Feb 20, 2015

Badlands National Park

"I've been about the world a lot, and pretty much over our own country, but I was totally unprepared for that revelation called the Dakota Bad Lands. What I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious elsewhere - a distant architecture, ethereal, an endless supernatural world more spiritual than earth but created out of it." -Frank Lloyd Wright

Most National Parks will naturally have State Parks close by, (the awesome is usually wide-spreading throughout the region) and we had always stayed in those State Parks due to site availability (we almost never make reservations) and internet access (for work). But we were able to camp in Badlands National Park thanks to the elevation/lack of trees making internet no problem. Along with the somewhat 'spartan' campground and hot weather, plenty of sites were available. We stayed in a loop with no utilities, and put our solar panels to good use for the week. 

Our view to the north east

Of course the sky and weather affect any landscape, but the Badlands will change drastically depending on the sky. It's a different park from one minute to the next.

The Badlands have a mystic quiet about them. Every evening we were treated to a breathtaking sunset. I made it a ritual to climb up onto the roof each morning to catch that Badlands horizon and sunrise alpenglow. The moon was brand new so the stars were at their brightest. We were finally in the right time and place to spy the teapot, an asterism inside of the the Sagittarius constellation. The Milky Way looks like it's steaming from the spout :) We want to return another time to see the park under a full moon.

In our hiking and exploration we saw some big horned sheep and our favorite - prairie dogs!

Prairie dog town. Could sit here all day watching these guys.

The park is full of fossils, and striking bands of color in each layer of sediment and soil. We see that this landscape began as a shallow sea. Continental plates shoving together (which formed the Rockies) caused this area to rise and drain. A subtropical forest developed and eventually gave way to a savannah and grassland similar to the prairies we have here today.

The visitor's center is really great, full of paleontology exhibits and regional history (spoiler: the Natives got completely screwed). There is a lab in the park and you can observe paleontologists and work, cleaning, revealing, and studying newly discovered fossils. There is evidence of all kinds of strange animals, like the Mesohippus for example - a small three toed ancestor of our modern horse. Now we both want to be Park Rangers and paleontologists...and geologists and botanists and...

Thanks for reading if you're reading,

A photo posted by Cori (@trailandcompass) on