We woke up early, mostly because we are still on East Coast time, and were on the road before 8AM. The general plan for the day was to do the loop for the Badlands, stop in Wall and get ice cream at Wall Drug, get back on the loop, see the bison, stop at the ghost town of Scenic, and return to the Cedar Pass Campground. Sounds complicated, but it’s just driving a loop, half of which is on dirt roads. While I cleaned the front window of bug remains,
Louise obtained another Badlands NP pamphlet so we would have a better idea of what was to see. We passed through the stops we made the day before, even though in a morning light they looked very different. At the Fossil Exhibit Trail, we spotted some vultures setting up house on the very top of some of the pinnacles. They were too far off to get a clear view of, but with the traffic, and traffic ignorant animals, there should be plenty for them to eat. There are ten stops between the Fossil Exhibit Trail and the road to Wall, and we stopped at everyone of them. It was a beautiful day in the high 70’s to low 80’s with a nice wind. We were moving at a pace that you never perspired in, but you really had to keep drinking because between the temperature, low humidity and the wind, you would dry out in a flash.
Somewhere in the vicinity of the Burns Basin overlook we spotted the first of thousands of prairie dogs. There are warning signs placed in locations that you will pass quickly or where your attention is divided (near the entrance booth of the park) that warn that prairie dogs carry the plague. We stayed in the RV most of the time. I did walk up to one prairie dog village, unconcerned about meeting the fate of all those victims in the middle ages of the plague, and managed to set off a ruckus. There were chirps, posturing, running, diving and all manner of prairie dog activity, and I managed to get a few good photos in the process. Someone had thrown a handful of Ruffles onto the ground near the road, and it appeared that the snack was a popular with the prairie dogs as they are with most modern American teenagers. It has been a wet spring, and all the grasses are at their peak.
You can tell the concentration of a specific grass (Buffalo, bluestem, and the others) by the color of the grasslands. The sky was a beautiful medium shade of blue, the clouds white and fluffy, and there was hardly any humidity, so there was no haze, and the grasses were a palate of greens that I haven’t seen in a long time. Louise remarked that she didn’t believe that Ireland could be as green as whet we were seeing. We drove into Wall, found a parking spot within a block of Wall Drug, purchased a shirt for our granddaughter, got a pair of ice cream cones and sat on the same bench we sat on last time we were in Wall. While we ate the cones we watched the people go by. It was much cooler, and nicer, than last time.
A thunderstorm rolled into Wall as we were leaving, and again, we never crossed paths with it again. On the way back to the loop trail we saw a mom pronghorn antelope with a new baby, and what I will assume id the father up the road about a quarter of a mile away. When we returned to the loop road, we could hear the thunder and see the rain, but it was blue sky up above for us all day.
We picked out a view stop for a picnic and had leftover lunch. Louise had some chicken and I had leftover beef, and the view was the best in the area. The shelves in the rear hanging closet area had all the stuff jump off them, so the plan needs a little re-working. I took the opportunity of the stop to re-arrange the closet while Louise took in the scenery. The current state of the closet is still better than having everything dumped on the floor of the closet, but the layout needs work.
We came across the resident bison in a field north of the loop road a little while later. The grass looked greener than any animation, the buffalo were perfect, shaggy, molting, fuzzy, brown, beige and cocoa and the sky was brilliant; robins egg blue with white puffy clouds. It looked like a painting from the National Gallery, which meant that it was impossible to take a photo. The grass and the bison were in the shade of a cloud, so either the grasslands and the buffalo were underexposed in the shot and the sky was perfect, or the sky was washed out and everything else was magnificent. I tend to remember the photos I missed in better detail and more beauty than the great ones I got. Either way, it was a memorable moment.
We continued and stopped to take a walk near the entrance to Sage Creek Campground to see if an embankment on the side of the road was rock or soil (it was soil). The area is beautiful and reminiscent of the grasslands of western Nebraska. In Nebraska, the grasses were much higher and in full color thanks to a wet summer, this time the grasses were shorter but in as full color due to the wet spring. The area is filled with blue stem, buffalo grass and a cedar like tree. The sagebrush hasn’t come in yet this early in the season, and it seems to be different than the Wyoming stuff that’s real woody. I didn’t want to drive the three or four miles round trip to take a peek at the Sage Creek Campground (which has no water) and was pleasantly surprised by a full view of the campsite from the road after we left the National Park.
The road was in better shape after we left the park. There were a number of farms and I was surprised to see a field that looked like it was filled with corn last year. Another surprise was seeing three white pelicans floating around in one of those stock ponds. I never thought that they traveled this far north, and never thought that there was that many fish in the ponds and lakes around here to keep them happy and well fed. Shortly thereafter we came across an old homestead. The house was long gone, an outbuilding was mostly there, and there was the most spectacular variety of lilacs blooming along the road. I noticed at least five different species, and they smelled beautiful. Somehow some of them wound up in the coach, which now smells really good. The lilacs were on the wane at Mother’s Day back on the East Coast, so having them in their prime this late in the season is a pleasure and a surprise.
We continued into the ghost town of Scenic, which still is the busiest ghost town I’ve ever been to. The town now appears to have a population of four or five, and there was a cowboy using a bobcat to remove junk to a dump that was dug on the west side of town. Last time we were there they were working on the road, and the place was filled with equipment and workmen, but the entire town was abandoned. The town is still as abandoned, but looks less derelict, if that’s possible. The coverings on the windows are all relatively new. I’ll have to check the two or three photos I took when we were there last. While there, we met some very nice tourists from Holland – two couples raveling in rented RV throughout the US, I
n the last couple of days, the water in the RV started to smell just a little musty to me. The taste was the same and Louise couldn’t detect any odor, so I decided that it would be time to chlorinate the fresh water tank. We purchased a bottle of bleach in Wall along with some rye bread for dinner, Ruben sandwiches, so when we returned to the campground I started in on the chlorinating and flushing the water tank project. I added a cup of bleach to the water main filter after I removed that filter. I filled the tank from the nearby spigot; it took forever, so I wound up with a mixture of 1 cup of bleach to 30 gallons of water. We took the RV to the dump station, drained all the chlorinated water out of the system, it also took forever, and refilled the water tank to the top with fresh water. The process took about two hours, and the water smells over chlorinated for the time being, but I’m confident that the mustiness has been removed for the rest of the trip. I was surprised, but the water in Badlands National Park is very good.
In the process of chlorinating the tank, a camping neighbor, George, a full timer, stopped by to let me know where the potable water was. After the housekeeping, we stopped over and had a drink and talked about the places we’ve been. Somehow through determination and grabbing cancellations they were able to spend time in the Florida Keys during the winter. Hats off to them.
We cranked up the generator, heated up the corned beef and sauerkraut in the microwave, set up an extension cord to use the pancake grill to cook the Ruben’s and watched the sun set behind the ridge to our west. It was a great day with some of the best weather you could wish for. Tomorrow, off to Horst Thief Lake in the Black Hills National Forest