Quackgrass Sally: On the Trail 10-10-11 | TheFencePost.com

Quackgrass Sally: On the Trail 10-10-11

Quackgrass Sally
Ranch Wife & Trail Gal

I just returned from a wonderful week long, whirl-wind adventure to one of America’s most fascinating and underestimated states, South Dakota. Myself and several other journalists, from the U.S. and abroad, were invited by the Tourism Dept. to be Governor Daugaard’s guests, to view for ourselves the wonders of their state.

If you have never been to South Dakota, it’s well worth the trip to experience the many varied and spectacular sights throughout it. Rolling grass lands lead the way to pine-scented canyons filled with hiking trails and sparkling water falls. Here is where Kevin Costner filmed “Dances with Wolves” and has built a museum honoring the Native American and buffalo in Deadwood. South Dakota is home to the famous “Buffalo Roundup” in Custer State Park, where annually, over a thousand bison are gathered by horseback-riders and pickups from out of the prairie hills into corrals for vaccinations and branding. It is where Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse memorials, carved from the very heart of South Dakota’s mountains, honor America’s history. Modern cities offer world class museums and of course, Sturgis is the Mecca for motorcyclist with its annual rally and top-chart music concerts.

One of my favorite stops was at Badlands National Park in the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota. It is a strange yet beautiful place, with outstanding geological formations. Like ancient castle spires rising above the desolate horizon, a wonderland, 65 million years in the making, greets the eye. The Lakotas were the first people to live in this area and they called the Badlands “mako sica” or “land bad.” They were buffalo hunters and their culture flourished on the plains around this area. They used the steep cliffs as “buffalo jumps” where the animals were stampeded over the cliffs to their deaths for meat. With the movement west of white men, homesteaders and ranchers tried to make a living in the harsh land but later gave up their ground for the federal government to begin to form the Badlands National monument in 1909.

On March 2, 1929, the U.S. Congress passed a bill which was signed by President Calvin Coolidge, setting aside the lands to preservation in South Dakota. It was not until January 25, 1939, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the area Badlands National Monument and in 1978 it was re-designated as Badlands National Park.

Over millions of years, the Badlands have changed and grown into what we see today. The lands were influenced by the streams and fluctuating rains and snows, as well as the volcanic ash that occasionally blew in from the west. Today we view banded patchwork layers, in varied colors and textures. The layers are mostly mudstone and siltstone, very unstable materials, so unsubstantial that it is an exaggeration to even call it stone. Very little sediment has been added over the last million years, as the dirt is being carried away by the White, Bad, and Cheyenne Rivers. Today it is one of the world’s most rapidly dissolving landscapes, ever changing with the seasons.

We arrived at the Badlands just before early twilight, traveling from the visitors’ center at Cedar Pass, along excellently maintained roads carved through breathtaking scenery. We stopped at Notch Trail, wandering a path away from the parking lot and into an almost prehistoric panorama. Deep crevices by the thousands stretched out in all directions before us, amid spires in a myriad of shapes and sizes, all made from the dry, crusty-clay kind of dirt. I learned that more than 250 types of mammal fossils have been found here, with more being exposed with every rainstorm. It is a Paleontologist’s paradise and one of the premiere sites of the Titanothere (rhinoceros-like) and ancestral horse fossils in the world.

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In the evolving twilight, vivid shades of pinks, purples and golds danced across the landscape, changing with the setting sun behind us. We journalists shot our photographs while keeping our voices hushed, reverent to the spirit of the land framed in our lenses. One unusual mud formation reminded me of a giant turtle, caught there forever, frozen in time, a reminder that we are but a speck in the time-line of the earth. If you can, take in this natural Badlands wonderland.

I just returned from a wonderful week long, whirl-wind adventure to one of America’s most fascinating and underestimated states, South Dakota. Myself and several other journalists, from the U.S. and abroad, were invited by the Tourism Dept. to be Governor Daugaard’s guests, to view for ourselves the wonders of their state.

If you have never been to South Dakota, it’s well worth the trip to experience the many varied and spectacular sights throughout it. Rolling grass lands lead the way to pine-scented canyons filled with hiking trails and sparkling water falls. Here is where Kevin Costner filmed “Dances with Wolves” and has built a museum honoring the Native American and buffalo in Deadwood. South Dakota is home to the famous “Buffalo Roundup” in Custer State Park, where annually, over a thousand bison are gathered by horseback-riders and pickups from out of the prairie hills into corrals for vaccinations and branding. It is where Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse memorials, carved from the very heart of South Dakota’s mountains, honor America’s history. Modern cities offer world class museums and of course, Sturgis is the Mecca for motorcyclist with its annual rally and top-chart music concerts.

One of my favorite stops was at Badlands National Park in the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota. It is a strange yet beautiful place, with outstanding geological formations. Like ancient castle spires rising above the desolate horizon, a wonderland, 65 million years in the making, greets the eye. The Lakotas were the first people to live in this area and they called the Badlands “mako sica” or “land bad.” They were buffalo hunters and their culture flourished on the plains around this area. They used the steep cliffs as “buffalo jumps” where the animals were stampeded over the cliffs to their deaths for meat. With the movement west of white men, homesteaders and ranchers tried to make a living in the harsh land but later gave up their ground for the federal government to begin to form the Badlands National monument in 1909.

On March 2, 1929, the U.S. Congress passed a bill which was signed by President Calvin Coolidge, setting aside the lands to preservation in South Dakota. It was not until January 25, 1939, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the area Badlands National Monument and in 1978 it was re-designated as Badlands National Park.

Over millions of years, the Badlands have changed and grown into what we see today. The lands were influenced by the streams and fluctuating rains and snows, as well as the volcanic ash that occasionally blew in from the west. Today we view banded patchwork layers, in varied colors and textures. The layers are mostly mudstone and siltstone, very unstable materials, so unsubstantial that it is an exaggeration to even call it stone. Very little sediment has been added over the last million years, as the dirt is being carried away by the White, Bad, and Cheyenne Rivers. Today it is one of the world’s most rapidly dissolving landscapes, ever changing with the seasons.

We arrived at the Badlands just before early twilight, traveling from the visitors’ center at Cedar Pass, along excellently maintained roads carved through breathtaking scenery. We stopped at Notch Trail, wandering a path away from the parking lot and into an almost prehistoric panorama. Deep crevices by the thousands stretched out in all directions before us, amid spires in a myriad of shapes and sizes, all made from the dry, crusty-clay kind of dirt. I learned that more than 250 types of mammal fossils have been found here, with more being exposed with every rainstorm. It is a Paleontologist’s paradise and one of the premiere sites of the Titanothere (rhinoceros-like) and ancestral horse fossils in the world.

In the evolving twilight, vivid shades of pinks, purples and golds danced across the landscape, changing with the setting sun behind us. We journalists shot our photographs while keeping our voices hushed, reverent to the spirit of the land framed in our lenses. One unusual mud formation reminded me of a giant turtle, caught there forever, frozen in time, a reminder that we are but a speck in the time-line of the earth. If you can, take in this natural Badlands wonderland.