The Badlands, South Dakota
I got a dry scalp in South Dakota. A little flaky, a little itchy.
After eight or nine hours pointed west from Minneapolis and meeting some very, very simple (but nice enough) people at gas stations and coffee stops – the relentless landscape of cornfields, pointless large-scale agriculture and the ‘Great Plains’ finally gave way to a moonscape. The Badlands.
We slowed up at the highway exit at Wall just as the sun dipped below the horizon, 7:20pm, decision time – try to find a rumoured free campsite out in the grasslands, with the coyotes, or pay for a hotel in town. Being on a budget helps you make decisions at times; we took the chance and followed the unmapped dirt road for a half hour and somehow managed to find our patch of grass hidden amongst the hills. Under headlights while setting up the tent, I saw my first bison. Australia has some weird animals but these guys with their big heads and woolen jackets are up there with the weirdest. Prairie dogs are weird too.
As the sun came up, I rolled out of the tent, took a pee and watched the steam rise from it as more bison milled around. They seemed kinda placid. Big, but placid. We scaled the hill behind camp to see what we could see, I thought I’d struck gold when I saw a river for maybe swimming, turned out it was milkshake brown and silty.
As the day wore on, the colours bleached and fell away while we squirmed under the midday sun; a tent is no shade. A cruel joke, a pisces lost, misplaced and dehydrating in South Dakota. The landscapes of the Badlands are overpowering, as evening approached each day, the temperature fell and shadows grew where you didn’t think possible. All the colours came back fiercer than before, purples, pinks, blues all mixed in that hour before sunset. Maybe fewer words would work better, just look at the pretty pictures.