Almost exactly one year after our honeymoon, Jon and I took a quick swing back through the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota. Two of my favorite places in the country. And two of the places I visit most often. I am so in love with the rugged terrain and vast wilderness of both places. The bizarre landscape of the Badlands is something I dream about often. I adore the wildlife and the scent the wind carries. I enjoy the extremes of hot, hot heat and absolutely bleak and freezing cold. These two spots in the Midwest are like home to me. Comfortable places that feel safe and threatening all at once. We didn’t stay long in either location, as we were simply taking “the long way” home from Sioux Falls, after building out some of the Sprinter van we plan to call home on extended road trips.
When we woke up, the clouds were incredibly thick and their was a light drizzle happening. This made for a very blue landscape, the clouds covering the sun, so the morning never became sunny or colorful, just blanketed in a blue that became brighter. When it is wet in the Badlands, the colors pop. The land smells alive. The wildlife comes out to enjoy the watered grasses.
We sat and watched bison for a while. They were feeding in a meadow. As we drove off and continued on our way, we spotted many bison, but fewer than usual. There was a large heard far from us. Most of them were laying in an open field. My guess is they were having a little bit lazy of a morning, what with the rain and this new chill in the air.
On our drive out, we spotted a ram- a male bighorn sheep -who was solo and having some breakfast. He didn’t mind us much and we watched him for a while. They’re one of my very favorite animals and I was super happy he liked company. This year in Colorado, I have had terrible luck with spotting rams. Or I see them when we’re driving by so fast we cannot stop to say hi. It felt great to take our time with this guy. He was beautiful.
When the clouds started to part and the sun began to peek out, we were on the far side of the park, where there is a bit more foliage and many trees. All the leaves were looking gorgeous and bright. Turning oranges, yellows and reds. A lovely contrast to the neutrals that prevail.
This very short lived time was incredible. And it was an example of why I love the Badlands so much. Even on the shortest visit, you will most likely be blown away by the landscape. For whatever reason; for a multitude of very different reasons. You will see wildlife. Generally, you’ll see a lot of wildlife. Sometimes you wont see much wildlife. But you will always, always see some. And it’s inspirational. Even on the busiest days in the park, you will find places of solitude and quiet.
Remember to follow all principles of Leave No Trace when you come. You should be following these wherever you go, but here more than some places, it’s noticeable. And throughout the years I have most certainly noticed more trash, more loud behavior and more photos of people next to wildlife. Not good, friends. Pass along the knowledge of Leave No Trace to all you know. It’s simple stuff that preserves these gorgeous places.
Bivy enjoyed the Badlands too- but remember! Pets in National Parks is never a great idea. They are only allowed in paved areas and in picnic areas. And in designated camp grounds. So even though pupper can go wherever in the car, its not super fun to spend a whole day in the car. We can all relate I’m sure! So when you let the pupper out to go potty and sniff around, make sure it’s in the appropriate place.
The Black Hills were cloudier and rainier than the Badlands. And that was okay! The autumn colors were vivid and bright. The sky was white. We drove through them quickly, reminiscing on times past. Our road trip from the previous summer and our honeymoon. It seems that the Black Hills will always find their way into our plans somehow. They’re like visiting an old friend you love so much.
The next time we visit this area will be winter. And the land will be so different. So unique and wild. Many of our little friends will be hibernating, leaving our big friends to explore the land. Snowy and freezing and challenging. I cannot wait.