From the moment I stepped into South Dakota – and almost onto a rattlesnake – I knew I was going to like this place. The landscape is surreal, rugged and unforgiving to the weary and rough. I know, been there, done that! When I told the lady at the registration office in the Badlands I was not tent camping, just a tarp, she looked at me like I was crazy; then said, “I’ll bet you’ll be running for the car before morning,. You know we are supposed to get a bad thunderstorm tonight. It gets pretty windy and cold around here…better stake down real good!” It did get a little chilly, no fire, but I did fine. I put my hammock up under a little tin shelter, battened-down the hatches of my tarp and away to dreamland I went. The fact that I had been sleeping in a car for two days also helped in the journey to sleep. If it stormed it at, it didn’t bother me.
The badlands are deceptive and captivating. From afar it appears as though it is stone, strong and firm but as you walk through it, it crumbles beneath your feet. It is the closest thing I could imagine to walking on the moon. It is nothing but switchbacks going up, and sliding coming back down. Tempting for a backpacking excursion, but not tempting enough to brave through a thunderstorm.
So we did what anyone would do in our situation, we found a dingy bar In a rundown town where a bow legged cowboy served us whiskey and crappy pizza.
The next day we planned on trekking up to the top of the Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills. The family that runs the monument allow this twice a year, but unfortunately for us, the weather prevented the adventure. So, we got a hotel room, had a good meal, some strong drink, watched a kid get stuck in the hotels water park tube that shot though the bar (odd) and got adequate enough sleep. I’m really digging the hammock, Warbonnet Blackbird XLC. Get you one, you won’t regret it!
I gotta say, the Black Hills are definitely an outdoorsman’s paradise. Large rocks protrude from the hills like teeth on a carnivorous beast ready to consume those who dare to venture in. There are rocks to climb, trails to hike, trees, and plenty of wildlife to harass. I did a typical tourist move today when we came across four mountain goats grazing on the side of the road. The mountain man inside me took over for a moment as I jumped out of the car on the side of the road, almost grabbing my tomahawk but taking the camera instead. I’m really not an idiot, and I know a mountain goat would whoop my ass any day, but GoPro cameras don’t zoom so you have to become the action, right? And, I’m one of those guys who would fight the Devil just because he’s the Devil. So, I get about five yards away, fully expecting the thing to charge me, and started to take some pictures. Well, it was more of an event for me then him. He popped his head up, looked at me, turned his back – dropped a deuce- and walked off, smug bastard! I should have brought my hawk after all.
Mt. Rushmore was cool too. It’s 11 bucks a car to get in (a bit much), but the Badlands were $15 so hey ‘Merica! It was cold and rainy. I could see the misery on the faces of the unsuspecting tourists. The experience is about what I expected, a huge sculpture in the middle of nowhere, man taming nature and permanently leaving our mark for future generations to be inspired by, cool! We decided to skip Crazy Horse, but still saw it from the side of the road, good enough. Now its off to Yellowstone in Wyoming to wrestle a grizzly bear like the mountain men of the past, wish him luck!