Sent: Sunday, August 19, 2001 5:49 PM
Subject: Badlands

After driving across the rest of SD on Thursday, with a few stops for gas and at the "world famous Corn Palace" I  arrived at the Badlands.  Just after starting out for the day I stopped at this really small town a few miles of the interstate to buy some gas.  You know that you are the outsider when you are walking out of the gas station/grocery/cafe and you catch the old Amish guy furtively checking you out.  Here is a picture of the Corn Palace, don't bother if you are ever driving through, the pictures of the ones they made years ago look cool, but now it is just a building with a few ears of corn stapled to the outside. 
 Typical scenery on the drive
  Missouri River
I got to the Badlands and was immediately blown away.  Of course, it was cloudy, so the pictures here aren't the best but you get the idea.....
Stopped at the welcome station to talk to a ranger about good hikes and camping.  There was a free campground at the other end of the park where I planned to stay.  Headed out for an amazing drive through the park to the campground, along the way stopped at the prairie dog town, and just beyond that there was this herd of Bison....
After only a few hours in the park, I decided that everybody should go the Badlands before their time is up.  From what I hear, I will be saying that about a lot of places on this trip, so everybody reading this start planning your trips out West.
The van and the new tires seemed to be holding their own on the dirt road.  Got to the campground which was basically a big field with a few picnic tables and two composting bathrooms.  I was setting up the camper when two people walked over to introduce themselves.  Chris and Brooke had been admiring my van, as they had been searching for one before they started their trip.  We talked for a little bit, they were two weeks into a similar adventure, heading out West for a while, no real agenda or end in sight.  Turns out they were getting ready to head down the road to get some wine with the people camped next to them and asked me to join them.  That night nine of us sat around drinking wine, beer, and margaritas (until we ran out of mix, then it was just tequila).  As the night went on, we heard Coyotes barking and howling off in the wilderness, saw some shooting stars too.  Turns out we were all on some kind of similar trip.  Jamie and Lacy were two school teachers who had spent the summer in Colorado and were headed home.  Alex is a junior at NYU from Duluth who is taking a year off to go to Portland and snowboard, he was traveling with his high school friend Kai, who was mostly very quiet.  There was another couple whose names I can't remember that were from Florida and were also a few weeks into an open ended trip West.  The next day when Jamie and Lacy were leaving we all took a group shot around the van.  It was on my real camera so I can't share it with you yet, but everybody had a great time and seemed to really connect.  As I am writing this 2 weeks later I can tell you that I didn't fully appreciate it, because it was so early in the trip I didn't know that this doesn't happen everywhere, but as it turns out, even though I meet cool people everywhere, meeting a group like that was somewhat unique.  It was like some kind of crazy Karma thing that we all ended up in the same place at the same time, all at the same little corner of the campground.
After everybody took off that morning, I started getting ready to do some backpacking in the Badlands.....