This was the Cedar Pass campground Wednesday night around dusk. Nearly every spot was full. See us way in the back? Here is the campground the next day at noon. Nearly every spot is empty. I guess this is a one night kind of place because the campground once again filled up last night. It’s a cool campground with wide open views and covered picnic shelters at each site. I suspect that part of the reason for such short stays is that while the wide open layout is nice on the eyes, it also makes makes for somewhat inhospitable camping. The winds are pretty unrelenting here, and the lack of shade combined with the sun’s strong rays make it hard to sit outside and enjoy the view. We did get get out for a short hike yesterday morning before the sun turned into a blazing inferno above. This was posted at the beginning of the trail. The soaring spires and deep canyons of the Badlands were formed about 500,000 years ago when water began to cut through the rock layers of what was formerly a flat flood plain. The erosion is ongoing still today- at an average of 1-inch per year. With every rain storm more sediment is washed away and a towering peak one day can tumble to the ground the next. Don’t worry, this wild and other worldly place isn’t going away anytime soon, but it is estimated that in 500,000 years they will cease to exist all together. That’s only a life time of 1 million years which is actually pretty short in geologic terms. The trail wound through the eroded peaks and buttes… up a log ladder… past a steep cliff… and to the top of a ridge with a spectacular view. We drove part of the park loop road and stopped at a few lookout spots to take in the view. Phin didn’t get to go on the hike with us because his dogginess means he’s not allowed on the trails here. He wouldn’t have liked the log ladder anyway:) He spent the morning snoozing on the bed & watching out the window instead. Things got pretty wild around here last night when a violent thunderstorm rolled in. We watched as the sky turned an erie deep blue color and lightening flashed off in the distance. For awhile it seemed that the storm would stay north of us, but then suddenly the wind shifted and it was upon us. A fierce wind whipped through the campground blowing over anything not tied down and pelting us with gravel and debris. We quickly shoved all our outside gear in the truck and retreated into the airstream to ride out the storm. We felt pretty safe in our sturdy little capsule, but I was worried for all the campers in tents. We lay on the bed for awhile watching out the back window as jagged bolts of lightening streaked across the sky while the wind howled and rain poured down around us. The storm went on for hours. Even when the rain stopped the wind continued to blow through the night and lingered into the morning. I only saw one collapsed tent this morning, but I bet it was a restless night for some. I am still adjusting to the change into the mountain time zone, and as a result have been waking up incredibly early the past 2 days. This morning I even caught the sun as it rose over the jagged peaks. Today we will continue west into the Black Hills where we plan to make a quick drive by visit at Mt. Rushmore before (hopefully) finding a spot at one of the many forest service campgrounds. We just realized that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally starts this coming Monday which means about 400,000 people and motorcycles will be swarming the area and taking over the campgrounds. From everything we’ve heard it can be tough to find a camping spot anywhere in the Black Hills while the rally is going on. Since the options are stay here till it’s over or drive straight through to the other side of the Black Hills, neither of which appeals to us, we will try to find a spot for the night. All of the forest service campgrounds have a number of non-reservable sites available only on a first-come-first-serve basis. I’m hoping that this policy combined with the lack of facilities at forest service campgrounds will mean that we find an open site. If not it’s Wyoming here we come! Wish us luck.
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