Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Badlands and Storm Warnings

8/11/2014 an i90 rest stop near Wall, South Dakota

Getting a jump on this entry even though I haven’t gone far since the last one. Drove down to Hot Springs then across to 79 and up. There was some nice mottling happening to the landscape as the sun set, and the moon rose fat and red into the dark blue horizon. At first I wasn’t even sure if it was the moon, due to not watching it rise so suddenly ever before as far as I remember.

Had a nice conversation with Mom and Dad and sorted out the final details of this trip. It’s just going to be National Parks and driving from here out, with a stop in Portland to see the old familiars. Three weeks to go, which gives 11 days to get to Santa Cruz to retrieve my stuff from storage.

8/12/2014 an i90 rest stop not at all near Wall, South Dakota but also very far from Sioux Falls

I had a very fun an enjoyable day at Badlands National Park! I arrived and the campground had a sign that said full, and I was bummed to not be able to stay, but camping was also more expensive than I anticipated so I wasn’t too bummed. Later on the sign indicating fullness was removed (I guess once people had checked out) but my mind had already recalibrated to enjoying the most out of the day I had and continuing on in the evening, so that I didn’t feel like occupying a site. I got my stamps at the visitor’s center, as well as postcards. I watched the video talking about wind and erosion. Badlands is eroding at an inch a year, and it is an oddity in terms of National Parks because it allows visitors to roam wherever they want, over rocks and through grass. There are lots of great areas where you can hike up and around the formations. There are also apparently tons of fossils to be found. I didn’t find any.

The scenic overlooks provide many different points of view of the park, instead of the same view just slightly down one way. There was a surprising amount of green stretching through the park, among the pale rocks. I saw big horn sheep…or were they prong horns? Or deer? Something on my evening drive through the park. I saw the fossil talk, and then hiked the Door hike, which was a stretch of boardwalk and then you make your own path from marker to marker across the rocks. 9 markers in total. The Window hike was just a boardwalk to a nice vista and I talked to Max and Lauren (Laura?) who were very seasoned travelers, and they had their lovely 15 month old daughter Razlin (pronounced raz-lynn, not sure how it is spelled) with them. She walked the walk on her own. They are headed to the same parks I am headed to, so maybe I’ll see them again! Notch was awesome. All three trail heads came from the same parking lot. I devotedly brought and drank water on all of these hikes. Notch goes through the canyons and then up a huge semi-difficult ladder (though younger kids managed it) ontop of the formations, and then along the cliff side to a wonderful vista. I sat there in the shadow, holding onto my bookmark against the breeze, and read for a while. My legs seem to have gotten a good amount of sun today, and I’m trying to remember if my arm hairs have always been blonde or if they have been bleached by the sun. My face is slightly pink in places, but not burned. I have too good of a base tan going on right now to burn, unless I really worked at it.

The visitor’s center’s water fountain has a part built into it for refilling water bottles (more flow than the sipping part of the fountain) and it has a “how many plastic bottles have been saved from you refilling here” counter. This was also present at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I kept my bottles filled. Hydration is important! There were many people on the trails that lacked apparent water bottles. I get that they are heavy to lug around, but they are very important things to have! I did one final scenic drive and got pictures of the sunset from Bigfoot Picnic Viewpoint Area Place, where I ate lunch earlier in the day (a lunch of Subway I bought when leaving Wall, viva the 5 dollar footlong!) and worked on my postcards. Gorgeous sunset.

I caught the ranger program, which was general knowledge of the plants and animals. The highlight was the star tour! A different ranger had a high powered flashlight and was able to point out different constellations, which were very visibly in the post-sunset pre-moonrise sky. Gorgeous starry sky, especially with the dark outlines of the rock formations. There was a telescope set to Saturn, so I got to see the rings through that! Also I saw the International Space Station whizz by. I overheard a mom telling her kid to go look at Saturn and the kid whined “but I’m not into planets”. She threatened to revoke technology from him for the next day, so he in a huff went to go look through the telescope and see Saturn and her rings. Overheard at National Parks would be a good book/blog/twitter.

Hiking, lunch, water, OH! Wall Drug! I started the day by going to Wall Drug. I picked up the (actually free) bumpersticker for Carmen to replace one that was lost. I also got a few postcards and souvenirs from the clearance section. A mug and a little something something. I like postcards. I like mailing them to people and thinking who to send what design to. I have a stack to drop in a mailbox, which I will probably do in Nebraska. Wall Drug is a little compound of stores, which combines tourist shlock and local craft and some higher end stuff. A nice little oasis of things on an otherwise pretty unremarkable highway.

So now I’m on to Nebraska! I really need a shower. Maybe I’ll call campgrounds in Nebraska and the first one to say they have shower facilities is getting my patronage.

8/13/2014 Chadron State Park, Nebraska

This park is DECKED OUT! It has a pool, which costs extra, showers, a crafts center, cabins. Tons of stuff. It’s like a mini resort in Nebraska. There is a thunderstorm warning, and it is supposed to start pouring around 6. I didn’t take the stuff out of my tent, just piled it in the center as usually when it rains it is the seeping of the sides that fills the tent around the edges, so stuff in the middle is fineish. I just really hope it doesn’t rain. I think the thing that aggravates me the most on this trip is being rained out of a camping spot. But for the time being, I’m glad to not be driving and I’m happy to being full showered. My feet get it the worst from not bathing, .then my hair gets gross. The rest is easy enough to tidy up.

So I woke up at my rest stop and drove east on 90, filled up my tank where I turned south on 85 and in retrospect it probably would have been quicker to go to the park and backtrack south to Carhenge, instead of going allllll the way south to 2 and then over on 2 to Alliance. It was a pretty big down and over…but I did get to see a lot of Nebraska. The rolling hills, the road construction, the fields and fields, the road construction…it was blue skies and hot.

Now it is gray skies and still hot. I got to Chadron State Park, got my tent site, which was primitive, which just means no electricity and there were not clear lines of which tent site was wear. I dig a park that has cheaper tent camping. I showered half way (no shampoo) and went to find out the pool cost extra, so I showered all the way (yes shampoo) and now I’m at the “Trading Post”. I may quickly go back to my site and remove all my camping gear from inside my tent, and come back here.

Stay tuned!

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