Boondocking in The Badlands
By now we have clocked over 5,000 miles on our odometer since beginning our road trip back in mid June. This equates to 54 days, 5 states, 62 hours of driving, 30 different campgrounds, 3 mental breakdowns, and 1 actual breakdown of our motorhome.
After our week's stay in Portland, we hit the road heading east with our sights set on The Badlands National Park. This particular leg of our trip would come to test us, consisting of back-to-back days driving for as long as we could until our eyes drew weary, only stopping for gas and sleep along the way. Looking back now, if it wasn't for a memorable day spent in Yellowstone National Park mid way through, perhaps we would have gone permanently mad.
After 20 hours of driving over the span of four days, our final push had us finally arrive at The Badlands, where massive rock formations ascend up from the otherwise docile plains of South Dakota. Capturing the first site of the striated sandstones in bands of pink, orange, and gold, was already enough to deem our long journey worth while.
In the days that would follow, we took our time hiking the many trails on offer. A clear standout was the Notch Trail, a slightly demanding and overwhelmingly beautiful hike that thins out the crowds and sets you off on a series of ledges and ladders. Whenever we wanted to escape the heat, we would jump back in our motorhome and make our way around the park's scenic roads. Often the view from outside our windows would be so breathtaking, we would find ourselves jumping back out again to take a closer look.
On the outskirts of the park itself, we stumbled upon a dispersed campground called 'The Wall', located on a ridge overlooking The Badlands. Over the next week we called this site our home as we got to know its happenings from sunrise to sunset. Every morning there would be herds of mountain goats hovering about, only retreating back over the ledge to bed down for the night. By noon, new campers would arrive, often setting up camp chairs right on the ledge overlooking the sweeping views. At night there's not a thing to be heard as the sky starts to darken, allowing the stars in the sky to become blinding.
Presenting the perfect opportunity, we also used our time at The Wall to give the exterior of our motorhome a fresh coat of white paint. For a long while we had been tossing and turning as to what colour stripe we would feature, and in the end, we drew inspiration from The Badlands itself and decided to match the pink-striped mountains that surrounded us.
During our last night at The Wall, we decided to try our hands at some starlight photography. We parked in the middle of the grassland, set up the tripod, shut off all the lights in our motorhome, then allowed the stars to work their magic. Caught in the sky's spell, we decided to grab blankets and pillows from inside and quickly climb the roof to stargaze the rest of the night away.
One of the things we set out to do more on this trip was to boondock on free public lands, close to beautiful settings such as this. It's hard to believe that during our entire stay, we didn't pay a cent for all that it had to offer — and in all honesty, I could have stayed forever.