On The Road In The Badlands

The contrasts are striking in South Dakota, in the river basins the land is lush and the Band Lands are exactly that. I imagine this was a much forbidden place in the 1800’s as the western migration was taking place.  The land is a forbidding moonscape of jagged hills of sandstone and miles and miles of gullies carved into the ground making a surreal ungodly specter of dry canyons only inches apart. A horse or man would have trouble stumbling through this seemingly endless parched area.  Vegetation is sparse and the animals that do live there make a very meager living on the land.

After I left Devil’s Tower I traveled through the Badlands National Park and visited a prairie Dog village, these busy little creatures look cuddly and like big gophers. They are communal living in great colonies eating everything in site before moving on to repeat the process leaving behind their burros for the burrowing owls and other creatures of the desert. There are goats that live in the hills and gullies that now are so used to humans they don’t try to hide. I watched as a park visitor strode up to a goat on the roadway to take a picture and got so close I held my breath hoping the goat wasn’t having a bad day. Instead of attacking [which it had a right to do, this person was close enough to touch it] the goat darted down an embankment out of sight. This one visitor denied others the opportunity to get a close picture and put themselves in harms way. These animals are still wild and don’t need to put up with that kind of irreverence. I walked out into the small hills of hard sand to look at the textures and see the kind of vegetation was growing there, this is a desert. Down the road was a small herd of goats sunning themselves on the narrow hills, they sat quietly atop narrow walkways soaking up the last warm rays of the day, old and young were sitting in quiet harmony. The hierarchy became evident as a large male decided to change places with a small group of kids, as he approached they scampered up and away from him until he settled in another spot to his liking. Then they slowly resumed their spots.

I stayed in the National Park Service camping area and was treated by a visitor, a female Western Meadow Lark. She stayed out of reach, yet closed enough to identify her and get a few snap shots of her. The setting of the camp is in jagged hills and my tent was up and things ready for the night before the moon rose. I knew the moon would probably be red due to the smoke from the fires in the west and it would rise as a big ball, so I set up with my tripod and waited.  Just under the little knoll I was setting on there was the camp of  a mother and her two daughters strumming a guitar and singing, a nice serenade for my vigil.

The next day I had to find a place to get the torsion bar fixed on my old car. It was going to be a 40 mile trip to a small town called Winner and a Saturday too. I just hope there is going to be something open. I still have a lot of miles left to Florida and I’m still watching Hurricane Irma to see where she is going to go next.

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