The “Badlands” is a name that is kind of misleading. A hundred years or so ago the name would have been fitting due to its harsh landscape and difficulty to travel through. Today it’s different. Today the name should be something like “Unforgettable-wild-beauty-land.” Because that’s the truth. Nobody that visits this place will forget it.
Even though I was heading home today, I felt like I needed one more experience to add to my memory bank. Before I turned my tires towards home I pulled into the parking lot near the Notch Trail Head. I’m so glad I did.
The beginning of Notch Trail had me meandering through a valley, but the last half of the hike was high up along the canyon walls. And here, there was only one way up!
And the view from the top is worth the whole climb!
Following Notch Trail along the canyon walls is worth ignoring any fear of heights. The end of the trail will lead to one of the best views in Badlands National Park.
Here’s somewhat of a crappy panoramic video clip of the end of the hike view at Notch Trail:
Mako Sika has treated me paradoxically well. ”Land of the Bad,” is a place of wild beauty that I’ll never forget. Thanks so much for following me on my journey through this incredible park!
Yesterday’s twelve-mile hike of Castle Trail through Badlands National Park was at a pace that allowed me to take in all the details. It was an otherworldly experience that you can read about here. Today however I wanted to take a wider and more general approach to my exploration of what the original natives called “Mako Sica,” or “Land Bad.”
Badlands Loop Road is a forty-mile loop in and around the park with many spots to pull off the road and take in the incredible natural formations from a wide-angle. I started near Ben Reifel Visitor Center and headed west in my vehicle, stopping at every great composition I could find.
Once I completed my round-trip of Badlands Loop Road, I took some time to rest before going out for the golden hour at the end of the day.
Tomorrow, I’ll head home from this brief, but incredible exploration of Badlands National Park. But before I take the five-hour drive home, I plan to do one more short hike at Notch Trail in the morning. I’m looking forward to this trail that clings to cliffs before it ends at a sheer drop-off and incredible view. Stay tuned!
Five thirty in the morning came earlier than wanted. But I crawled out of bed, and opened the curtains of my hotel room to discover it was still pitch-black outside. I quickly got dressed, gathered all my camera gear, and drove to Door Trail. The previous day I did some research to find out that this was a great spot to watch the sunrise over Mako Sica, which is the native name meaning “land bad,” and from where English speakers get the name “Badlands.” I followed the trail out into wind carved canyons, careful to watch my footing in the dark. A false step could have landed me in a lot of pain. After finding a spot that I thought would give me an excellent view facing east, I waited.
As I sat still, contemplating the beginning of a new day, I was overwhelmed by a deep silence. There were no sounds of cars or people, and even the wind was calm. It was a silence so quiet and empty, that it was in fact loud and full. It wrapped around me and drowned me in a peace-full tranquility. Out in the wild, away from all distractions, I basked in the glory of God’s holy presence. It was a moment of intimacy with my Creator that words just don’t give justice.
With the sun up in the skies, and clouds covering most of its rays, I packed up my gear and headed for breakfast. My plan to solo hike the twelve-mile Castle Trail today would require all the calories I could get. After stuffing down carbs and calories, I loaded my pack and began my trek around 9 am. Because of the rains that occurred last evening, my hike began under cloudy skies.
Thirty minutes into my journey, the clouds began to break up, and the sun shined through. At that point, I knew it was going to be a great day for landscape photography. There’s nothing like cumulus clouds to add drama to compositions.
I really couldn’t have asked for a better day for hiking and photographing. The temperature was a cool sixty degrees (f), and the wind dried any perspiration exerted while making the long trek. As in the quiet I found myself during the sunrise, my whole day was bombarded with a full silence. I only passed a few people along the way. The rest of the time, I was alone with God in the wild.
At six miles, I stopped in the shade of an overhanging spire to rest and replenish some calories. Cliff bars never tasted so good! Rested and refilled, I slung my pack back over my shoulders and pressed into what I knew was going to be the more difficult part of the trek. The return journey is always harder than the going.
9:00 am start, 5:00 pm finish. Twelve miles and who knows how many burned calories. But the eight hours in wild silence and scenery was totally worth it. After dinner and a good night of rest, I’ll be ready for Day three: the forty-mile loop drive in and through Badlands National Park.
The urge to take a road trip has grown every day since landing on U.S. soil. We haven’t had a personal vehicle in two and a half years while we lived in Korea. Now that the situation has changed, the wild lands of America that I haven’t explored seem to be beckoning. We are fortunate that my wife landed a job a few months after our return. I’m still on the hunt for an income, but I just couldn’t get away from this desire to be alone with God in the wild. With my wife’s blessing (she’s a keeper ), I answered this beckoning. I set my tires south and made my way to Badlands National Park in South Dakota.
My radio clock showed a bit past three pm and I was nearing the northeast entrance of the park, but still surrounded by grasslands. “Where are these lands they call bad?” I thought. “I don’t see much that looks wild or intimidating.” I paid fifteen bucks for a seven-day pass and as soon as I passed the ranger station I came upon Big Badlands Overlook. I quickly realized that I had spoken too soon about a lack of wild. I made a sharp left and parked my car to get my first views. Looking back at the ranger station across deep canyons I realized how easily I lose track of the big picture while I’m surrounded by “ordinary” grasslands.
According to the park guide I stumbled across, the Oglala Lakota Indians called this landscape “Mako Sica,” meaning “Land Bad.” For early locals and travelers, it’s easy to see why this wild landscape is called the Badlands. I can’t imagine trying to cross this place in a wagon without paved roads.
Fortunately for others and myself, there is now a road that goes through what would have been a difficult pass.
I resisted the urge to stop every 100 yards to take a photo. My motel was just outside the park in a small town called Interior (Population: 67), and I needed to check in. A kind older woman greeted me at Badlands Inn. I asked her about the best places to watch the sunrise, then checked into my room. A few minutes later I was ready to spend at least a few hours with the remaining sun light.
“Some 69 million years ago, a great sea covered this area and deposited sediments here, a process that continued as changing land environments replaced the receding sea until it ended 28 million years ago. The erosion that continues to carve the Badlands began only half a million years ago and will stop only when the buttes have worn away.” – National Park Service and Badlands Natural History Association.
Surrounded by towering spires, I imagine myself at the bottom of a deep sea. Both the past and present landscapes leave me in awe. After a long day of driving and dying light, I call it a night, and head to the only restaurant I can find for some dinner. My plan is to go to bed early so I can watch the sunrise. A park ranger informed me that it will break the horizon at 6:19 am tomorrow.
I’m looking forward to the sunrise. Stay tuned for: Mako Sica “Land of the Bad” Day 2!
China is a massive country with abundant cultural and historical treasures. It was a joy to explore this land and experience some of its wonders! I’ve recently uploaded a lot of new content to my China gallery on www.leephelpsphotography.com ! In celebration of the new content, all prints and downloads will be 20% off until September 21st, 2012!!! Just use the coupon code: CHINA20 (case-sensitive)!!!
Here are a few photos to get you excited! High Resolution files available from the gallery!
Remember, 20% off this week only! Coupon code: CHINA20 Simply click on any of the photos above to see many more prints available from China!
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"The Princess and the Goblin" By: George MacDonald
"Orthodoxy" By: G.K. Chesterton
"Flags of Our Fathers" By: Ron Powers & James Bradley
The Circle Series By: Ted Dekker
- Book I: Black
- Book II: Red
- Book III: White
- Book IV: Green