Badlands at Sunset

Whenever Uncle Scott comes to visit, the girls and I do our best to monopolize his time. It didn’t take much convincing to get him to do a Badlands trip with us, and we just managed to squeeze it in on Sunday evening. What a gorgeous evening for it!
IMG_9311IMG_9273Hwy. 44 from Rapid City to Interior is a beautiful drive in and of itself, with distant views of the Badlands, and glimpses of homesteads and ranches still weathering the climate of the region and thriving amid scrubby grass and hardly a stick of timber. As the Badlands drew near, we were greeted by cheery signs like this one:
IMG_8032We ate at the lodge restaurant near the intersection of the Interior and Badlands Loop roads, a popular spot. By the time we got back on the road, we were nearing the photographic golden hour. The Badlands were glowing in the sinking sun, and our leisurely drive became more eager.
IMG_9324IMG_9314IMG_9306Gazing over the racing landscape, it was like being on another planet, swallowed in the vastness and openness and awesome fierceness of that strange and wonderful place. Amazing how such hostility and such beauty can meet in such magnificence.
IMG_9351IMG_9370The sun set in a blaze of glory over the jagged ridges. The song of the coyotes rang softly in the valleys, and big horned sheep scrambled on the shadowed slopes. Nighthawks dipped and dived, and then the sun was gone and dusk crept in. Harney Peak, miles and miles away, rose out of the prairie like a sentinel, keeping watch over everything within its gaze. I love that mountain.
IMG_9399We drove home in the dark, the stars shining brighter and brighter as the sky grew blacker and blacker. What a beautiful evening, enjoying the wonders of God’s Creation, the glories of the Heavens, and the joy of fellowship and family.

Laura Elizabeth

Beauty in the Badlands

DSCN0223.1The Badlands are rich with subtle life at this time of the year. The summer heat hasn’t scorched the region brown yet, and the moisture has coaxed flowers into bloom. Soon enough, the summer will arrive and the green with burn away, but for now there is a tenacious life that clings to the region.

DSCN0191.1This past Thursday, Sarah and I took an excursion to the Badlands with two church friends, Roy and Jessica, and made an afternoon of the Badlands loop, stopping at just about every scenic turnoff, and hiking when possible. Although my family has driven through the Badlands several times, never had we gone through at such a leisurely pace! A quick drive through really doesn’t do them justice.

DSCN0268.1Razor-sharp peaks and spires give way to rolling hills with impassible cliffs. Strata of bright orange and gold layer through one region, while tablelands dominate another. Viewpoints overlook cliffs, plummeting down hundreds of feet into the valley or canyon below.

DSCN0175.1And in such a hostile wasteland, a no-man’s land, there’s life–Creeping insects, scurrying chipmunks, burrowing prairie dogs. Prairie phlox and scarlet globemallow bloom in the rocky, dusty soil. There wasn’t any flowing water anymore, but the gumbo mud was still sticky in places, and little puddles of tepid water hadn’t yet sunk into the earth.

DSCN0220.1The rain in the Hills had opened into blue skies over the Badlands, but as the day wore on, we watched thunderstorms roll in. The sky grew bluer and bluer with storm, and the occasional rumble of thunder echoed quietly through the stony peaks and valleys. For hours, the storms seemed to crop up on the horizon and roll towards us, never reaching us.

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We scrambled around in the gumbo, climbing to the tops of the tablelands. As we scrambled up over the edge of one, a pair of doves startled from their ground nest. Two eggs were tucked inside. I should have gotten a picture of the location of the nest–The tableland rose a good thirty feet up, and then there was a little washed out spot and a slightly higher table, roughly the size of a dinner table. The nest was nestled in the grass on this second table. The perfect vantage point to watch for predators.

The storm broke as we were eating dinner. Probably a good thing, or we might have stayed out exploring a lot longer than we did!

Laura Elizabeth