On Thursday I spend most of the day driving to Badlands National Park in South Dakota. It was not a direct route at all so I got to see a lot of farm land, but I eventually made it to the park. Badlands is a very scenic park with a lot of convenient overlooks from which you can view the eroding cliffs and surrounding grasslands. The rocks are constantly eroding exposing about 75 million years of the fossil record dating back to when the area was beneath the sea. The fossil area is quite interesting to visit. You can also see animals such as the bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dog, and a variety of birds and some snakes.
After getting into the park and locating my camp ground, I went for an afternoon hike. There are surprisingly few hiking tails in Badlands. I chose the Saddle Pass trail from some reason and found that this trail begins with a slippery climb up a steep path with loose gravel all the way up. I slipped several times, but didn’t really fall down. The worst part was the trip back down which I had to take very slowly with my heavy backpack on. Anyway this trail ends at a plateau where you can go left or right on the Castle Trail. I took this trail out to the fossil exhibit area and back.
It was hot and dusty, but the walk was pretty easy. There were a lot of wildflowers and I took some photos.
But on the way back, I found a small herd of bighorn sheep. I waited around for the sheep to stand such that they had light on their face and were looking towards me as I didn’t want a bunch of photos of sheep butts nor did I want any butts from the sheep for that matter. Below is one apparently looking at me.
Later on this sheep decided that one of the trail markers needed attention and then went back to grazing with its herd mates. They didn’t seem very worried about people watching them.
There were sheep and bison, but I think have enough bison photos already.
Next I went to the Door Trail to see about a possible place to shoot the night sky. This isn’t so much a trail as a little walk out on the rocks to a formation called the door. The nice thing about this place is that it faces south and the sky was supposed to be clear and moonless that night. Below is a photo showing the banded cliffs looking to the south.
I got up at about 1:30AM and drove back to this spot to see the Milky Way. The sky was nice and dark and the Milky Way was quite visible. I didn’t walk as far from the parking lot as I didn’t really want to stumble around in the dark. There seemed to be regular air traffic in the sky at this hour and I struggled to get a photo without an airplane in it.
I was hoping that at least a small amount of moon would be in the sky to put some light on the landscape, but there was no moon on this night so all I had was star light. In hindsight, I should have taken a very long exposure to get a better image of the landscape to then merge with sky in Photoshop. What landscape I have is very under-exposed and noisy.