Tuesday. September 12, 2017. Bandlands National Park.
We woke up this morning and hiked the Notch Trail, a 1.5 mile hike out and back to an overlook. It involved an old rickety ladder at one point, and is thus identified as a moderate to strenuous trail. That being the only taxing part of the trail, unless you are in the mood to climb on the steep and slippery rocks for a more exciting picture. The Bandlands are essentially a barren landscape that were formed by deposition and then erosion. You can see the different layers of the rocks, they are sharp and steep, and for the most part sturdy and unbreakable. It gives off a desert mixed with a “surface of the moon” vibe, at least to me. I was in awe of yet another national park to explore, and a very different scenery at that.
It was definitely different when considering the hour drive the day before; we had left large hills, an excessive amount of trees, winding roads, and numerous wildlife. So to find myself in a hot and dry atmosphere surrounded by some of the strangest rock formations I have ever seen, was definitely something that I could appreciate. My sister however, did not share the same appeal. My dad had previously told us that the Badlands are cool and worth driving through, but just rocks. So after about 30 minutes, that was my sister’s go to; claiming they were just rocks and all the same. Also, I clearly annoyed her with my desire for photos, lots of photos.
So when we made it back to the car, she sat there while I walked out to the end of the window trail (barely considered a trail, as it is just a .25 mile boardwalk) to get another view. We then drove along the Badlands loop road; it was all my dad had experienced in his past trip, and all the average person needs to I suppose. We drove about 25 miles of the rock formations, with several areas you can pull off and see some overlooks. There were always numerous people out with binoculars or the sort, looking for the wildlife; prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, and rattlesnakes being some of the most common. Fortunately we did not see any rattlesnakes on the trail, but we were anxious to see a bighorn sheep so we did park at several of the overlooks to no avail.
We had originally intended to spend the full day at the Badlands and camp in the wilderness, but it was not large or expansive enough to entertain us for that long. Thus my sister suggested we head for home instead, so we found our way back to I-90 in Wall. (It ended up being the better option anyways, as it was a long trip and we were able to stop and see our grandparents in Illinois the next evening.) As we were leaving the park, we saw some bighorn sheep crossing the road and venturing out into the prairie. We almost missed them, but alas we were able to see all of the unique wildlife for the state.
Thus, we were able to start the long drive through South Dakota and Iowa. That night, in the middle of BFE Iowa, my sister and I ended up having a rather large fight; due to spending a week together, exhaustion, and fragile emotions. It wasn’t pretty, but then again, when is a fight with your sister? We have always been really close, but easily annoyed and frustrated with the other. So fights between us have always been notoriously ugly. This was no exception, and took several hours and a hotel room allotting space between us, to help resolve.
Fortunately, during the drive the next day, we were able to regain some of our deep conversations from the drive out a week before. Of course there was a little bit of awkward/uncomfortable tension in the air, because of the word vomit that had been spewed the day before. This just reinforces my previous comments about traveling alone vs with a companion.
I truly enjoyed the time with my sister, and it was lovely to get to experience two national parks, two states, and three national monuments together. It is something we will remember forever. And fortunately the longer lasting memories I know will be positive and involve the experiences of the trip, but there is still a part that was tainted by negative emotions and disagreements.
This is of course, more reflective of traveling with a sister or family member. Even as someone who has not been in a serious long term relationship, the idea of traveling with a significant other, would hopefully have a more positive outcome. It is unlikely that some of the arguments my sister and I had, would be an issue with a SO. Being in a serious relationship, would force a degree of communication and problem solving, that my sister and I have never addressed.
I am not against traveling with a companion, and if the opportunity arises, I would go on another (maybe shorter) road trip with my sister. It is just that I thoroughly enjoyed the independent and carefree atmosphere of my trip earlier this summer. So there are definitely some pros and cons to either. Readers: who is your preferred travel companion, if any? What have been your experiences with such?
All in all, it was a very successful road trip, and a perfect week away from work. Allyson and I chose South Dakota, because it was sure to be an adventure and give us something different to enjoy for a solid week. However, another deciding factor, was the fact I would likely not need to see it all again. With my quest to mark off every national park, I wanted to use a week to see new places and work towards that goal; without the need to travel back there. South Dakota was definitely beautiful, but I have been there and done that now. I do not feel an urge to go back. Whereas with Yosemite, it is so majestic and grand, that I will HAVE to visit again… I am not sure if the reasoning makes sense, but in my head it does.