Monday, November 1, 2010

Light and Shadows

I don't know this Dad and his little boy. The mom in me wanted to go snatch the little guy from the edge of the cliff. But another part of me thought it perfectly illustrated the vastness of the Badlands of South Dakota. (And besides that, I figured my uncoordinated self was much more likely to fall over the edge than this young duo!)

The Badlands National Park is another one of those "you've-got-to-see-it-to-believe-it" places. It's also a place where amateur photos just don't capture how beautiful it truly is (kind of like the Grand Canyon photos). But, of course, that didn't keep me from attempt after attempt!

It's amazing how much the landscape changes from one overlook to the next - from browns, to reds to yellows and tints in between. The Lakota Indians knew the place as mako sica. Early French trappers called the area les mauvaises terres a traverser. Both mean "bad lands."

Closeup, the unyielding land seems anything but beautiful or productive. But the sweeping landscapes of peaks, gullies, buttes and wide prairies help you overlook the unforgiving soil.

Conservation writer Freeman Tilden described the region as "peaks and valleys of delicately banded colors - colors that shift in the sunshine ... and a thousand tints that color charts do not show."

The mid-morning sun on the rocky formations was a study in light and shadows.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright wrote in 1935: "I've been about the world a lot and pretty much over our own country, but I was totally unprepared for that revelation called the Dakota Badlands. What I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious elsewhere - a distant architecture, ethereal ... and an endless supernatural world more spiritual than earth but created out of it."

Even in the majesty of creation, the trip was not without its lighter moments - courtesy of my traveling companion.

And no, despite the warning sign, we did not see any rattlesnakes on this trip.

One more aside: I started this post with a little boy, so I'll send it with another. Our "little boy" is certainly glad he and his sister weren't along for the ride on this scenic trip. He says that 1,800 miles of togetherness in the back seat might have resulted in mayhem ... unless they united in their joint disdain for the trip.

As someone who spent her childhood vacations in the backseat with her head in a book, I understand the sentiment.

Give him 30 years or so. Then he might see it through new eyes. I know I did.


  1. Thank you for sharing these photos! They are wonderful. I haven't been to the Badlands since I was little---and my Dad and I did exactly what you shared in the first photo! Thanks so much for a warm memory of my Dad. This holiday season will be difficult without him, so I appreciate all the joyous memories!

  2. I'm so glad they brought back good memories for you! Thinking of you as you adjust to your new realities - the pain of missing your dad and the joy of a beautiful new granddaughter. Thanks so much for commenting!