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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Badlands National Park

August 21, 2011

In August 2011, we took our first long road trip to South Dakota. To make the trip bearable for me, we stopped at many roadside attractions along the way such as the SPAM Museum, Jolly Green Giant statue, and Sioux Falls. We arrived at Badlands National Parka little after noon via the Pinnacle entrance and decided to drive through the park so we could get comfortable with the area. We drove to the free and primitive Sage Creek campsite where we would be staying. The drive to Sage Creek was a gravel road which made me uneasy since we drove a Nissan Altima. If it rained, that meant we would be either stranded at our campsite or we would not be able to get back to it since the car wouldn't be able to handle the slick road. 

After arriving at the site, we decided to make a loop around the park by going south on Sage Creek Road to Hwy 44. M and I didn't realize how big the park actually was and ended up driving an hour and a half before reaching the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. While there, we stopped at the Cedar Pass campsite so we could fill our 5 gallon water container, on account of Sage Creek having no water but pit toilets and some tables.

We drove on the Badlands Loop Road to get back to our campsite and stopped at many of the overlooks. This first day was used as an "acclimation" day and so we could plan our hikes for the next day. After seeing some of the vistas, we arrived back at Sage Creek camp, set up our tent, and then hiked over some of the hills nearby.

The biggest drawback to the hike, and consequently the whole park, was getting used to innumerable grasshoppers jumping around and on us. It was very unsettling but I managed hold back some of my shrieks and hiked to the top of one of the hills. The Sage Creek area had mint green grass with teal and hunter green shrubs; there were some cacti that grew on some of the paths too. Hiking up the hills was easy but the descent proved difficult as we didn't have any trekking poles so we slid downhill on the loose sedimentary rock. After making it back to camp, we drove to the Sage Creek Basin Overlook.

We hiked a small trail down the grassy hillside and ended up hiking on some yellow mounds. These mounds were red, yellow, and white with distinct layers. The trail was littered with loose rocks and buffalo dung since the buffaloes used the trails too. We ran on most of the trail but with the sun setting we didn't stay too long. After enjoying the beautiful colors of the mounds, we drove back to camp, made dinner, watched the sunset, and slept under the stars. The nights in Sage Creek were pretty brutal with very strong winds that shook the tent but the fact that there was very little light pollution made the night enjoyable.

*Just a warning: Since Sage Creek was free, many people drove to the area late into the night to set up tent or sleep in there cars. It was rather annoying to have car lights flood the darkness and people loudly rustling in the night trying to set up their tents. Other than that, Sage Creek was an awesome campground.

Badlands National Park

What a view!

Filling the water container

Badland Loop Road

Hiking some hills near Sage Creek Camp

Sage Creek Campground

Steep hillside with loose rocks

Sage Creek

Scary clouds that, thankfully, never turned into a storm

Non potable non treatable water

Chadron formation in the back and Brule in the foreground

At one of the overlooks

Though this looks relatively tame, the exposure along with loose sediment and strong winds made this overlook quite scary.

Overlook parking lot

Watch out for rattlesnakes

Steep drop off

Start of Sage Creek basin

Tiny "back country" buffalo trail

Yellow mounds

Nice little friend next to our tent

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