The very next weekend after our 1880 Train ride, we got in free to something else, Badlands National Park! Terry had found out about the free entrance when he had taken the kids to Main Street Square (where he got the eclipse glasses) while I was working. Nation wide, all the parks were free that Saturday, August 25, 2017, to celebrate the National Parks Service's 101 anniversary.
At just about the same time last year, we had spent our first day in the Badlands for our Staycation and had a fantastic time. This time we remembered not to bring a dog (poor Snap dog is gone this year anyway), but we forgot which exit we had taken off the interstate before. We went way further to Exit 131 at Interior. I liked last year's drive better when we went south at Wall. Since we entered a different way, we found different hikes that we had never been near last year. First we did the Door Trail.
We climbed around on the parking lot side of Badlands outcroppings before we found the actual trail. Ezra had to use his hands to climb up there.
Perhaps this was the "door" in the trail? The path itself was actually behind us but we didn't know it.
We finally came to the boardwalk and followed it down. A nice fellow tourist offered to take our family photo. I had forgot our nice camera, but since it's messed up from the snowball, that's probably okay. No, it still would've taken better pictures than an iPhone I think.
Through another "door"?
The trail followed these yellow stakes out into the middle of nowhere but it was very pretty. We climbed out further onto a higher rock and swapped photos with another couple.
A little closer...
One of daddy's selfies.
And one of mommy's.
It was beautiful. The weather couldn't have been more perfect. It was just warm enough not to be cold. Usually it bakes out there so it was a good day to go.
Back at that "door."
I scraped our name in the hard white dirt.
Back at the boardwalk I had the kids climb the nearest rock wall thing. It looked cooler in my mind but I couldn't get high enough to be at their level and get the rocks behind them.
Next we drove to the Visitor Center where they were giving out cake and fresh squeezed lemonade. Yummy. We also filled our camelbacks. From there we drove west just a couple miles to the same Saddle Pass Trail they had done last year without me (because Snap wasn't allowed to go I stayed behind).
Samuel had talked about this trail all year so he was obviously excited to do it again, as was I since I hadn't last year. This photo was from once we got to the top. As the above sign says it's a quarter mile practically straight up and then you emerge onto the plain beyond. There are Terry and the kids making their way to that high rock point.
We had to wait for a turn to get to up to that high point.
This was a pretty narrow place and I kept my hands on Ezra the whole time.
A little closer...
Looking left/east where we had climbed up.
Heading back down from that high point and you can see the plain I mentioned with some hiking trails criss crossing it - we went out to that X where they meet. This part of the Badlands, and especially this hike, is just like a wall. The rocks sort of stop beyond it.
Before he followed us down, Terry took one more picture looking straight out. That is the parking lot where we started from. You can see the trail on the left maybe...
Back to where we first ascended.
The grass came right up to the rocks. It was pretty.
About to head back down the trail.
Here we are back down again.
We had a lovely time in the Badlands that day. We drove up the Badlands Loop Road and then took Sage Creek Rim Road down again to Highway 44. It was a lot less scenic than I was hoping for, all there was was terrible wash board gravel and miles and miles of devastating prairie dog towns. The park has let the prairie dogs completely destroy the land. It's ridiculous and sad and infuriating that they've just let them spread, eating up the land. That reminds me, I was going to send them a comment telling them so. Anyway, once back in town we ate at On The Border, just like last year. It's become a tradition!