Pastel striped buttes and fantastic shapes rise out of the plains in the Badlands. As I passed through South Dakota, I headed for an overnight stop near Badlands National Park. It literally was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I felt as if God just had an extra burst of creativity. Jumbled boulders with sharp edges made abstract art of a canyon. Rock formations rose like iced cakes, evocative of those in underground caves.
As I drove, I praised God and thanked Him for this strange and terrible beauty. Winding bumpy roads led me to drive very slowly with a parade of others behind me, so I headed for my campsite to unhitch.
After making sure my rig was cool enough, I drank a lot of water and ventured out in the 97 degree blazing sun. A stiff breeze did not reduce the heat. It felt like being hit with a blow dryer of hot air.
As I parked to walk on short trails amid the majestic panoramas, I appreciated the small details within the vast landscape. Round purple thistles in bursts of spiny thickets caught my eye. Swaths of rippling grass appeared as if topped with shiny spun glass filaments. Even a startled hare accentuated how life clings and blooms in all its varieties in what appears to be barren.
As I followed the path through a grove of sweet smelling cedars, the Psalms describing the cedars of Lebanon came to mind. Perhaps this landscape resembles that of the psalmists. In any event, the Badlands are very good.
If you visit, bring and drink lots of water. Wear sturdy hiking boots as the pebbles on the ground are slippery. Sit and rest on the many benches, listening to the silence marked by bird calls and whispering grass. My trip was like walking in a living prayer and I hope you will find that as well.
Before you leave, you may enjoy a stop at the park gift shop. It offers an intriguing variety of crafts and other souvenirs, as well air conditioning and limited entry for social distancing.
Next, I picked up a delicious Indian taco made with buffalo and beef at an outside food truck. In deference to the heat, I enjoyed my dinner inside my truck with the air conditioning and another bottle of water.
Although I’d hoped to return the next morning to drive more of the Badlands Loop Trail and see the visitor center, the winds picked up too much for towing. A few hours passed while I waited to drive safely on a flatter route outside the park. I hope to return to the Badlands again, along with many other sights I passed in South Dakota.