The Badlands

February 10, 2019

The Badlands…. With virtually no water, no shade, a heatwave where the temperatures did not drop below 80 degrees at night, and a wind that made it feel like you were in an over my first stop on my trip across the country this past summer was definitely an extreme one.

Because of the harsh terrain and lack of resources the Lakota people called this ares “mako sica” or “land bad.” French-Canadian fur trappers called it “les mauvais terres pour traverse,” which is something close to “”bad lands to travel through.” The Badlands lived up to its history on my trip through it.

Established as a National Monument in 1939 then re-designated as a national park in 1978 the area in South Dakota is made up of steep sedimentary rock formations from millennia of seas and river deposits. It is packed full of fossils that record the history of the area.

The human impact in the area is as interesting as its prehistoric history. Native Americans have used the area as a hunting grounds for millennia. The Badlands was made famous in Hollywood as a hiding place for wild west outlaws. Today the Badlands is home to animals including prairie dogs, bison, and bighorn sheep. It also hosts crowds of tourists.

I started my Badlands adventure signing into the back country stand and scouting a location to set up camp for the night. The area was dry an under a burn restriction, which was not an issue since it was blistering hot under the evening sun. the forecast for the night was for increased winds and temperatures in the mid to upper 80s. The prairie dogs were running across the field jumping down their borrows and playing in the late afternoon sun. Sundown wasn’t until around 9pm so I decided to grab some sleep. I wasn’t sure how much sleep I would get that night with the wind and heat. I figured I would try to make use of the clear skies and unique terrain and try to get 2 days of shooting in over one night. My shot list was long. The moon was coming out of a new cycle and my plan was to photograph the night sky throughout the lunar cycle, with the crux of the trip imaging the Milky Way Galaxy.

The high prairie plans offer very little reprise from the summer sun, but dandelions are livinAs the g it.
As the sun sets below the horizon the sky holds onto the last rays as they streak across the sky
As night falls the stars come out. you can see Venus on the horizon. She is the first heavenly body that makes an appearance. So bright you can even photograph her with a handheld cell phone.
Moon rise as a front rolls. This should really trap in the heat tonight and maybe bring some much needed rain to the area. I think this may be my cue to move on to the next location.
The bison lounge in the morning as the sun tries to break through overcast skies.

In the morning the sun rose to overcast skies. The temperature was still in the 80. It had been too hot to sleep. The wind was intense and I wound up breaking camp in the early hours of the morning. The high wind prevented me from using my camp stove, so I was eating dried meets oat bars. I was ready for some real food. Having photographed all night I felt a trip to town was in order. Luckily the famous Wall Drug was only a short drive from the gates of the park. Cue coffee and an omelet and I am on my way to my next destination.

Check out the video below and comeback for more from my summer trip. Next story is about Fort Collins, Colorado!

Keep making memories!