- South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana; First Day: Driving from the Twin Cities to the Badlands
- Second Day: Hiking the Badlands
- Third Day: Leaving the Badlands (Kind of)
- Fourth Day: Caves and Mammoths
- Fifth Day: Carved Mountains and…Regular Mountains
- Sixth Day: More Rushmore, and Sylvan Lake too!
- Seventh Day: Rapid City and Wyoming
- Eighth Day: Montana
- Ninth Day: Devils Tower
- Tenth Day: Heading Home and Reflection
A picture of one of the aforementioned wildflowers.
This picture was at the beginning of the hike. Me and my grandfather got distracted looking at an interesting rock, and my grandmother snapped the picture.
We walked a short distance out into the prairie in front of us, on some of the dirt paths. You could wander out there for hours, but we had to get moving…we had a lot ahead of us!
Our next stop was the Prairie Homestead, near to the Badlands. This was a fascinating historic homestead. They have the original structures including an original sod house built in 1909. They even had an informative video on the homesteaders. The whole place helped to add a historical perspective to the area we are visiting, and gives your insight into the lives of the people who made their home here. There is also a prairie dog town on the grounds, with plenty of opportunity to see them ambling around. I also made note of beautiful barn swallows swooping about dramatically, rainbow-colored and iridescent.
Once we looked at everything there (and then some) we left to go hike some remaining trails in the Badlands.
There are three hikes that people always seem to refer to together: the Door, the Window and the Notch. They are right next to each other, in the same parking lot. They each have pretty different conditions though. We started with the Door, which was a self-guided hike out into the Badlands formations. This one was very different, and really served to highlight the ruggedness of the Badlands. So far, except for the first picture of the Badlands when we first arrived, we had generally been surrounded by the formations, towering above us into the sky. Now, we were level with the formations, and below us were deep canyons and gorges cutting dramatically across the landscape. We also spotted some local wildlife: a strange kind of rodent-creature. At first I actually thought it was a scorpion, seeing it from afar. It had a long tail that it curved above its body as it ran. We saw more of them later, but never did confirm exactly what it was. It was some kind of small rodent though.
The Window didn’t have a lot to it, it was a very short walk over to a viewing point. It was a good viewing point, there just isn’t a lot to talk about with it.
The Notch was more interesting. Now we were in a gorge. Every hike out here is truly different. The scenery on the Door was very open. If you looked down you saw deep canyons and looking around you could see the pinnacles of the Badlands, but they were awhile away. You had a free feeling, being able to see pretty far. Saddle Pass started off at the base of the formations and climbed up, revealing a vast prairie in front of you. The Notch felt tighter, and it felt more like you were exploring, since you could not easily see what was ahead of you. Bear in mind this was not some tiny gorge like a slot canyon or something, it was big, it just stands in contrast to some of the other hikes.
We also saw a couple more of the small, long-tailed rodents around on this hike.
Anyway, the Notch started by heading in to the gorge, and then you reached the end of it. But, at the end was a 50 foot ladder made of logs tied together and staked in. You climb the ladder up to a cliff that runs along the gorge and then hike backwards to a fantastic view. Below you at this point you could see a juniper forest, a rare bit of heavy vegetation in the Badlands. This was our next hike, as there was a path that takes you through it.
It is called the Cliff Shelf Trail. The trail was a round-trip boardwalk. We were trying to hurry a bit, as we wanted to get back and catch a Park Ranger program, but we still had a nice leisurely walk. We even stopped at the top to listen to a bird for awhile. It had a very complex song, and we were trying to spot it, but we couldn’t see it. This trail was a nice change of both pace and scenery.
After we finished hiking here, we went back to see a Ranger program. It was a nice PowerPoint presentation at an outdoors stage about Time in the Badlands. It had many good pictures of the Badlands, talking about some of the seasonal changes that happen and some of the various animal species. We even had a bat flying around, catching insects.
Sorry I don’t have a lot of pictures from today, we were too caught up with the hikes to stop and take a lot of pictures! I will have more tomorrow though.