Badlands, SD

Going to break the fourth wall here for a second.

This road trip around the West was something that I knew I would want to remember for a long time, so I decided to keep a running journal to tell a story about every park I visited. It was just a pen and a notebook in my tent, by a lantern at times. So, depending on the day, some of my entries were ecstatic, and others were a little sour. I would say this day was a bit sour.


I woke up and packed up while being steadily eaten alive by mosquitoes. It rained overnight, and my campsite location by the White River did not help the disgusting number of insects either. The DEET bug spray did not help in the slightest. At least the birds were happy about it, diving and swarming over the bridge next to the campground. Another reason to love birds. I cheered them on.

The one lone tree I saw at Badlands. This really is the plains.
This was actually a beautiful park, but I just wasn’t having it that day.

Groggy and mildly irritated, miffed about the weakness of the black coffee I’d had, I mechanically set about the Castle/Medicine Root loop trail at Badlands. The rock formations were interesting of course, but they didn’t strike any awe or inspiration in me as these places usually do. I tried to be impressed for the sake of enjoying myself, but the MOSQUITOES would not allow me any glimmer of that sort.

[Begin rant about the mosquitoes.]

Squinting out at the long rows of white shark teeth protruding straight out of the grassland, those incessant sky-maggots literally sung their evil song in my ears at all times. I must have looked like a crackhead to anyone watching from afar. But the things were IN my EYES and IN my EARS, the only places that I did not drench in bug spray. This is what I drove this far from Florida to escape. This hot humidity, these satan-spawned flocks of parasites. I might just spray my eyeballs directly with DEET next time, if only to be left alone for one stinking second.

[End rant. Ahem.]

Despite my mood and many insect bites, I happily ran into the friendly hikers I had met the previous day at Wind Cave. I grinned and greeted them, and bid them goodbye as we continued on the trail in opposite directions.

The markers for this trail were a little hard to see at times amongst the tall grass and flowers. The Castle Trail markers were red, as seen on the right of the picture above. And if memory serves, the Medicine Root trail markers were green, a terrible color choice if they wanted it to stand out in this place. About half of the loop I took was the Castle Trail, ending at the rock formation in this picture. The Medicine Root trail had the bulk of the mosquitoes, so I would suggest just taking Castle in both directions.
What you don’t see: the swarms of bugs in my eyes.

But except for that one moment, I really hated this trail at Badlands, not the fault of the beautiful and enigmatic park, but just the fluke in the weather and bugs. Halsey sure seemed to like it. So I put on her album called Badlands on the drive out, my mood raised a little, but still determined to go find a cold beer in the middle of South Dakota.

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