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Home, home on the ridiculously windy prairie.

Driving through the rolling hills and buttes (lol) of South Dakota was cool, but it paled in comparison to the jagged, rocky cliffs juxtaposed with lush, green prairies that went as far at the eye could see. We hadn’t even arrived at the entrance of the park and were already amazed. This was like nothing we’d ever seen before.

We’d arrived at the Badlands.

We stopped twice before even hitting the Visitor’s Center. The view was amazing. These formations were the strangest I’d ever seen. With various types of rock creating nifty designs, you could literally see back in time (stole that from the brochure). These mountains, or rock formations, or whatever you want to call them – pokey hills – I’m doing a terrible job of explaining this – went on forever. Here’s what I mean:

(That’s my finger up there.)

After getting past the visitor’s center and throwing hissy fits because we wanted to stay at different campsites, we figured it out, kissed and made up, found our site and set up our space station. We then realized we were pretty much in our neighbor’s campsite. I don’t know what exactly gave it away, maybe the fact that their tent (which was significantly less impressive that ours) was no less than five feet away. We got there first though so sorry, family of four, you get to listen to us giggle at our farts all night.

Next up – hiking. And lots of it. Being the young, strapping lads that we are, we took one of the hardest trials we could find (and that time allowed – it was getting to be evening) and set off. Going up a few hundred feet in elevation, we literally were scaling the cliffs at one point, we hiked and hiked until we went as high as we could. And it was worth it. Looking out over the top, we could see the South Dakotan prairie rolling beneath us, on and on. We could see bison (nope, just cows, we later found out) grazing in the distance. Behold:

Wow look at that

Like most awesome things like this, the pictures don’t do it justice. At all. I snatched a piece of rock for my things (you could literally just break it off the wall) and we hiked back down.

As night approached we went to our campsite to make food. Our neighbors let us borrow their equipment because ours wasn’t working. That’s what I love about camping – everyone looks out for each other. Even if one party intrudes on the other’s space and refuses to move.

We made grilled cheeses and heated up pre-cooked chicken from WalMart. For those of you rushing out to buy pre-cooked chicken from WalMart thinking that it’s a good idea because if it thaws out for too long it’s not a big deal (because that was my reasoning) – just risk the food poisoning. I’m 94% certain what we ate took a good 4 years from our lives. Two months later and I still think I’m still pooping it out.

As we moaned in pain from the food we ate we watched the beautiful sunset behind the rock formations/bathroom:

Into the chateau we went, ready for bed after a long day and an early wake up call. But mother nature is a bitch. The Badlands, as it turns out, is named so (at least partially so) because of it’s ridiculous extremes in weather. The wide, flat prairie that we slept in was like sleeping on the wing of a 747 during flight. It blew so hard that the tent nearly collapsed. It continuously bent in so far that throughout the entire night it hit parts of our bodies and woke us up. It really made me appreciate the struggle the three little pigs went through.

There was one saving grace – the night sky. The Badlands are known to have one of the clearest skies in the country, as there is virtually no light pollution (except that lovely bathroom) and we didn’t have many clouds. Looking up at the sky was insane – never had I seen so many stars. We could see everything, even planets. It seemed to make the wind more bearable. Then our feet got smacked again.

At the crack of dawn we were packed up and ready to go. Little did we know the fun in South Dakota wasn’t ending just yet.

(Fun fact about the Badlands: They were created by sediment and then erosion over time. The area that is the Midwest, especially the Dakotas, used to be covered by an enormous sea that built up the sediment. When the sea dried up, the Badlands were created through various types of wind and water erosion and, because it’s made of hard and soft rock, is constantly being washed away and built up again. That’s what makes them look the way they do. Bad news though, the Badlands could be gone relatively soon (in the geological sense) if the erosion keeps up. So you better go see them.)

Cheesy grits. Enough said.

Illinois and Iowa made Ohio and Indiana look like my grandma’s metaphorical backyard garden. Where in Ohio we saw a cornfield, in Illinois we saw a corn sea. Where cornfields dotted the highway in Indiana, highway dotted the cornfields in Iowa. Just driving through there made my poop look weird.

I knew this day was going to be the longest and prepared by bringing book two from the Game of Thrones series (which is actually called A Song of Ice and Fire but that couldn’t be farther from manly) and read one chapter. The rest of the time I wasn’t driving I frantically searched for cell phone reception. What a day.

Omaha, our next stop, is luckily right across the border of Nebraska. As we crossed the Missouri I snapped another great “Welcome to” sign picture:

We only had a few hours in Omaha, as our campsite was about 30 minutes west of the city. So we did what everyone does in Omaha, and got steak. This steak was phenomenal. Grab a napkin to wipe the drool from your computer because here’s a picture (with CHEESY GRITS. CAN LIFE GET BETTER.):

I took that knife for my collection (of things, not knives) and we went to get some dessert. For future reference, do enter an ice cream shop with a knife in your hand. Things could get weird.

After trolling around a nice little area of Omaha (after stopping at the car to get rid of the knife) we headed to the campsite, which was just outside a very small town called Fremont. Fremont was like a Midwestern spin on Toledo, but could have had a greater variety of lampshades. It was getting late when we finally got to our site, so we went to set up the tent I was borrowing from my aunt before the sun went down.

The tent had no poles. Which if you know anything about tents means it was now a huge, complex sleeping bag, or a tarp. Which is less than ideal for a week’s worth of camping.

Luckily, we were in the Midwest which means you’re never farther than 15 minutes from a Walmart. After purchasing a new tent (thanks Mom!) and discovering that the People of Walmart mostly come from the Fremont, NE store, we went back to the site to blindly set up our tent. Using our cell phones as flashlights we got it up only to realize we bought the penthouse of tents. A family of five and their dog could easily share it with room for clothes and a small kitchen. So we had some room to sprawl out.

Unfortunately the tent wasn’t sound proof. Every hour or so a train would go past the campsite, all night long, blowing its horn. And every time I woke up and for a split second thought we were under attack. It is obvious that my campsite picking abilities rival my “Welcome to” sign picture taking abilities.

After a sleepless night for the both of us, we tore down our canvas mobile home and headed to the first destination that we were really looking forward to – where trains couldn’t jar you awake and all the tents had poles: The Badlands of South Dakota.