I rolled into the badlands on the eastern side, after having ridden on I-90 from Mitchell (Where the Corn Palace is). I learned there is free primitive camping in the badlands, but wasn’t sure where it was. After asking the friendly ranger at the gate (Yay National Parks Pass, another free park), I found out it was on the other side of the Badlands. I was planning to spend a few days here, so I just rode west and tried to save the sight seeing for later.
Sage Creek Campground is at the end of 13 miles of crappy gravel road. It made the highway in Minnesota seem like a well maintained bypass. But I was getting better at crappy roads, and after a couple hundred yards I found the right speed for the corrugations (between 35 and 40mph) and rode out to the campground.
We had a visitor right away
I set up my camp
and settled in for the night
The next day I decided to head into Wall. I needed food and gas for the bike, and wanted to find some wifi (for this blog) and phone signal to place some calls. I needed to replace my speedometer cable, which had broken a few days earlier. I had been using my GPS, but part of the screen was showing signs of delaminating, which is irreversible, and I wasn’t sure how much use it would be after a while. I was less worried about how fast I was going (How fast could I go on the loaded Curiosity anyway?) but the distance between fuel stops would start to matter as I got further north and west. After briefly learning how much it would cost to get one in Rapid City, I called The Shop and had them ship one to friends in Idaho, where I could get it later.
Of course, there were other things to see in Wall, since I was in town.
I also noticed this-
under the bike when I was getting ready to leave. My oil level hadn’t dropped, but there was oil on the side of the case, under wear the front sprocket is. I decided to just keep an eye on it, rather than start taking things apart on the side of the street in Wall. Besides, I had left most of my tools back at the campground.
I headed back into the Badlands. The plan was to park the bike and spend the rest of the day hiking the rocky parts. I had originally planned a large loop around the park, but it had taken too long to get the speedometer cable shipped (Even in Wall I had very crappy phone signal) so I decided just to hike a couple of the trails.
First was Notch trail, which was supposed to lead to an awesome view of the valley. Wall had been chilly, but the temperature was rising rising as the afternoon wore on. I do have a knack for hiking in desert like places when it’s hot out. Lucky for me I had filled all my water at the visitor center just before heading to the Notch trailhead.
I had to climb this ladder, which was actually pretty fun. Down was a lot trickier later on.
Blue found a little cave about his size.
In case you were wondering, the trail is that ledge above the Dangerous Cliff sign.
The trail was only well marked in places, but for the most part it was hard to get lost. But the view was totally worth it
There had been another valley, which had several arrows clearly telling hikers not to go up there, but a man and his daughter were coming down from there and said the view was pretty cool, so I ignored the arrows as well and headed up the other ravine.
With Notch trail hiked I headed for Saddle Pass, which was listed as Strenuous. I felt like I needed the exercise, but it was pretty challenging. Honestly you could use guide ropes and stuff get up there.
It’s hard to get a sense of the grade from a picture, but I tried to find one that shows it. There were several points of the trail where I was essentially on all fours to climb up. Down was, again, less fun.
Walk to the little post, find the next little post, walk to the little post…
The Saddle pass really just connected to two other trails (Castle and Medicine), and was supposed to show how hard it was for homesteaders to get to the elevated plain. Which it did, my legs were sore for a couple days afterward, though I had also hiked the Notch (and sitting on a motorcycle isn’t exactly a work out). The view wasn’t as awesome as Notch, which isn’t to say it wasn’t pretty good.
After I climbed/slid/fell back down I headed back to my campsite. Along the way I saw a buffalo herd
and some prairie dogs
The campground had filled up some, but was no where near full, and I settled in for what was going to be my first night in a tent without rain, though I didn’t know that at the time.