Monday, September 26, 2011


It was a short and easy drive from Custer State Park to the Badlands. We arrived mid-day to pick our choice of sites at the National Park's Cedar Pass campground. All of the sites are just wide spots in the camp-loop road, which is lined with short pilings. It made for tricky parking. We're too long to simply pull in to the widening, so we had to parallel park The Whale. Once settled we gazed out at the Badlands formations that would be our horizon for the next few days:

As the sun set the heat of the day faded rapidly, as it is want to do in these dry, desertlike environments, but the splendor of the lightshow in sky and on rock was magnificent:

Mornings and late afternoons it was pleasant enough to be out and about, driving the park roads, hiking the trails, watching the wildlife...

Sunflowers bloom in this harsh environment:

Toby's fear of heights kicked in when he was dragged out a spit of earth high above the plains:

Nancy's fear of heights kicked in when she was dragged out a spit of earth high above the plains:

There are huge prairie dog towns in several places within the park:

And now, for something completely different:

Just north of the park, along the interstate highway, there are several relics of the cold war: Minuteman missile silos, discretely placed among the endless waves of grain, with cows grazing contentedly nearby. One of these is set up for viewing, but the "Welcome" sign seems like it was made in a different era:

Luckily, deadly force was not utilized, and with the bombproof reinforced concrete cover pulled back a bit, we were able to gaze down at what was once a weapon of mass destruction:

This intercontinental ballistic missile could have travelled 6000 miles in 30 minutes, and if it had, it's 1.2 megaton hyrogen warhead would have unleashed it's wrath of destruction sixty-six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Yikes...

Speaking of bombshells:

We had one more notable experience while visiting the Badlands. They were having a ferret festival, in honor of the successful re-introduction of the Black-footed Ferret within the park. This wiley weasel subsists exclusively upon prairie dogs, so when our forefathers though it best to decimate the prairie dog population, these ferrets were wiped out along with them. Once thought extinct, a small colony found in Wyoming was captured and carefully bred for re-introduction. The experience we had was to go out at night, the only time these varmints venture above ground, to try to spot one with bright lights.

Nancy and I joined a couple dozen other people with nothing better to do, 45 minutes out in the park, down a washerboard dirt road, at 9:30 at night. We all stood around like idiots waiting for the park service guy to show up, which he finally did about 20 minutes late. Then we all discovered that this was just a convenient meeting spot, and that we would all pile into our vehicles once more and drive down more dusty road to a field at the other end of the enormous prairie dog metropolis. We finally got mobilized for spotting at around 10:30. We tramped across the prairie, trying to a) not step into a prairie-dog hole, b) not step into fresh buffalo poo, and c) see a pair of green glowing eyes poke out of one of the holes. We walked, and looked, and walked, and looked... until about midnight when we realised that this was aparently Ferret Beuller's Day Off, and trudged countless miles back to the truck. So, no ferret. Just a really long walk on the incredibly dusty prairie in the middle of the night...

By the way, if we'd seen a ferret, this is what it'd have looked like:

A great visit to the Badlands, ferrets notwithstanding. From dawn to dusk the light plays upon the landscape here to amazing effect. It's the best baddest place we've ever seen:

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