Beauty in the Badlands

DSCN0223.1The Badlands are rich with subtle life at this time of the year. The summer heat hasn’t scorched the region brown yet, and the moisture has coaxed flowers into bloom. Soon enough, the summer will arrive and the green with burn away, but for now there is a tenacious life that clings to the region.

DSCN0191.1This past Thursday, Sarah and I took an excursion to the Badlands with two church friends, Roy and Jessica, and made an afternoon of the Badlands loop, stopping at just about every scenic turnoff, and hiking when possible. Although my family has driven through the Badlands several times, never had we gone through at such a leisurely pace! A quick drive through really doesn’t do them justice.

DSCN0268.1Razor-sharp peaks and spires give way to rolling hills with impassible cliffs. Strata of bright orange and gold layer through one region, while tablelands dominate another. Viewpoints overlook cliffs, plummeting down hundreds of feet into the valley or canyon below.

DSCN0175.1And in such a hostile wasteland, a no-man’s land, there’s life–Creeping insects, scurrying chipmunks, burrowing prairie dogs. Prairie phlox and scarlet globemallow bloom in the rocky, dusty soil. There wasn’t any flowing water anymore, but the gumbo mud was still sticky in places, and little puddles of tepid water hadn’t yet sunk into the earth.

DSCN0220.1The rain in the Hills had opened into blue skies over the Badlands, but as the day wore on, we watched thunderstorms roll in. The sky grew bluer and bluer with storm, and the occasional rumble of thunder echoed quietly through the stony peaks and valleys. For hours, the storms seemed to crop up on the horizon and roll towards us, never reaching us.

DSCN0272.1

We scrambled around in the gumbo, climbing to the tops of the tablelands. As we scrambled up over the edge of one, a pair of doves startled from their ground nest. Two eggs were tucked inside. I should have gotten a picture of the location of the nest–The tableland rose a good thirty feet up, and then there was a little washed out spot and a slightly higher table, roughly the size of a dinner table. The nest was nestled in the grass on this second table. The perfect vantage point to watch for predators.

The storm broke as we were eating dinner. Probably a good thing, or we might have stayed out exploring a lot longer than we did!

Laura Elizabeth

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