We continued towards Badlands National park. However, we couldn’t reach it on the same day – too much driving. So I found a place where we could camp and test the public land hypothesis – Fort Pierre National Grassland in South Dakota.
Camping over there appeared to be completely legit, all we had to do is just ditch the farms and find a nice parking space on the side of the road. We climbed the barbed wire fence and here it was – the beauty for us to behold!
The place was dreamlike: endless plains, constant sound of mooing cows, and lots of green grass. The strong wind was blowing constantly, making it harder to hear other sounds. Later a moon rose and we left the tent unzipped on one side, so we could look at the stars during the night.
Next morning I woke up to realization that Jackson is suffering from severe allergy symptoms. The wind brought in all the bad stuff and there was nowhere to hide in the plains of the grassland. So we packed the car early and bounced. I drove to Badlands while the poor guy napped.
As we reached the park, he slowly came back to life. Badlands National Park is mainly laid out as a drive through. The Southern part of the park was closed for visitors at that time. We followed the winding road and stopped at one of the lookout points with a short trail called Cliff Shelf Nature Trail. There you could walk a little bit through the drylands and take in the severe landscape.
We were greeted by magpies who jumped from one branch to another, completely unafraid of people. We quickly threw together lunch (a curbside sandwich at the parking lot) and did a 20 minute hiking loop.
Badlands offered stunning views of incredible mud formations. There were layers and layers of rocklike mud containing different chemical elements manifested by a variety of colors within the rising towers. Some of them have been known to occasionally reveal prehistoric fossils. Lots of exciting things to explore!
In this park for the first time in my life I saw wild bison. The herd was pretty far away and I got really excited: “Let’s walk out in the field and get a closer look!”. Jackson pulled me back, saying that there probably would be a better opportunity to see these beasts up close later on the way. He was absolutely right.
Little prairie dogs were popping here and there and agile mountain goats gracefully scaled immense drops. I was fascinated speechless.
I would like to go back to Badlands and spend more time there, maybe do a longer backpacking hike into the towering depths of it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford stopping for too long; there was a legendary landmark ahead of us – Yellowstone National Park.