Day 5: The People We Meet

[THE WordPress App on my phone did not want to send yesterday, so yesterday’s post is showing up a tad late…]

I set my alarm for 5 am last night, anxious to photograph the sunrise in the badlands after the beautiful sunset I’d just witnessed. My internal clock kicked in and I woke up before my alarm at 4:57…Eastern Time.  My internal closk has not adjusted to Mountain Time yet.  I went back to bed for another two hours.

I hadn’t picked out a specific spot for sunrise, but I had a general area in mind. My sunrise shots were ok (despite a
bitingly cold wind I wasn’t prepared for). The just after sunrise light in the grassy canyon I photographed was magical. I couldve stayed there all day if the light hadn’t changed.

I was craving fresh vegetables after so many read-to-eat meals (McDougal Soups and trail mix isnt as horrible a diet as fastfood and potato chips, but still…) and I knew there was a small grocery in Wall, SD (yes, home of Wall Drug), so I decided to run some errands.  I stocked up on some fresh vegetables, peanut butter, laundry detergent and beer. You know…Roadtrip staples.  I picked up a few things for my nephew at the rock shop in town.  I filled every single one of my water bottles at a water fountain, having learned my lesson the night before that 32 ounces of water is not enough when camping in a primitive campground with no water supply.

It was a very bright, crystal clear day, which makes for some harsh light when photographing, but creates a great mood for going exploring. I visited and was oddly charmed by the small town of Interior, SD where the fire station is a large metal shed, the tiny grocery is staffed by some of the happiest people I’ve met on this trip and the school looks like its been there longer than the town.

I travelled highway 44 from Interior and along the southern edge of the Badlands.  It’s gorgeous and quiet there with views in every direction.  After a while I took a dirt road off of 44 and found my way back to the Sage Creek Primitive Campground.

It was still early afternoon, leaving my day wide open. I settled in camp, ate some vegetables, finished my Philip K. Dick novel and purchased new reading material without leaving camp.

An old pickup truck pulled up beside my campsite and out came an older gentlman carrying two books.

“I bet whatever you’re reading, what I’ve got for you is better.” He stated with a cheerful grin. “What’s your book about?”

I immediately thought ‘paster visiting the campground with free religious literature’ since that’s the only
book salesmen I’ve ever met while camping. So, I was amused to tell him my book was about a bishop who kept arguing against his own beliefs and searching for new beliefs until it was the end of him and everyone he loved(that’s a close enough synopsis…yes the book is depressing).

He rolled right over that with shake of his head and a “No comment. ” He then showed me his two books.  One
was a history of the badlands and the other was a guide to the badlands and nearby trails. They looked interesting and he wasn’t asking much for them, so I told him I’d buy them if he signed them. The guide book was co-written by his female companion, who exited the truck to chat once I showed interest.

They stayed for a bit talking about the Badlands.  When they found out I was a photographer they told me to visit Sheep Mountain Table, a nearby location.  They were going there themselves to go hiking after they finished their campsite rounds.  I was tempted, but passed due to the heat and my own sleepiness.

They left me with my books, a cheery wave and wishes for safe travels.

In his book Philip wrote to me:
“Welcome to the Badlands. See Sheep Mt Table late in the afternoon. Quench your thirst in the afternoon in the Longhorn Saloon but get out of town before Sundown.”

I know that the Longhorn Saloon is in Scenic, SD which is rumored to be something of a ghost town. I’m curious to see whether Philip’s book will have more to say on the subject.

Later in the afternoon they returned to give me the current conditions for a trail we’d discussed and to check if new campers had arrived.

I spent the rest of the afternoon reading (Philip’s book is a good read) and sketching. I’ll likely try my hand at some night sky photography tonight, catch the sunrise in the morning then depart for somewhere in the general direction of Yellowstone.

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