South Dakota 2019, Day 6: To the Badlands (July 25)

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This was our final day in the KOA Kampground. It was more fun, more relaxed, and quieter than I expected. I’d stay here again. Check-out wasn’t until 2:00 and we took full advantage of this. We went to the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast and found that we really couldn’t eat that many bad pancakes. We finished cleaning up the campsite and did laundry- all of our towels had been saturated during last night’s storm. We were delighted to find that the daily garbage pickup at the campsite included our broken canopy. At least we would have more room in the Jeep. Nate and I played a game on the giant chess set, and we hung out at the pool. We took down camp, took one last shower, and hit the road.

The drive was pretty nice. Through the Black Hills, out around the outskirts of Rapid City, and then out into the Great Plains. The views were of rolling hills and fields of grass and yellow clover. Small rock outcroppings started to appear, but didn’t get really big until after we passed the pseudo-town of Interior and arrived at the outskirts of Badlands National Park.

We started by visiting the lodge/gift shop, followed by the visitor center/gift shop. We picked up the Junior Ranger booklet for Nate, got the lay of the land, and then set up camp.

The Badlands surprised me. I was expecting a hot, arid environment, with craggy rock spires. The rock met my expectations, as did the temperature. But arid? Actually, it felt distinctly humid, albeit not East Coast levels of humidity. The grass where we set up our tent was green and lush. And… some of the camps had puddles in them. To be more accurate, some of the camps were completely flooded with pools of water. At point we saw some feral children playing in a puddle, completely coated with the silty mud at the bottom. This was mud-wrestling quality mud.

We set up camp, slapping the mosquitoes as we went. Mosquitos? This definitely didn’t fit my mental model of a desert. It’s not a desert, it’s the Badlands, I kept telling myself. The campsites, the non-flooded ones at least, are quite nice. Picnic tables are covered with an arching wood canopy. Soft green grass for the tent. After we were set up, it was quite lovely to sit in a chair with <smack> a book and a beer, relaxing <ow, mosquito> and enjoying the <smack> sunset.

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