Cedar Pass – Badlands NP (2)

The “Charles McGill” look

On our second visit to this national park, and it is still a superlative place to visit. The only downside was that I couldn’t get an electric site for our three night stay, and it was going to be HOT. For this campground, they will assign you the site number when you check in, but they did not have any cancellations for hookups. What sucks is that there ended up being plenty of unused sites while we were there. No shows need to suffer harsher penalties.

Turns out we really did need to go to Wall Drug

Our first move was to set up Dory in “Full Chuck” mode, with all of the Aluminet covering her the best we could. Then we left to find anything that was air conditioned. This led us to Wall Drug, which is about a half hour (air conditioned) drive. We passed by this the last time, despite all the billboards urging us toward it. We had poo pooed their insistence that this was a must see, but I will say now, for the record, the billboards are right. It was definitely worth it.

Did I want to buy this? Of course I did. Only tiny reserves of rational thought, and not enough room to carry stuff like this, prevented me.

Wall Drug is the most touristy western themed thing you can imagine, combined with random, and occasionally animated, dinosaurs. We walked around and looked at all the little stores for as much time as we could stretch it out. We also had dinner in the very poorly rated cafe. The food was cafeteria style and was exactly what we expected. No bad reviews here. By then, it had cooled to the low 90s and we were ready to head back.

Dusky Deer spotted on Richard’s ride

Richard got in his bike ride late in the day by riding up the park road from the campground to the entrance. He then turned around and coasted back down. I mostly sat outside in my Nemo chair and relaxed. It really wasn’t too bad in the shade. Tolerating the heat better is one of the major benefits of weight loss. I recall being much more of a miserable withering flower dealing with heat before. Temperature highs during this stay ranged from about 106º to 89º over three days. But it’s a dry heat!

Biking guy, doing his biking thing

The next day was slated for Richard to ride the whole park road to the other side. He left before I was showered and I caught him about three miles from the end. It was mid 90s, even though he got an early start, and it was a huge climb at the end. He was definitely huffing and puffing by the time he was done. A good dunking in luke warm water did help. But what helped more was getting in the car.

When you see the flash, you know what to do, kids!

We found an open and air conditioned visitor center at the Minute Man Missile National Historic Site. We were in it for the cool air, but it turned out to be interesting, though sobering, to say the least. It was a very well done museum, with a nice long movie, all about the time period of the cold war. They had to kick everyone out at 4 when they closed because I think everyone had the same idea we did.

These are incredible.

We weren’t quite ready to head back, so we got ice cream and split an Indian Fry Bread Taco at the Cedar Pass Lodge Cafe. Wow. Those are damn good. That was a first for both of us, and we planned the next day around getting another.

Before the wind

That night, the plan for dinner was grilling. I did notice a dark patch of clouds on the horizon, but our various weather apps assured us nothing was going to pass through our area. So we set up all the outside things and I started grilling. Quite suddenly, nature asserted its dominance over weather prediction apps and all hell broke loose. All of the paper plates, paper towels, and some of the utensils blew off the table. Our chairs and table blew over. The Aluminet started flapping around violently.

Weather induced insanity

I am admittedly not good with weather and went temporarily insane. I took down all the Aluminet and started throwing everything into untamed piles inside the car. I was still cooking with gas, mind you, though the wind had blown out the flame. I moved the grill onto the ground and tried to just finish cooking dinner. Meanwhile I was worried about Dory. She was getting hit fully on her side and was rocking. I parked the car in front to create a wind shield, and seriously considered putting the roof down. In fact, I got everything inside ready to put the roof down.

What weather? Nothing but a nice sunset here.

Rain came at her sideways, but thankfully, no hail. Dinner got cooked and nervously consumed inside the rocking trailer. We did both notice it was delicious. It was probably about an hour or less all told that it was wild, and then, just like that, it all calmed the hell down. As though nothing had happened. Even got a beautiful sunset. Sheesh.

Learning from past errors

For our last day in the park, also the coolest day of the three, we went together on some hikes. The first ones were the very short viewpoint hikes you can do to see interesting formations, like The Window, The Door, and the dreaded Notch. The latter was the one with the ladder that threw me for a loop five years ago. I had foolishly climbed up that thing, only to have a panic attack when I looked back down from the top. You may perhaps remember the mantra I learned from a passing child: “I am brave, I am strong, and I can do this.” Well, I am brave and I am strong, but I am smart, and I have learned my lesson. No ladder for me, thanks. But Richard went up a steep path on the side which he says is better. I’m still not interested.

Bunny eavesdropping on work call

Before driving over to the trailhead for our longer hike, Richard needed to take a work call. He found a shady spot near a rabbit, and the service was good enough for him to do what he needed to do. Being able to work on the road is a mixed bag.

Up is the easy part.

We did the Saddle Pass Trail, which goes up an incredibly steep and slippery climb over “The Wall.” You then get to enjoy plateau hiking and we did a loop of around four miles. We did not see any wildlife, save a bird that might be a Barn Swallow. In fact, for all the Buffalo hype in this park, we did not see a single one. The hike was only difficult at the end, where you have to super slow motion crouch/crawl back down. My upper thighs are still feeling this.

I shall forever take pictures of s’mores displays. This one was particularly awesome because it also contains a Buffalo.

I had most definitely earned another Indian Fry Bread Taco. And a soft serve back out at the Badlands Trading Post store next to the Conoco by I-90. Then, it was relaxation time in the Nemo chairs, with no storms, even though this time, the weather apps said they were coming. You just can’t predict the weather. I know people say that, but it is true.

Badlands remains one of our favorite National Parks.

This was a wonderful stay, with another beautiful sunset, but we unfortunately ended on a sad and ouchie note. For context, we were heading to the first come, first serve campground at Devil’s Tower that day, and we both get super anxious about finding a non reservable site. We’re always fine, but that doesn’t prevent the nervous energy. So we wanted as early a start as possible. There are these low wooden posts all over the campsites that I knew I’d gotten close to when we set up. We screwed up on departure by not having Richard spot me, and we heard a horrible crunch. I hit the brakes and got out, knowing it was bad before seeing it. I’d hit one of the posts while pulling out, and it had bent the front stabilizer and the entry step. There was now a post sandwiched between the bent step, and the tire. We were both horrified, but kept our heads and assessed the situation. I knew we couldn’t go forward, so that step had to come out. It was pretty easy to unscrew the bits that allowed me to remove the bent parts. Then I zip tied the stabilizer in place so it wouldn’t fall open during travel. Fortunately, it didn’t hit any plumbing or cause any damage that prevented travel. Still, we were shaken, not stirred, and continued on our way full of regret, and some new rules.

Total miles from Indian Creek: 231.8, 16.0 mpg, 5 hours 14 min. Site 42 no hookups. Ok, but not great, cell service for both. Great dump. Water spigots. Beware low posts. 🙁

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