After a quick stretch at the Chamberlain overlook, the boy and I jumped back into the car and headed further west. We had a big day ahead of us! We were going to the Badlands, Mt Rushmore, Custer State Park, the Crazy Horse monument, and then to Wheatland, WY for the night. We had a lot of ground to cover.
The monotony of the vast fields of short corn was broken up by vibrant sunflower fields, and ever larger patches of great plains grassland. Things were really looking like the west!
As we neared the Badlands, the boy spotted a sign for a petrified forest museum. He really wanted to go. Since I’d been there before, I knew it was a bit of a tourist trap, but still a neat thing to see. So we stopped. After all, this was his trip too.
After the rock garden, we headed to the Badlands. The tell-tale formations were already starting to appear, jutting out from the grass expanse. I pointed out to him that we were getting close. He didn’t seem too impressed.
We got to the exit to The Badlands National Park on Highway 240 and drove to the Prairie Homestead Museum and exhibit. In the pioneer times, trees were scarce, so there wasn’t much wood to build with. The settlers would build their homes partially out of bricks made from the sod cut from the grasslands.
The place was crawling with prairie dogs. After a photo op with the prairie dogs, we moved on.
As we neared the edge of the Badlands formations, the boy seemed to get more and more impressed. “It’s bigger than I thought it’d be!” When we stopped at the first lookout, there were two things that amazed, awed and terrified him. One was the depth of the gorgeous hole we were looking into. The other was, of course, the sign that read “Beware of Rattlesnakes”.
He stuck close to me. I felt like I was running a three- legged- race around the Badlands! In fact, the only time he allowed a few inches between us was when I got too close to an edge.
He was to the point that he wasn’t really enjoying himself. Finally, I had to explain to him that YES, rattlesnakes were dangerous, and YES, you had to watch out. But for the most part, they don’t want anything to do with you. They’d rather save their venom for something they can eat. He pointed to a shrub. “So if there was a rattlesnake in that bush, it wouldn’t just come after me?” I assured him that it would most likely leave him alone. And if he did get too close, the snake would rattle to warn him.
He was better after that. He spent more than a few hours watching You Tube videos and reading articles about the mighty rattler.
As we drove on, looking at the striped spires of the castle-like mountains, he asked me “Why do they call them ‘the Badlands’?”
Because they’re BAD LANDS to cross. That’s what the natives told the settlers. Imagine trying to bring a horse and wagon through this?
We’re blessed with roads!