We arrived at Badlands National Park later in the day on Monday. We planned to spend Monday and Tuesday night out in the backcountry, and stopped by the ranger station to ask for advice on where to stay. Surprisingly, they had little to recommend beyond “well, there’s no trails, so go wherever you want and climb whatever you want.”
Oh, and this great addition: “We haven’t had a rescue yet this season… so if you guys wanted to give us a little action… we would’t mind.”
Badlands National Park: the land of extreme heat, no water, no trails, frequent thunderstorms, massive bison, and rangers who want a reason to go out for a rescue. We were going out for two nights in an area few people backpack in. Great.
Not deterred by the ranger’s words or reports of thunderstorms rolling in, we drove through the park to find a spot to explore. We parked at “prairie dog town” and got our gear together with the backdrop of a beautiful sunset and rainstorm off in the distance.
We hiked about a mile to find a suitable spot to camp, trying to balance shelter from the wind, protection form the incoming storm and distance from the mosquitoes.
That’s right, mosquitoes. Let me tell you, the mosquitoes in the Badlands are worse than any other spot on earth. I realized this soon after setting off in to the prairie – I was able to kill five of the buggers with a single slap at the back of my legs. Bug spray didn’t help, and the strong wind was only a slight deterrent. I soon suited up in full pants and rain gear, even though the temperature was still over 70.
Backcountry meal: Annie’s mac’n cheese with homemade canned salmon (delicious)
Lessons learned: 1) “witching hour,” where mosquitoes come out the worst, is a real thing
2) Cacti will stab you if you’re not careful
3) You can get a lot of reading done if your tent is the only suitable place to hang out