The Magic of the 100th Meridian: Byebye Humidity, Hello Badlands

In the late 19th century, explorer John Wesley Powell wrote at length about the dividing line that separates the humid growth of the eastern U.S. from the arid sparsely-vegetated land of the west. After months of traveling east of that line we literally had a countdown to the date we’d cross back. Despite growing up and spending the first 31 years of my life in the Northeast I have found myself increasingly uneasy at the prospect of spending any length of time on the eastern side of that line; I do not enjoy the bugs or the humidity of course, but what I really don’t like is the claustrophobia I feel amongst the overgrowth of trees and weeds, and the inability to situate myself in the surrounding landscape. I hate not being able to see. So I began to feel relief as we traveled west through the plains of South Dakota, watching the horizon open up before my eyes. Soon enough the lush prairie grasses of Eastern and Central South Dakota began to dull and the rocky badlands began to punctuate the landscape; this was our cue to stop.

Badlands National Park was the first destination on my initial 2013 road trip that led to me being a permanently-mobile person and I remember being immediately enthralled. Upon returning I was again captivated by the eroded forms and the abundance of space. Because I’d already been there – and also because we were eager to get into the ponderosa forests of the Black Hills – we only spent one day exploring the pinnacles, buttes, bison, and prairie dogs but we certainly crammed in a lot. In addition to the obligatory stops at all the overlooks and pulloffs we took a few short walks and hikes resulting in us feeling thoroughly satisfied by the time we returned to our boondocking spot located just outside the park. From our campsite we enjoyed fantastic views of the sunset across the prairie as well as an impressive drop into the eroded canyons below.

Views from our campsite: