Sitting here thinking about my experiences at Badlands National Park (Badlands), it feels challenging to put things into words. Let me start with some backstory of my relationship with the park.
The Badlands and I have had some up and down moments. We fight because of misquotes and temperature. Or I naively go off trail, so the land punishes me with loose rock and a beautiful fall. No matter what the Badlands offered, I never showed it the time deserved. I was blind to the beauty because of the weight I gave to the challenges.
As you have probably guessed, there was a step forward between the Badlands and me. I gave my time, and the park gave me a show.
Noah and I had been up since 3 in the morning, so we were a bit worn out when we pulled into the park. We went ahead and committed to 9 miles of trail. Not an ominous task because much of it is flat. The air was fresh and dry that day. Bugs were not a big problem. We were on the Castle and Medicine Loop Trail. Not too many people out, so we found a sweet spot overlooking the prairie to relax with the Badlands.
We sat quietly for some time. At the moment I wrote about how the open air was bringing in the feeling of peace. My mind was sinking into the environment. Letting go of the hustle of “regular” life when the Badlands started to break into mine and Noah’s heart like it hadn’t before. What a gift.
The rest of the day was spent getting to know the Badlands even more. Talking with the folks that live there. Eating and drinking with others experiencing the park.
Noah and I celebrated our new found love with a glass of whiskey and a fire. The moon was full and the night cool. We retreated to our KOA Teepee to rest.
We woke up to see the sunrise and expecting to depart to the black hills quickly. Andrew’s flight had been delayed, so the timing didn’t work out to go, so we decided to stay and explore even more. At this point, the Badlands had us sold. Our relationship was solidified, but more surprises were in store for us.
The park greeted us with the faint beginning of sunrise. Noah was supposed to make the coffee, and I take pictures. That plan went wrong, but you can hear that in the podcast. Eventually, we get the coffee and enjoy the start of sunrise. The high view of the plains was terrific. The vibrant orange was coming across the park. We even got to watch and listen to the heard of Bison as they welcomed the day.
A moment when the history and beauty of the land were appreciated.
The rest of the morning was spent knocking out the shorter trails in the park. It provided a nice workout before we spent the rest of the day in the car. Saddle Pass trail gave us the most work. It was similar to scrambling in the mountains at a few points, which is a good thing. A great way to conclude our visit.
Noah and I left the Badlands a little before lunch to pick up our comrades. As we drove away, it was clear we both felt whole, and thankful for our day in Badlands National Park. It will never be a “quick stop” on the way to Yellowstone again.
Click the photo below to listen to Noah and I discuss this on the podcast!