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July Update

We interrupt your previously scheduled programming to provide a current update. We've been at home for awhile now since our trip West in the Scamp. About a week after arriving home, there was a  celebration of life for Gene, Julia's Dad, who died in hospice earlier this year.  In many ways, it was lovely; I'm not a big fan of funerals.   About twenty people gathered for an outdoor fish fry on a Friday afternoon at one of Gene's favorite restaurants on Lake Wisconsin.  Lots of people told stories about their experiences with Gene, and there was a poster board of photos from throughout his life.   Later, some of his ashes were spread on the water, where Gene loved to fish.  This week, Julia was kayaking on Lake Wisconsin, and a big perch jumped into her kayak.  Coincidence?  She thinks not.   Allie was home for a week.  I did some hiking with Allie and my niece Anna around Devil's Lake. Justin is home off and on for the remainder of the summer.  This is always an unce

Sage Creek Campground

As we drove west from Blue Earth, it started to rain steadily. And the forecast was for more rain on the next day. When it rains in the Badlands, the ground turns into a soft, sticky gumbo, known for trapping vehicles, trailers and shoes.

Plan A was to camp along Nomad’s View near Wall, South Dakota. I camped there several years ago. It’s free, and the view of the Badlands is beautiful. But the wet gumbo there is treacherous after periods of rain. So we went with Plan B. Sage Creek campground is also free and within the Badlands National Park.  It’s accessible to tents, truck campers and very small trailers after about a ten mile drive on winding, gravel roads. There was gumbo here also, but it was flat and more gravel.  To get to Nomad’s View, there is a steep, deeply rutted dirt road to climb.

Sage Creek Campground

Tenters camp on the inside of the circle. Outside the circle is a bit of a free-for-all for tents and small trailers. The photo above was taken from one of the high bluffs behind the campground, where I found, paradoxically, solitude and four bars of internet. 

We stayed here four nights. As the weekend approached, it became more and more crowded, until we eventually had to leave. Unlike most dispersed camping, people packed in tight, vehicles sometimes passing less than a foot from my doorstep in order to squeeze past our tenting neighbor, an older, disabled Asian gentleman from Chicago.

What is the draw for camping here?  I’m sure some people come simply because it’s free and on the way to Yellowstone. But for us and most others, it was the chance to camp with the wild bison found here.

These guys were just a few feet from the front of our camper. Now let’s get things straight.  Nearly all of our close viewing was done from inside the Scamp. At least a dozen of the animals came through every day.  

On the other hand, we saw quite a few people who seemed to think that these wild bison were in the same class as dairy cows.

And I didn’t get photos of the most amazing interactions. One of the tenters was loading his car trunk when a bison leaned into the open rear passenger door. Another time, a dog on a long rope broke its tether and began running after the closest bison. The bison’s tail went straight up ( a sign of agitation), and it squared off against the dog.  I honestly thought the dog was going to get killed.  But the bison did not charge, and the dog’s owner got it back to the vehicle.

There were parts of Sage Creek that I absolutely loved. The trails in the surrounding bluffs were amazing. The chance to see bison close-up on their turf was a privilege. In the end, I was defeated by the encroachment of crowds of people and associated human behavior. We eventually headed over to Nomad’s View, which had finally dried out. If I ever return to Sage Creek, it will be off-season and mid-week.

There are no bison at Nomad’s View, but there is more free space and quite a view.


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