Saturday, September 03, 2011

Badlands :: The National Park

Tuesday, August 23rd - - After taking Babs to the airport in Sioux Falls (at 5 o'clock in the morning!) I returned to the motel thinking perhaps I could get in a few more hours of sleep. I rested for a while but sleep wouldn't come so I got up and back on the road, westward bound. Taking the Interstate, I made good time and arrived in Wall, South Dakota in mid-afternoon.

My “plan” was to visit Badlands National Park but the temperature had reached triple digits. Remembering what it had been like the last time, I got a motel room and hoped that it would be cooler in the morning! And, yes, I did pay a visit to Wall Drug, strolling through the various sections. It's an interesting place, to say the least.

Wednesday, August 24th - - As it turned out, it really wouldn't have been bad for camping last night after the sun went down. Overnight temperatures were in the upper 60s. Anyway, I got a relatively early start and was in the Badlands National Park by nine o'clock. Entering from the northwest, the route would take me south and east through the park.

Almost immediately upon entering the park I turned on the first drive off the main road, which was a gravel road but well maintained and in good condition with several overlook areas. The first one was Hay Butte Overlook.

An informative sign explained why it was called Hay Butte:
Erosion left a few high islands topped with virgin sod, the slopes so steep that homesteaders could not get their stock up to graze. Instead, the homesteaders waited until the grass was ready to cut.

Then several got together, took apart a mower, and reassembled it on the top of the table. Once the grass was cut and baled, homesteaders hitched it to a cable stretched from the rim to the lower prairie – and whoosh, the bales slid down. Hence the name Hay Butte for the long table on the horizon.

Today the high grassy tables are harvested only by bighorns and deer. The bison which roam the Sage Creek Wilderness are excluded as effectively as were the stock of the homesteaders.

One of the flat-top buttes. I was amazed at how much “green” there was. Apparently there has been plenty of rain in western South Dakota this year!

Looking at the sides of the butte, it's no wonder that cattle and buffalo can't get to the top.

A little further down the road was the Badlands Wilderness area. It was rugged looking but seemed to have some areas that were more “rounded” and also had more grassland. There are even trees out there! I certainly wasn't expecting that.

My recollections of the Badlands from a visit in 1976 with my mother are far different than this. I recall a very dry, brown landscape. Rather forbidding and desolate. Yes, this is desolate looking, but it also has a strange beauty to it.

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