After driving through some of the scenic spots in the Badlands, we still had the entire afternoon ahead of us. A hike was in order.
Given the topography of Badlands, the buttes that pop up and the rock formations that jut out of the ground, there are not too many well-defined and marked trails within the park. With a GPS and topo map, there is endless exploring that can be done, but we were in the mood for something a little simpler.
As Kyle drove, I read the trail map and description aloud. “Oooh, this one looks good. It says ‘Very steep trail. Takes you to the top of the rock formations on the wall with a view of the whole park.’ Hey, I think we should do this one!.”
Kyle responded, “Sounds good, where is it?” After glancing at the map we set out for the trail.
“Hmm, this looks like it. We just passed that hairpin turn, and the trail is right after the hairpin turn on the left. And look there’s the pull out.”
As we were getting ready by the car, we thought it was a little odd that there was no trail sign marking it.. But the trail was so obvious and clear, and it was only a .5 mile trail, so there was nothing to worry about.
We scrambled up the rocks, probably only going a tenth of a mile forward, but rising at least 500 feet. The trail was clear, and while it wasn’t an easy one, the path was very distinct.
After about 500 feet of elevation gain, we got to a tricky part of the trail. “Umm, Kyle, that goes just straight up. And it’s soft, slippery, loose, clay with no hand or foot holds. I’m not going up there until I’ve seen you do it.”
So Kyle attempted to scramble up the rock face. I seriously am not exagerrating when I explain that it was straight up. Maybe the slope didn’t quite have a value of 1, but it was pretty darn close. After some scouting out, he said, “The trail just disappears. Completely. We can’t keep going from here.”
Defeated, we retraced our steps back down to the car. We continued driving down the road, and came upon the actual trailhead that we were looking for.
Later, in the visitors center we explained what had happened to someone that worked there. “Oh yah,” she said, “We’ve had a ton of rain this summer, and it’s worn away a lot of paths that look like trails. Really unusual how much rain we’ve had this summer. And yah, I can see why it was a tricky hike- we all know how water likes to take the shortest, steepest path from point A to point B.”