Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Badlands are Really Bad! Part 2

If you don't know much about the Badlands, here is a little information. The park has three units totaling more than 240,000 acres. The north unit is the best known and most easily explored area. It has the Badlands Loop Road with scenic overlooks and hiking trails. The Stronghold and Palmer Creek units are run by the Oglala Lakota and the National Park service. They are not always open, especially during these Covid times.

With just about every national park, there is a wildlife or scenic loop drive. We always drive it several times because there is always something new in the area, the animals move around, that's for sure! First, there's the scenery....

We passed through an area called the "Yellow Mounds"....When the Black Hills were formed in South Dakota, the ancient sea drained away, and the black ocean mud weathered into yellow soil.
Here we are, enjoying the scenery...
Sparky clambered around a bit on some little stuff, getting ready for the bigger stuff later...The hills and "mountains" are looser material than what you would think. The park cautions people to be careful when hiking. Also, there are definitely rattlesnakes there. Signs everywhere warning about rattlesnakes but we didn't see any. Whew! (Sparky really wanted to see one, but was ok if she didn't.)
Here's Eldy being a little silly...Sparky told him to pretend he was going to fly off the ledge but he's facing the wrong way, lol. Probably better that he was, as it was quite the drop off!

And now...the animals....Quite a few bighorn sheep....Up close and personal...

A little baby bighorn sheep!

And even smaller...(Sparky loves tiny things on flowers, her world is both big and small)

After checking out the wildlife, Sparky decided to try a hike on the second day of our visit. We were only going to be there two days, so it was now or never. There are lots of hikes you can do, of course. Most are out in the open, and it's hot and dry this time of year. (September). Here are some of them: (designations are the park service)

1. Door Trail- .75 miles, 20 min. Easy, 1/4 mile boardwalk
2.Window Trail- .25 miles 20 min. Easy
3. Notch Trail-1.5 miles, 1-2 hours Mod.-strenuous (Sparky likes this one) climb a ladder, follow a ledge. watch for drop offs.
4.Castle Trail-10miles, 5 hours, moderate-relatively level
5. Cliff Shelf-.5 miles, moderate-boardwalks and climbing stairs
6. Saddle Pass-.25 miles, 1/2-1 hr. strenuous (next time, Sparky!)
7. Medicine Root-4 miles, 2 hrs., moderate, rolling spur trail
8. Fossil Exhibit Trail-.25miles, 20 min. Easy..fossil replaces and exhibits

OK, Sparky heard "ladder" and she's in! Off we go! A beautiful start, walking thru a canyon...

It gets a little steeper, piece of cake so far....

 We are climbing now....still easy hike so far....
Sparky was following a couple in front of her. She asked if they would mind if she kept right behind them and Chris and Chris (cute, hunh?) said, of course not! They were so nice, and kept checking to see how Sparky was doing, especially after hearing a little slip and slide now and then. "Are you ok?" Nice of them to check, as Sparky got a little nervous once the steeper parts of the hike came into view. "DANGEROUS CLIFF--KEEP RIGHT".
OK, here comes the fun part...climbing up the ladder. The rungs were round logs, and the sides were metal twisted rope. Here, the hikers are coming down. Notice the two ways to do it, backing down one step at a time, or butt first. Sparky did the backing down method on the way back.
Finally, the summit appears!
If you do the Notch hike, the view at the top is of a dramatic view of the White River Valley below.
Despite this being a moderate to strenuous hike, and warnings about "watch for drop offs" and "not recommended for anyone with a fear of heights" and "treacherous during or after heavy rains" was a busy trail with lots of hikers today, some with surprisingly younger children. Sparky recommends going early in the day for best temps and less people. It was thrill to do it, and oh, boy, great exercise for old legs. Sparky was so sore the next day, even with biking and hiking regularly back in Florida before we left!

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Badlands. It's remote, poor to non-existent cell phone service (extremely poor AT&T service the whole stay) but, wow, it's a different kind of view and experience!
Our next stay is back to Indiana for a week...getting our forwarded mail, checking in with family, and planning for our next stay...Until next time....

                                            The End

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