The name conjures up all manner of imagined Wild West landscapes. A flat, barren and dangerous place where a traveller might feel vulnerable and prone to danger. Who knows what might be waiting?
Then, we chatted to the hotel manager who enquired about our plans for the day. When we told her, she raised an eyebrow. “Rattlesnakes”, she said, “be careful of rattlesnakes”.
So it was with a little trepidation that we set out on our adventure today. We were prepared with water, sunscreen, sunglasses, cameras, maps, hats – and the sack of M&Ms, which seems to be bottomless.
Leaving the suburban streets behind, the countryside opened up and apart from the occasional homestead, there was nothing much to see. A long road stretched out in front of us and we soon ate up the miles.
The dusty, rather dull view was not so surprising and we knew that we still had a way to go before we reached our destination, because we would have to enter the National Park.
The road became gritty and the car in front began to throw up little stones. It looked like they’d been resurfacing here. We dropped back a little, because we’d already had one damaged windscreen earlier in the trip and we didn’t want another one. Not here. In rattlesnake country!
Suddenly, two young women wearing high-viz vests and carrying an umbrella appeared out of nowhere. One was carrying a “STOP/SLOW” sign and sure enough, the car in front stopped and the driver wound down the window to speak to them. We stopped and did the same.
The young woman with the umbrella explained that there was “chipping and tarring” going on ahead and handed over a sheet of paper with instructions about how to navigate through the roadworks. It seemed as though there was a convoy system in place and since we might have to wait fifteen to twenty minutes there, we might like to consider an alternative route.
Errrm? We were in the middle of nowhere and there was no alternative route! We’d better sit and wait it out, then. Oh, and chat to the two young women, one of whom was training to be a nurse, the other was studying radiography. If either needed any further motivation for their studies, the prospect of having to do a lifetime of this kind of work would be it.
In about twenty minutes we were off again, this time through a landscape of ranches, although the three cattle above were amongst the few we spotted. Signs by the side of the road warned us that “Prairie Dogs have Plague”. Oh my.
Soon after, we were passing through the National Park gateway, by the town of Interior, population 76. We headed straight on for the visitor centre.
There, in front of us, was the real Badlands landscape. Not flat at all, but fairly low peaks of what looked like dried mud, but which was clearly harder than that.
We hadn’t expected this at all and began our drive along the suggested route thinking that this was way more interesting than we’d feared.
Unfortunately, the chippers and tarrers were working on this road too, which meant that we were in a convoy. Not only that, but the chips and tar were very loose and the noisy clatter of the stones under the car body was deafening.
Still, there were interesting sights out of the window and today, it wasn’t too hot to leave it open. Except for the flies…
Soon, there was a wooden walkway to gain access further off the road, so we parked the car and set off to explore.
Bearing the warnings in mind, of course. We didn’t stray from the wooden path, for sure.
There were some lovely textures in the surface of the earth.
And just in case you think we’re looking at mountains here, I’ll include a photo with someone who wasn’t afraid of snakes in it, just to get the scale.
We stopped at one or two of these walkways, thinking that this landscape wasn’t at all what we imagined and that it was rather like a dried up version of Rotorua in New Zealand.
One place gave a view of the route taken by Chief Big Foot on December 24th in 1890, en route to the Battle of Wounded Knee where he and 200 of his people would be killed. This is an old, old landscape and when it’s quiet, it’s easy to imagine how these events took place.
Every so often, the land would change in character. These were referred to as the “yellow mounds” – an apt description, wouldn’t you say? Great colours in there.
Eventually, we left the Badlands behind and before long, spotted the famous Wall Drug signs by the roadside. Of course, we had to pay the store a visit, having heard so much about it.
We left with a fly swatter and a box of doughnuts!
Finishing the day as yesterday, with supper in the Firehouse.
(and a doughnut for pudding later on!)