Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

WALKING in the Badlands

Monday September 19, 2011
Cedar Pass Campground  Site 12
Badlands National Park, South Dakota


We got out to do the Badlands Loop Road
and its overlooks at 9am this morning. 
Way to go David!



The Badlands National park encompasses 244,000 acres
in its 3 areas in southwestern South Dakota. 
Eroded buttes and spires protrude from a mixed-grass prairie ecosystem.  This spectacular scenery is the result
of tens of millions of years of geologic forces
of deposition and erosion.


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The Park loop road, Route 240, goes from Wall, SD at Exit 110
on I 90 down and through the park and up
and out at Exit 131, at Cactus Flats South Dakota.

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Many folks do the entire loop including the section
down I90 in order to see Wall Drug at one end
and the Minute Man Missile Historic Site at the other.

We were going to do the just the sections in the park
having no interest in either of those other two sites.


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We started off toward the Cactus Flats entrance
but found that all the overlooks were overlooking to
the East and into the sun. 
So we went back the other direction
planning to come back East in the late afternoon.

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Our first stop heading North West was
the Saddle Pass Trail where David wanted
to take the “most strenuous maintained route in the park”.
The trail is very short but very steep.

He set off to do the climb.

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I set out to sit and wait on the
nice bench placed there no doubt
for those who had second thoughts
after going part way up.
Many did and I saw them go up
and very quickly come back.

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Lest you should think, as I originally did,
that the white stuff on the ground is sand.
I took this picture so you could see the cracks
in the rock hard soil.

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Eventually, I crutched my way over to where the trail
starts ascending pretty straight up.  You
can just sort of see that horizontal path.
The blue poles mark it.

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When homesteaders first settled above the wall
in the early 1900’s, they used this route
as a shortcut to the town of Interior
(2 miles west of the park)
where they did their shopping.
Since wagons could not go down or up Saddle pass,
they were left topside while the folks walked or led a horse carefully down.  Once in town a wagon was loaded with supplies,
taken back to the base of the pass
and the supplies carried load by load
up to their waiting wagon on top.


This is not an easy up and an even more
difficult down.




But here he comes back after
the climb,

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all smiles and taking this
picture of me.



If you want to see what he saw,
then you’ll have to come back with me
and we’ll hike it together and see for ourselves.


There were a total of 13 overlooks.
Some with board walks, some without.
Some with trails. 
Here are a few trails I’d like to do on my
already being planned return trip
to this fabulous place.


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I’m only going to give you a peek
at a few of the overlooks and I know I’ll still have
too many pictures.

One that had the
greatest effect on me was this one
entitled Journey to Wounded Knee


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Pretty sure everyone has heard of Wounded Knee
It was made famous not only by the American Indian
Movement of the 1970’s
whose base was in the Pine Ridge Oglala reservation,
but also by the excellent book by Dee Brown
entitled Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
The actual area of Wounded Knee is 65 miles South of here.

In December of 1890, a band of Lakota
led by Chief Big Foot
crossed the Badlands at this location en route to
Wounded Knee Creek.


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The Lakota are a part of the former Great Sioux Nation and
are divided into seven bands.  The Oglala were sent to
the Pine Ridge Reservation, south of the present day park.
The Minneconjou were sent north to the Cheyenne
River Reservation.


Big Foot, a Minneconjou, was leading 350 of his people in the harsh
winter weather to the safety of the Oglalas’ home when the 7th Cavalry detained them along the banks of Wounded Knee Creek.
This was the same 7th Cavalry led 14 years earlier by
General George Custer at Greasy Grass, Montana
better known later as Little Big Horn. 

The accounts of what happened at Wounded Knee differ depending
on which side was reporting, but on December 29, 1890
the soldiers opened fire killing at least 200 Minneconjou.
30 soldiers died.  I’ll leave you to your own conclusions
and more research if you are interested.


Look closely at this site through which they passed
over 100 years ago.

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No mention of this was made on the signage
here or in the “Badlands Official Road Guide”
booklet.   But we both saw it


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After some time of contemplation at this place,
we thought we’d take a break for lunch.

We stopped at the Conata Picnic Area.
Pretty fine spot with built in shade!




We ran into Mike and Terri at a couple
of the over looks.

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I asked them enviously if they had done any
of the hikes.   Mike said Terri had seen too many
of these signs and wasn’t very keen.




Another of my favorite places in the
Badlands is the Yellow Mounds area.
This is THE most gorgeous area.


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While the Rocky Mountains were being formed
and the continent was in great geologic turmoil,
a huge swathe of the central US was underwater.
The Yellow mounds are fossil soil created from
the exposed seafloor of the Western Interior Seaway.

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The top layer of sediments left behind as the sea
receded has been weathered and
chemically altered over time into the beautiful
Yellow Mounds.


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Yellows, reds, greens and purples stack on top of each
other here to create some of the most colorful geologic
formations I have ever seen.


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There were a few more overlooks after Yellow Mounds.
We had this picture taken by a very nice
volunteer at one of them.

