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Steve Birdsall

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The Beautiful Badlands

When I first arrived at the Badlands, I was overwhelmed with how amazing the entire area is. I thought a lot about taking pictures, but was baffled over how to even pick where to begin. It seemed to me like everything I looked at was worth taking a picture of. I traveled through the park to the campground and picked out a nice tent spot that, lucky for me, had a nearly perfect view of one of the mountain ranges.

I was completely caught off guard by how powerful the scenery was. I’ve seen pictures of it, but that doesn’t really bring to life just how majestic and expansive the entire area is. People fuss over the gophers, buffaloes and antelopes, but for me it’s the mountains that take my breath away. The colors and shapes – it’s amazing how many different layers of geological formations there are to create all the colors that I had never seen in mountains before. My friends will tell you that I tend to get a little bit emotional at times, and this was one of those times. It brought tears to my eyes, looking over the entire expanse, wishing I was a much better photographer and had more time to spend there.

As I admired the mountains, the wind picked up to the point where I wasn’t sure if I was going to get my tent set up. I did succeed, and added some of my storage boxes on the windward side and extra ropes to stake down the rain fly, hoping that would keep it from blowing away during the night. I was nervous about leaving it for any length of time, but after looking around and seeing that mine wasn’t shaking and blowing around any worse than anybody else’s, I figured I could leave to take pictures and get a general view of the whole place. About 10 minutes into driving around and taking pictures, the battery in my camera went dead. Great planning, huh? I plugged it in and drove around for a few more minutes, got some ideas of where I wanted to take pictures and then headed back to the tent. It was still there!


The next morning, as I was pondering the option of staying there for another day, the decision was taken out of my hands, when the camp host notified me that my space was reserved by somebody else for that night. That left me with only one option: pack up all my gear and spend a few hours driving around in the Badlands, trying to capture the mountains in pictures, and, honestly, trying to get pictures of my truck in the mountains.

I was still thinking about how beautiful those mountains are as I drove away, mentally making a note that I would like to come back in early winter, as they get their first snow. I’m not sure how to make that work, but it’s something to hope for.

Onward and upward! We’re off to Minnesota by way of South Dakota. Still? …bummer.



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