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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

A New Kind of Hike

~Tuesday, May 31, 2022~

Day 716

As predicted, the winds sustained all night at around 20 mph, making it hard to get a good sleep. We’re right on the edge of the canyon which probably doesn’t help matters. But it wasn’t so much the wind that kept us up as it was the slide awnings flapping incessantly over our heads. Here's just a sample of what it looks/sounds like from inside the trailer (maybe turn up the volume a bit).

I guess one bad night’s sleep won’t kill us. O.k. I have one more complaint and then I’ll move on……the nice dry ground that we had when we arrived is now saturated and making a ooey, gooey muddy mess. Try keeping that from getting in a nice clean trailer, especially with a 4-legged pooch. Hopefully the ground will dry out quickly. 😩

Really looking forward to a little “O Be Joyful Hour” with our new friends Alec and Denise whom we met at Devils Tower last week. With the bad weather they had arriving in the Badlands yesterday, they had concerns about setting up in a muddy mess, boondocking where we are. So instead, they decided to stay at Cedar Pass Lodge Campground inside the national park (about a 30-minute drive from where we are). Setting up camp in rain and mud doesn’t sound too appealing.

The weather hung in there today for some hiking, so the Castle Trail it was. We drove by it the other day, fascinated with what we saw. The Castle Trail is the longest maintained trail in Badlands National Park, stretching over 5 miles on the northern edge of the 60-mile Badland Wall (the Badland wall is what separates the upper prairie to the north from the lower prairie to the south). Hmm…..we can’t remember the last time we hiked through a prairie.

Think of it like the “backcountry” of The Badlands. Most of the trail is on flat prairie but then wanders occasionally into the spires and buttes topography. No wildlife spotted today, but we did see wildflowers interspersed throughout the trail. We knew we wouldn’t have time to do the entire length since we had to get back to our campsite by 5:30, but we did have time to add the Saddle Pass spur trail, about 2 miles into the Castle Trail.

And boy was it steep as most passes are! Hiking poles would have been nice but didn’t think to bring them since we weren’t planning on anything steep originally. I ended up straddling the trail with my feet, much of the descent, going ever so slowly. Doing this extra trail added another mile to our already 4-mile journey. But once we got to the bottom of it, we had an option of taking the road back to where we started or going back up the pass. We started back on the road, but within minutes it was clear that this would take us longer since we’d have to go around a segment of the mountain. Going back up the pass was a much better option, and more scenic. As I always say, going up is sooo much easier than going down, plus you get the cardio benefits!

We made great time getting back to our campsite before Alec and Denise showed up. I was busy prepping a few appetizers while Jeff met a couple camping next to us from Georgia. They’re on a 2-week vacation traveling with their kids with the ultimate goal of getting to Yellowstone. Nice family.

Alec and Denise showed up about 6:00 with salami, cheese and beer to add to the mix. With the wind and cold, we decided to hunker down inside. And boy did the time fly! While the boys talked about family lineage and history, Denise and I chatted about our families and current events. Trying not to lose our faith in humanity in light of the devastating events in Texas and other parts of the world, Denise said something that really struck me…….. “with all the negative things going on in the world today, when you’re on the road, meeting new people who love experiencing new things, you see mostly the good.” Now you certainly don’t need to be a traveler to witness that, but it is true, there is a lot of good in the world. You just need to know where to look. I would like to think that everyone begins every day with a sense of optimism. But turn on that radio or news channel, the joy-happy balloon deflates in a matter of seconds. Speaking from my experience in talking with others, and for myself, I think most road travelers tune much of the negative stuff out, choosing to be more present in what they’re doing, than with what is going on in the world. Anyway, I don’t know if I’m making any sense, but just thought I’d share a little full-time RV’er perspective.

What we thought was going to be a happy HOUR turned into FOUR, which we loved. Plus they still had a 30-minute drive back to their campsite. If it wasn’t for the trash dumpster directly across from Denise and Alec’s campsite in Devils Tower,

we may never have met. Being the talented writer that he is, I was delighted with what Alec texted me later…..”Travel is about landscapes, but for me, it’s even more about the people we meet.” Amen to that! Hopefully our paths will cross again in 2023. Who knows, we may just take a side trip back to that “Green Mountain State” to pay them a visit next year.

Looking forward to getting out of this wind. And it looks like we’re in for decent weather for our travel day tomorrow. 👏👏

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