About this time I had traded in the crutches
to try out using the walking sticks.
My hands were getting blisters on the palms
and my arms were getting sore too.
After 17 days, it was time to put
a little weight back on and check the reaction.
It actually went very well although I was
”walking” much more slowly than with the crutches.
Don’t I look like a pretty normal person here??




Then it was time to head back east and do
the other end of the drive and take
a look at the areas known as
“the door” and “the window”.


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Walking up to the “door”
I thought this looked like what I
expect to see if I ever get to Egypt.


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As we approached, I asked David
how tall he thought these grassy mini buttes
were.  He said about 6’.
What do you think??


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He’s 5’10”


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David decided at the door to go on inside
and walk around a bit in the Badlands.


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When he came back, I asked what it was like.
He said walking on the moon only there is gravity.
Can’t wait until I can do it!!


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Our last stop of the day was  at “the window”.

I saw this fellow munching as I walked
slowly along the boardwalk.
I was walking so  slowly that I didn’t cause him to
even bat an eye.  :-)


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The “window” looked out on what I thought resembled
a Roman ruins.


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On this last boardwalk,  I thought I’d
try no crutches and no sticks.
So here I am on my feet unassisted.

David recorded the momentous event
from the car he had driven to the end
of the boardwalk to shorten my walk.
Neither Nurse Nancy nor Nurse Sparky
were here to object.  :-)



Pretty happy about this.



After we got back and had dinner
Terri and Mike came over and
Terri brought one of her famous pies
(eat your heart out Paul).
So here is the beauty

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and it tasted as good as it looked.
Notice whose plate that first piece is on.


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We are both taking off tomorrow in opposite
directions but it has been wonderful to
see them these past two days.
Sure hope they show up in Florida in January or February.
And you too Katie!!


  1. Hi, Sherry - Marti here - having recently recovered from an ankle fracture - just be careful you bear weight only as the doc allows, as the bone fills in.. otherwise you will extend/delay your rehab/healing time... I know I am not a nurse, but I lived through it, and watch rehab folks every day at work. Those that rush their rehab, often take longer to fully recover... just a word to the wise... because we care! Sure wish we were with you in the badlands - we love that area!

  2. Your photos are a wonderful reminder of the breathtaking beauty we enjoyed at the Badlands.

    We absolutely loved seeing you two and hope we can meet up again this winter. Hugs to you both. Katie says hi!

  3. Thank you Nurse Marti for your kind words of wisdom;o)) Nurse Nancy is worried that Sherry might be rushing things a bit. Sure hate to see a set back:o((

    Sherry, I absolutely love the shadow photo of you and the crutches. It has the Texas Gunslinger feel;o)) Your photos are beautiful and really helped me rememember our quick visit there.

    I also appreciate that you are making a detailed plan of your return trip so we can tag along and not have to do any planning.... Thanks!!!

    What a nice treat to meet up with Mike and Terri. That pie looks delicious!!! Sure would go nice with homemade ice cream in January;-)

  4. Great post. The pictures are beautiful and we would love to go back with you and do the hikes. The pie looks great! Glad you guys are having fun.

  5. love the badlands and glad to see you on your feet... but don't do too much too early...

  6. Paul jumping in here with no lectures on your ankle.

    I wouldn't write off Wall Drug. Sure it has some really tacky tourist stuff, but it has two things that I really liked.

    All over the walls are paintings of cowboy and Old West life. They are really well done.

    Then in the back all over one wall are these small glass pictures, several hundred up them, about the size of slides. They were taken right around 1895-1905 of life in the area, real cowboys doing their work, I found them very interesting. Somebody found them several years back in a box in a basement and rather than throw them out, the brought them to Wall Drug and history was preserved.

    And thanks for the picture of the cherry pie (Grrrrr!) ;c)

  7. During our first year of travel, as we headed east from Sioux Falls to the Black Hills (having never been in SD before), we saw a sign for Badlands National Park. HUH?? Can you believe we had never heard of it before? Turned out to be just the first of MANY places we had never heard of!

    Loved the place and the hikes we did there. We plan to revisit next year, and your photos made me excited to see that moonscape again.

    Having watched Odel go through the rehab and healing of his knee replacement, I sympathize with your desire to be up and doing again. Your "nurses" probably are right about the rehab, but it sure is boring and physically challenging to be a bench potato when you are used to being active, isn't it?

  8. I have to jump in here and agree with Marti and Nancy. Weight bearing too soon can set you way back and possibly really derail your recovery.
    'Nuff said.

    Your pictures were awesome as usual, but I must agree with Terri. Too many of those signs wouldn't have been necessary. One would have been all it took :)

  9. I had to laugh a little when you said "Don't I look like a normal person?". My thought was "No, you look quite exceptional!"
    That pie looks delicious. I'm glad you had a chance to spend some time with Mike and Terri. They're good people.
    Safe travels.

  10. Lovely pictures - really capture the color and the shapes. Amazing place!! Wounded Knee was a massacre - a severe blemish in our country's history - IMO as you would say.


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