Last day in the Badlands

Trip Start Aug 17, 2008
Trip End Oct 2008

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Friday, August 29, 2008

Today was my last day in the Badlands, and I decided to cap off this park visit with a nice long hike.  I took the Castle/Medicine Root trail, which is about 7 miles through fairly flat terrain.  While it is relatively flat and therefore lacks any significant physical challenge, this was one of the most enjoyable hikes of the last few days because of the intense isolation and quiet on the trail.  Over the entire 6+ miles of trail I passed a total of 4 people, 2 of them within the first half mile from the trail head.

This walk also provided an interesting contrast to my previous sojourns into the park: on all the other significant trails throughout the Badlands you tend to be navigating your way through a never-ending series of peaks and valleys, never reaching a top or a bottom.  No matter how high you get, there's always some spire above you that's impassable; no matter how low you get there's always some treacherous ravine you can't enter (well... you could... but the return would be problematic).

The fractal nature of the peaks and valleys also lends itself to a loss of scale - it's actually quite difficult to judge how far away a given feature might be, because there are so many like it in shape in the immediate vicinity, but scaled drastically up and down.

These landscape features combined to give me the feeling of being permanently suspended, never reaching a state of equilibrium.  After 3 days of this, the long and meditative trek through parched plains and prairie was just the tonic I was looking for.

Plus, as I came close to the original trail head, I stumbled across a small herd of Bighorn.  I got a bunch of clear shots, but most of them were of sheep butts so I picked just the ones that showed something a little more interesting.
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