antenna or lightning rod just to the
left of the carved area.
profile view at a wider angle that shows the position of the
Rushmore, we went to the Crazy Horse monument which is still work in
progress. Construction started in 1949 or so and is expected to
be completed in 2045 depending on funding and manloading. This is
not a government effort, it is private and funded by access fees ($10
per head). When (if) it is completed, it will dwarf
Rushmore. The amount of material that must be removed is
astounding. The white marks on the cliff are a partial outline of
Crazy Horse's steed, his ear in particular. It is currently
impressive, but in another 30 years it will be astounding.
Crazy Horse, we headed south into Custer, SD (again) and did a supply
stop. A thunderstorm came through and it rained hard. I
have never seen rain of that intensity before. We were trapped in
the grocery store during the downpour. But, after 15 minutes, the
storm front passed leaving a nice rainbow in it's wake.
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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2011, all rights
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.