stories from the road

Badlands National Park

In National Parks, South Dakota on September 8, 2012 at 8:38 pm

When I was 10, our family borrowed a van and pop-top camper and drove all the way across the country — from Dayton, Ohio, to Vernonia, Oregon — to visit our Grandma Mary. There are parts of the trip I remember quite well — connecting with relatives in Nebraska, engaging in a mid-summer snowball fight near the Continental Divide in the Rockies, seeing Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota and Multnomah Falls along the Columbia River Gorge, visiting South Dakota’s Corn Palace and Wall Drug — but I must have been snoozing when we drove through the Badlands. Even if I was preoccupied with drowsiness or pre-teen angst at the time, I couldn’t have possibly seen such beauty and dismissed it!

I wouldn’t see this part of the country again for three decades. This time around, I was buzzing with excitement. I could hardly fathom the geological spectacle that rolled out before our eyes as we explored Badlands National Park. In just the span of a day, we watched the landscape spin through a charismatic cycle of colors, from a soft-edged morning warmth to the blinding brightness of mid-day to an alluring afternoon horizon preparing itself for an evening decked out in pink and purple hues. The Badlands were seriously, undeniably, unbelievably beautiful! We kept speculating what it must have been like for those first westward-moving explorers who had been traipsing along the constant flatness of the Great Plains for weeks and then suddenly came upon this impossibly vast valley, textured with the jagged ridges of these striking geological formations. It must have been a sight. And, trust me, it still is. 

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