Saturday, March 5, 2011

Winter's Beauty in the Badlands


Mid-February is not my idea of the time to visit South Dakota's Badlands. Circumstances led the 42N team to venture from eastern Iowa to Montana with several stops along the way. I had never been to the Badlands but recall seeing brilliant photographs of the eroded landscape taken in much warmer times. So when the opportunity presented itself to visit the park we seized the day.

Realize that in mid-February while there was little snow in the park, the unrestrained wind gusted and the temperatures were rising into the 30s. This being the middle of winter meant that several businesses located near the park's entrance were closed for the season. The visitor center was open as was the in-park hotel (or lodge complex.) We experienced contact with four other cars in the park during the time we were there.

I had no idea as to the enormous scope of the Badlands. Standing at a number of lookout points you can see the eroded hills from horizon to horizon. Apparently many of the hills are composed of what appears to be soil including various clays - from ancient marine bed sediments. I'm sure there is rock and other things in the Badlands makeup but I haven't researched that aspect yet.


The youngest member of the 42N team decided to climb the natural pyramid looking for an entrance to the Queen's chamber. She got temporarily stuck on the climb by mud oozing from under the dry surface. Since she didn't want to get any dirtier the team member abandoned the climb having never found any secret entrance. After seeing many antelope, sheep, hawks and prairie dogs in the park we continued our westward journey to Montana stopping at nearby Wall for lunch and to see what the billboard signs all referenced for a hundred miles - Wall Drug Store. Know that.