That Time We Ended Up in South Dakota...


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We were running east on Route 40 when we saw that thru travel was closed as a result of the Native lands closing off access to the reservation due to COVID. We changed tack and jumped up on I-90 instead, a little disappointed that we were on a four lane highway so soon. Once back at the town of Wall we turned south and shortly turned onto Sage Creek Road. The landscape was flat and sparse...


Our intent was to make our way to the National Grasslands that lay south of the Badlands National Park to find dispersed camping as it is not allowed within the NP itself. But than we stumbled upon the Sage Creek Campground, a NP site, and realized if we stayed there it would give us an earlier start in the mornings than having to roll out of the Grasslands. So finding a spot we claimed it.


The campground is a circular drive with tent sites within the oval of the road. It’s a first come first served affair with a pay station kiosk. Pay your fee, post the tag at your site and your good to go. The track pitches towards the campsites for drainage so a vehicle doesn’t sit level parked at the site. We opted to move away from folks and parked in an overflow area that was level and a bit apart. The neighbors were nosey though.


Camp pitched we walked up on the ridge above camp and checked out the view.


And than we checked out the course of Sage Creek.


Here the creek was pretty dry and long pools of still water made up the creek bed. There was just enough flow to say it was running but hardly. Along the banks we came across some odd geology in the form of cannondale formations. Large egg shaped conglomerates of sand stone with black centers. You could see them up on the banks and as erosion worked them free they tumble to the creek bed and break apart. Pretty cool rocks.

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As the sun set a lone Buffalo bull wandered through camp unconcerned as could be by the campers.


But he minded his own business and the others campers did as well and the evening transpired nicely.


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Morning came and as the glow of dawn was still behind the ridges we started about our day. We decided to run Sage Creek road back to the east along the northern area of the Badlands.


Wildlife was everywhere. Pronghorns, Bighorn Sheep, Muleys and Buffalo were easy to spot.

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The geology started getting interesting. Out the drivers side of the truck was flat grasslands, but the passenger side scenery was beginning to look otherworldly.

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The Badlands were dramatically different than our regular haunts and it just kept getting better as we drove.



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We spent two days wandering the Badlands. I have way too many photos to share here so I won’t clutter up with a ton of pics. The last evening as we rolled northeast of the National Park we came across a little private family owned museum, the Prairie Homestead. On this site is one of last remaining sod houses that the pioneers built when they settled the area. As both history and architecture buffs we couldn’t pass it up. And neither should you, its really fascinating.

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The root cellar...

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There was even a sod chicken coop...


On the grounds stood an old barn/shed that was a later addition. Walking through it was like drifting through my granddad’s barn back in my youth.


Further up the road we stopped at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site and got swept up in the Cold War.

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It was getting late and as we left the Minuteman museum we were making for old the Atlas missile site which would close at 5:00. We rolled in just minutes before and we’re greeted by a couple of rangers who flagged us in and told us to take our time.

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As we rolled out the Rangers closed the gate behind us and came up to BS. Here the one ranger, a South Dakota native, saw our Pennsylvania license plate and wanted to tell us how beautiful our state was. Here he goes hunting every year in PA and coincidentally his hunting camp was just around 15 miles from our house. The universe is an odd place.

Afterwards we rolled back into camp for the evening...



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That evening after supper we hiked up into the Sage Creek Wilderness as the access for it was at the campground. This area is open to backpacking dispersed camping and we were curious to see what we could find. We walked 3 or 4 miles up into the Wilderness Area as it pulled us further in like a rip tide of grassy currents. Buffalo were singularly encounter and a couple of times we had to make a circuitous course change around them.

There’s been only a few places outside of the hemlock hollers of home that tugged at my soul. Mica Hill in Nova Scotia, the coast of New Brunswick and now the Sage Creek Wilderness made me feel at home. I could have easily grapped my Hawkens rifle, possible bag, traveling pack and a ration of salt and disappeared into the prairie. You’d find me years later adorned in Buffalo and coyote hides, aged by weather and still wandering from my dugout shelter. But than my pretty wife slapped me with reality and we headed back to camp.

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Next morning we packed up and said goodbye, for now, to South Dakota. East bound and down we dropped into Nebraska and than Iowa just to say we’ve been there. We stayed off the interstate and took the long way home rolling down two lane asphalt through farmlands and low rolling hills. two days to reach home, and my wife spent about every minute planning more trips out west.

The trip was just spectacular for us. The weather was perfect the whole trip. We met some nice people, saw things and critters our eyes had never beheld before and came to a better understanding of what awaits a Ridgerunner outside the hemlock lined hollers. It was one of our best trips and I’m glad we just said and took off. Plans are great but we are finding that just roaming and seeing where you end up is a lot less stressful way to travel. No deadlines, SOPs, expectations, lists just chasing what joy you can find.

Thanks for tagging along with our wander.

Thanks for tagging along with our wander
Thanks for taking us with you! I loved South Dakota, and could see myself living there. Both of our trips through the area were while coming back from dropping our daughter off in Seattle. Both trips we 42 and 31 days to wander home. But by the time we's spent a few days in SD, Deb was like a horse that see's the barn, and was more eager to get home than do more exploring. :(

We're definitely going back for more!


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It was one of our best trips and I’m glad we just said and took off. Plans are great but we are finding that just roaming and seeing where you end up is a lot less stressful way to travel. No deadlines, SOPs, expectations, lists just chasing what joy you can find.
THIS. 1,000,000,000 times THIS!

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