14 June 2006

Hot, Hot, Hot

As the title implies, it’s been HOT here. The last few days have been in the upper 90s with some humidity due to the thunderstorms that often roll through the area. Today it got up over 100 with the same humidity. It’s not like east coast humidity where you feel like you’re in a sauna. It’s more like standing in a blast furnace because of the wind, did I mention the wind?

Anyway, weather aside; it’s been nice here. We drive out into the park in the afternoon to miss most of the heat and wait for our little oven, I mean house, to cool back down. Even with the AC running all day when the weather is that hot it stays at about 80 in our house.

Early in the day on the 12th we drove out to Wounded Knee, there isn’t much to see but a hand painted sign. It’s sad and disturbing to see that a place of such history has been left to rot by both sides, the Native Americans and the US Government. Again, the only thing there is a sign and a bunch of poor Indians who wait for people to come by and read the sign so they can beg money. Bill and I both left with tremendous aches in our hearts. From there we drove up into the Mount Rushmore/Black Hill’s area and were again sorely disappointed. The Black Hills are beautiful, but are littered with small towns that are nothing but overpriced tourist traps. Mount Rushmore was no better, they have built a behemoth of a parking structure that totally overshadows the mountain, and it’s like driving into an airport. Needless to say, we didn’t stop, stay, or take pictures. We pretty much drove in and out and home again. It was a long drive all in all but will save us time now that we know these are not places we will ever need to return to.

So, back to the good part of this trip, Badlands National Park. Driving into the park in the afternoon has afforded us some special events that we otherwise would not have witnessed. We’ve witnessed some of the most spectacular sunsets as well as seen some amazing sites. The badlands really do change every minute with different light and the park has never been the same for us twice.

Yesterday when we went into the park for the evening, we didn’t take the cameras. The most amazing sites are always seen when we don’t have our cameras. I’m going to post some pictures here, but they are not from yesterday they are from earlier in the week. Yesterday when we drove in I made a comment about how the only animal we had never seen in any of the National Parks we had visited was a Bighorn Sheep. Low and behold, just after saying that we saw some. It started by seeing a mom with some babies that were so new they still wobbled on their little legs. From there we drove down the dirt road to Prairie Dog Town, one of my favorite places, and saw a male Bighorn so close that Bill would have hit it if he opened his door as we drove by. Farther down the road are of course the Dogs, and we had seen Bison before, a few here and a few there. This night we drove into Prairie Dog Town and were met with the entire Badlands Bison Heard, all along the road, some blocking the road. We drove in as close as we dared and just watched these majestic animals. One of them took notice of us and started ambling our way, Bill turned the truck around and nosed away a bit to show that we were no threat. The Bison came within about 20 yards of us and continued to graze. It was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. It’s easy to see why the Native Americans hold these animals in such high esteem. On our drive back home we saw more Bighorn, as well as deer, antelope, baby jackrabbits and of course Prairie Dogs.

We stopped at one of the lookouts on the way out. It’s become our favorite sunset watching spot. While there someone else pulled up, got out and proceeded to walk into the tall grass. Keep in mind, there are signs all over the place warning about rattlesnake, it’s dusk (hunting time) and they are in shorts. These are not the brightest people. And sure enough a minute later one of them jumped up and screamed, “It got me”. They ran back to their van, and tore out of the parking lot. We were perched on a metal rail surrounding the ‘board walked’ area of the pull out. We went back to the truck to finish watching the sunset from the comfort of our rattlesnake free cab. After the sun had set we continued home. About half way home we see the same van that has been pulled over by park police for speeding and hear and see a first responder tearing down the road.

A piece of advice for anyone that’s going to travel anywhere…do your research. The National Parks are not Disneyland, and wild animals are not there for your amusement. Do your research, have some common sense, and be respectful to both Mother Nature and Her Babies.

To end things on a lighter note, here is a picture that Bill took of a Buffalo chip, for those who don't know, it's a giant terd.