We arrived at Badlands National Park about 7am. We had intentionally timed our arrival so that we could have the park to ourselves for a few hours until the masses arrived. That gave us time to awe at the incredible mounds of fossilized soil and clay that stand at obtuse angles like huge termite towers, seemingly so brittle that they almost could crumble at the touch.
We meandered our way down the empty roads, stopping every so often to marvel at the eerie silence surrounding this alien landscape. We were on our way to Sage Creek Campground- it's right at the edge of The Badlands Wilderness on the west side of the park. It's a free campground with approximately 15 campsites down a dirt track, where Bison are said to roam, Bighorn Sheep like to graze and Prairie Dogs like to live! The dirt track passes some of the most incredible scenery in the park that all the folks who stay on the main road don't get to see. The road continues through Robert's Prairie Dog Town which is literally a huge field full of Prairie Dog burrows. The Prairie Dogs are hilarious to watch, shaking their tails and darting in and out of their underground homes when they sense danger!
Arriving at the campsite we were not disappointed. We are privy to primitive camping. Primitive camping usually means that resources at sites are limited with the only buildings being composting toilets and if you are lucky, possibly a trash bin. There are no showers, no shops and no huge RV's and we consider this to be a blessing, especially when visiting a National Park. As a bonus, the sites are normally free!
Returning back to the main area of the park, the main stretches and viewpoints were beginning to get busy so we decided to take a walk and wander into the start of the backcountry. We prepared ourselves for rain and set off down the Castle Trail. Within minutes we were soaking wet and sliding around on the clay. The rain runs down the huge mounds of mud and creates a stream on the trail that looks like chocolate milkshake. We persevered and walked four miles, keeping our eyes opened for rattlesnakes and laughing every time one of us fell. By the time we got back to the car I could see people staring at us from the comfort of their cars. The thing is, they didn't have as much fun as we had.