NW Exped Site #5 Badlands

So for Badlands National Park we stayed in a retail campground, something I try to avoid. Due to our electrical needs, the whole C-PAP breathing thing it was a necessary evil. We got to the campground after a long day of driving through a beautiful landscape. The crops of Nebraska are something to behold. From wheat a beautiful blue green shade undulating in the breeze to Black & Red Angus Cattle grazing in deep grass field. We keep hoping every cow was a Bison. There were random Pronghorns just one or a group of three in the fields hanging out. These guys are easy to spot with their fluffy white tutu looking derrières and tan brown coats which really pop against the sea of green. There were some solitary Mule Deer too, with dark big ears and black tails.

The campsite claimed it had a pool (I assume functional) and was across the street from a Prairie Dog Observation area.The Prairie Dogs were amazing cute, busy and the more you looked the more you saw. These guys are fun to watch and an integral part of this ecosystem. They are prey for many species from ferret to eagle, aerate the soil  and even mow their grass to make predators easy to see. The pool however was closed for repair – no sign – just no water in the metal sided basin. Our site was the one if during entry your brakes failed our camper would stop you. The Adirondack-ish style office (sad gift shop) had a damaged large beam you had to go under to enter – if it were in the woods I would have called it a widow maker. I keep telling myself it was near Badlands but the lived in shack cabins at the back, and the trailers area, and the cinderblock badly painted bathhouse were impeding my view. Nevertheless the morning sun at 5,150 feet of elevation is phenomenal as was the distance to Badlands. The days are longer here; Sunrise at 5:10am Mountain Time (minus 2 from Eastern Time) and sunset at 8:40pm. The temperature is high of a dry 89 and low of 60 degrees F.

Did I mention how green the state is? img_6526I imagine it white for the other six months of the year. The Badlandsare a cream white anomaly piercing the landscape in an alien way. We had to go that day, yeah we were tired from driving but sunset over the Badlands with a storm brewing to the south was a view we could not resist. A storm front was boiling up from the south and we wanted to see this place in all its sunset colorful glory. The skyline and colors made by the setting sun, left you speechless and in awe. It made you consider what it was like for the first human on horseback to discover this place. It is a must see, words could not express the play of light and shadow over this beautiful landscape. The thunderstorm was giving a light show and quickly approaching, so we turned back to return the next day. img_6518

The sheer expanse of the Badlands is daunting as the loop road runs the “spine” of the area is over 43 miles long. It looks like sandcastles touching the blue Montana sky in all sorts of layered shapes, sizes, and states of repair. This park is a course in Geology and Paleontology. There are sedimentary rocks dating to the Oligocene Epoch. The layers are differing shades from cream, yellows, terra cotta red and a haze gray. The astounding thing is the shapes are formed by deposition and erosion (thanks NP Visitor’s Guide). Scientists discovered evidence of an ocean and a volcanic ash millions of years ago. Fossils are everywhere in this natural example of the Law of Superposition. There is even a fossil trail winding through spires into a canyon. It was crazy to see the mountain goats with their kids perched atop these delicate crumbling structures.

The pictures tell the best story. We saw a Golden Eagle perchedon a mountaintop, mule deer,a Magpie, BISONS (correct name for Buffalos), Mountain GOATS, and more. The photographs share these images better than any of my words ever could.

Enjoy the album here:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/Q4rmdcvC2i7CDqJz9

Off to Montana to see the wilderness including Yellowstone National Park and another retail campground.

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