If you have never been to the Badlands I HIGHLY suggest you go! I saw more wildlife in my first hour in the Badlands than I did during several days in Glacier. Prairie Dogs, Long Horn Sheep and Bison. Let me tell ya, the wildlife here is abundant and they let you know that this is their home, NOT yours. The animals were not aggressive by any means, but they sure aren’t going to make any accommodations for us mere human folk. They roam this land the way they were intended to, freely.
I invite you to enjoy 244,000 acres of untouched wilderness.
The Badlands hold a very special place for me. I ventured here eleven years ago on a pilgrimage of sorts. I was searching for a spirituality that I could connect with in an intimate way. I was reading the book, Black Elk Speaks, by John G. Neihardt. This book tells the true story of a medicine man, Black Elk, from the Oglala Lakota (Sioux).
This book moved me and opened up my eyes and heart. It was because of this book that I trekked out to the Badlands in late July/ early August of 2005. I was traveling there so I could be alone in a sacred place. I wanted to be in stillness and quiet, in a land untouched by man’s messy hand.
Well… funny thing about that trip in 2005 and the one this past August 2016…BOTH times I ended up on the road the same week as Sturgis! Hahaha! For those of you that do not know what Sturgis is, it is a motorcycle rally held in Sturgis, SD. It is one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the world. In 2005 the official attendance was over 525,000! So I was NOT alone on the road. Hahahaha! The motorcyclists were the nicest people I met on that 2005 trip. They were kind, giving, and helpful to a solo female traveler. They even helped me with a flat tire and made sure I made it to the auto shop safely!
I almost didn’t make it to the Badlands this go around. I was traveling though Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Montana and Wyoming and I was tiiiiired! But I stopped at Wall Drug one last time for a doughnut and a 5¢ cup of coffee. I was sitting there sipping on my brew talking to myself in my head, “Duuuuude Lori the entrance is right there, you have a national park pass and seriously you LOVE the Badlands.” So I hopped in my car and drove south down Route 240 to the Pinnacles Entrance. I was in and in love, again!!!
I pulled into the Badlands and was excited to spend a night in a National Park where I didn’t have to worry about grizzly bears, black bears or mountain lions. I even joked that the only creature I’d have to worry about was a rogue prairie dog! Suuuure the park is packed with bison, but bison aren’t too interested in humans. They’re vegans after all ? which kind of makes us kindred spirits ?. Compassionate eaters…lol! I am one with my bison peeps.
I found two horse posts (sans horses) where I rigged up my hammock. After rigging my hammock so it would be about a half foot off the ground, I decided to roam around and take some pictures and chat up a few other solo travelers. I met Cody from Niagra Falls, Canada and Rob from Alberta, Canada, both traveling solo. Cody was suppose to be working Burning Man as a paramedic but the officials couldn’t get his credentials verified in time so he decided to take a great American road trip anyways! Rob is a Canadian that is currently residing in Southern California and just traveling every chance he gets. I LOVE LOVE LOVE meeting inspiring, fearless and kind people on my travels. The energy from these meetings are infectious! The three of us sat around swapping travel stories and drank a few beers. I only had two beers because I was super tired and if I had anymore than that I wouldn’t have been able to stay up to watch the meteor shower ? After a couple of hours I decided to hit the hay.
As I crawled into my hammock and snuggled into my sleeping bag, I couldn’t help but feel so darn HAPPY and CONTENT! I had a met two very cool dudes (too young for me :/), watched an amazing sunset, seen falling stars all across the sky and now I was being swayed to sleep in my hammock by a nice breeze. The moon and stars were my ceiling and the coyotes were singing me a lullaby. It. Was. Perfect.
A few hours later I awoke to the loudest snorting and chewing I have ever heard in my life! I suddenly awoke and thought to myself, “They (bison) must be close!” I ever so carefully pulled down the left side of my hammock and stared into a GIANT WALL OF BROWN. I could see the giant wall of brown because the moon was very bright that night. As my eyes followed the wall down they met an eye and a big mouth chewing on the tough grasses that blanket the landscape. This bison was SIX inches from my head! The only thing separating us was a skinny horse post. I was so excited and in awe but was also crapping myself at the same time! I laid still as a statue and tried not to make any noises or sudden movements. Bison can get spooked by those and that is when they attack. My heart was POUNDING out of my chest so much that I feared it may break through and I’d die! All I could think of was, okay…this is it. If I die at least it will be somewhere I love and doing something I love. I am totally okay with that.
Three bison passed within 6 inches of my head in a single file line – all stopping to graze right by my head. What felt like 30 minutes was probably only 10 minutes but still it was sooooo cool and nerve wracking at the same time. I waited for a while after I heard the last one go by. Cody then yelled out to me that they were gone but I didn’t believe him. I laid there for another minute or two until he yelled out, “Lori, I swear they are all really gone. They have moved on.” Phhhhewwww!
He said they were so close to my head that even he was scared from a distance. He walked up to me and we were both like, “Did that just really happen?!” He was up late doing some time lapse photography, and was I glad he was. We chatted for a few minutes and then I went to sleep in my car for the next few hours. Hahaha! CRAZINESS!!!