Monday, July 26, 2010

Badlands, South Dakota

We are just leaving Badlands National Park after exploring it for a couple of days. Surprisingly, there are not a lot of marked trails in this park; most of the area is wilderness area. We found out today as we were leaving why this is: the military used to test bombs here and there are still unexploded bombs out in the park. Yikes! Glad we didn't decide to explore off the trails! We did take the longest hike in the park, 5 miles, through the amazing sci-fi landscape.

The Badlands are a series of jagged, serrated, knife-edge precipices jutting upward from the prairie. They are made of soft clays, silt, and volcanic ash, all of which erode at an extremely fast rate, about 1 inch per year. You should all come visit this unearthly landscape before it washes away! We added to this erosive process a little by climbing one of the peaks to watch the sunset & moonrise while we waited for the evening ranger talk. It was an astronomy program and they even had 4 telescopes set up for everyone to view planets, stars, and nebulae of the night sky! Amazing!

Appropriately enough, we had some bad feelings arise while we were in the Badlands. Our second night in the campground we had an RV pull up to the campsite next to us around 11pm. They proceeded to turn on their generator since there were no hook-ups, and run both their generator and A/C unit all night long. George is very noise sensitive, but he has also been reading a book about preserving natural quiet in National Parks (One Square Inch of Silence) and was thus very annoyed at our #%^&*#! neighbors. We were also surrounded by tent campers and George took it upon himself to right the situation for the good sleep of all. He boldly knocked on the door of the RV, prepared to politely inform them of the quiet hours policy. They totally ignored his knocking. He knocked again (by now it is around midnight) and they once again ignored his plea, turned off their lights, but kept the A/C unit and generator humming all night long. Needless to say, we left early the this morning. Here's a photo of George enjoying life and trying to beat the heat before our naughty neighbors arrived. You don't want to see the one of him after the event.

Adding to those bad feelings, we drove to the South Unit of the park which is located within the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Lakota Sioux. We stopped at the visitor center and the Lakota ranger was incredibly informative and helpful. We learned how the Native Americans would use everything from the buffalo, and we got to touch a buffalo bladder, sinew, bone tools, fur, horns, toenails and more, all of which had multiple uses. We also got to hear stories and read about all the lies and treachery of the white man. The Massacre of Wounded Knee occurred nearby, the slaughter of over 200 women, children and elders by our Government. Stories of broken treaties time and again, with money and provisions guaranteed to the people which never arrived or included Small Pox infected blankets with them when they did arrive. It is all very hard to hear and it makes my conscience hurt.

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