After a late night, we all slept hard. Once again, we started our day out a little slow and were sweating before we even got to the first trail head. We had slathered ourselves in sunscreen, refilled our Camelbacks, and gallon jugs at the visitor center and headed in. We hiked Cliff Shelf Nature Trail and Ethan thought it was pretty cool that the signs said to beware of rattlesnakes!
We took a few little offshoots, and quickly realized that the terrain is not very forgiving. The Badlands are made up of crumbling rock, and if your footing is not sure…well, you get a scraped knee, or gouge the meat of your palm, or get a rock in the butt cheek, or crack your camera against a rock when you fall. All of these things happened today! Don’t worry…my lens is fine.
The other thing we realized is that the bugs are relentless. Ethan was most unhappy about this. We saw some rabbits along the path that didn’t seem scared of us, but were dancing so much to keep the biters at bay, that we had to move on. We went swiftly back to the truck, dripping wet with sweat and headed directly back to camp and get some bug spray. The kids were ready to hit the pool, and not too excited to go back to hike in the heat.
We went back into the park and parked at the trail head. We took a quick walk down Window Trail and took in a gorgeous overlook. We were looking to do Notch Trail, and found our way to it. There was a warning sign about the terrain and Ethan was already hesitant! I was questioning the hike a bit, mainly because of the heat but Andy and Lily were fired up about it and led the way.
It started out innocent enough, and going up the ladder really wasn’t all that bad. But I have to admit…when we saw the sign that read, “Dangerous Cliff Keep Right” and how narrow the pass was, I was ready to turn back. We conferred for a moment, and it occurred to me that many people had made this hike before us and well, I’m not a wimp so decided to be brave and proceed. The view was really amazing and I was glad we bucked up.
The hike back was just as interesting. Going down is more treacherous than up due to the rocks that slide under your feet. We went slow and steady. The ladder down was a bit more intimidating than going up because you have to blindly reach your foot down and it’s an awkward angle, so you’re kind of on your belly sliding down. I guided Ethan’s foot back a step at a time and we all made it down to earth alive.
After all that excitement, we headed back to camp to soak in the pool and cool off a while. I threw in some laundry and we scarfed down some food. We got in the pool and maybe it was the heat wearing on me, but I got to thinking about how the responsibilities of being a mom are always carried along. While swimming, the kids used me as a human launchpad, nearly drowned me in play and splashed my face a hundred times. I struggled with trying to be in the moment and not thinking other things, like are they playing nicely with the other people in the pool, how much longer the washer will run, and what the plan is for the rest of the night so I can be prepared for what comes next. I’m not the most zen mom.
We decided to take the Badlands Loop Road, and stopped at all but a few of the overlooks. The Sage Creek Rim road was a washboard dirt road that we crept along and seemed to go on forever through the grasslands. In all, it was a beautiful scenic drive, and along the way we saw mountain goats, prairie dogs, and yes…even buffalo.
We took 502 back out to the freeway, and arrived at Wall Drug just before closing time. If we had gone straight for the ice cream, we’d have enjoyed that but we walked around first and missed our window. Once again, bad planning but I’m guessing we’ll stop back out tomorrow on our way out. The kids were disappointed, though so when we stopped to fuel up I indulged them with an ice cream bar from the gas station!
They both passed out on the dark drive back, and Andy commented on how you wouldn’t even know what you’re driving through at night if you passed through the Badlands. Every so often, the lights would shine on a formation but you’d never imagine the otherworldly beauty that surrounds you in the dark!
When we got back to camp, I fired up the laptop, transferred all the photos from my camera and started going though them but my eyes were closing on me and there’s already like a thousand of them. And, Lightroom needed an update. So, with that I bid you goodnite.