Friday, February 27, 2015

Good times in Bad Lands

So I haven't posted since September - just after our Badlands trip.  Let's just say sending your baby to kindergarten is one of those life events that changes everything! The good news is we haven't had a vacation since, so I'm not behind on blogging in the vacation department...

This trip was the last big hurrah before school started.  We went Labor day weekend seeking adventure.  We had a fabulous time!  We spent 3 nights sleeping in the back country and the days hiking in and out.  We couldn't cover too much distance because there's no water, so we had to carry enough for the time we were out - and when you're 2 people carrying water and gear for 3 campers, there are limits!

 Here's our young outdoor's man all loaded with his "share" of the gear.  He carried his sleeping bag and clothes.  There was also a water bladder in there - his "gas" for the hiking.
 The weather was nearly perfect.  At dusk everyday there was a strange phenomenon where it became very windy for an hour or so.  We were trying to settle down for the night in our tent and had to listen to it flapping and flapping in the wind.
The first day we hiked to the backcountry to find a place to camp, Noah spotted a porcupine!  He waddled off before I could catch him in a picture.  We also spotted some larger animals bounding on the prairie in the distance.
 We filled up our cells with lots of strong prairie sunshine.  It was much needed!  It helped us all to fun.
 The landscapes were terrific!
 I love the picnic shelters that the park service puts out there!  Yes, even though we enjoyed soaking up all that sunshine, we couldn't take THAT much of it since we're from a cloudy place and unfortunately spend a lot of time indoors.
The second and third nights, we left from this same parking lot and picnic area.  There's something of a trail out here that we thought we could follow to get into a "forest" area.  The trail wasn't very clear (we should have done a little more homework, so it would have been easy to follow), but we did make it to the forest we wanted to see.
 We followed "the wash" for a long ways - until it dead-ended.
 The second evening we set up camp on this small table - we were protected in case of rain since we had followed the wash as high as it went before getting too narrow to make camp.
 Here's the narrow area where we certainly couldn't make camp any more.  It was great for exploring and climbing!
 Day 3, hiking to the forest.
 Noah was often caught running ahead.  We would use landmarks like this to catch up with him!  Other times, he would fall behind and we had to offer snacks at landmarks like these to prod him along.
Can you see the forest now?  Figuring out the path to get there was a challenge!  Some clouds moved in on this 3rd afternoon so we were happy that we might camp in the protection of a forest - though we didn't know what a badlands forest might really be like!
 We made it!  We're now up in the forest along a high ridge.
 This campsite was named "Ram Skull Mountain" after we found this artifact hanging around.  There was evidence of a campfire nearby, we weren't the only ones to think it was a great camping spot!
 Here's what a Badlands forest looks like - in case you aren't up for the same kind of adventure we enjoyed.
 I told you some clouds were moving in.  After a short time of exploring, it started to rain, so we made tracks for our tent.  Turns out our <6 year old backpacking tent was no longer waterproof.  We spent an hour in the tent taking turns reading and diverting water.
 There was a fantastic rainbow when we got out after the rain.
One last trek around the odd mud hill formations and across the prairie to head home.

A few more logistical notes.
Normally we wouldn't eat freeze-dried backpacking food on a trip like this, but we did this time.  It was easy, though expensive, to just hit up our local backpacking store and buy the meals-in-a-bag.  As I mentioned earlier, we had to carry all of our water on our backs for this outing, so didn't want to plan for dish-washing water in addition to water to consume.  The option to add boiling water to the meal worked.  I don't remember all those that we tried - spaghetti and beef stew were definitely on the list.  I do remember that all were palatable for hungry hikers, and Brian had to pick peas out of one meal.
We hiked out with heavy backpacks full of food and water each afternoon, then the next morning, hiked back to the van with light, nearly empty packs.  I believe the MINIMUM recommendation is 1 gallon per person per day - that's a lot of water weight to be carrying around!  We regrouped and enjoyed lunch each day at the van. This is how we first introduced Noah to backpacking (before he was willing to carry a pack), and feels like a great way to us to get out into the wilderness with children OR out to a place where water is scarce.
You have to pack a small shovel on trips like this - it is your bathroom.  Established hiking trails will often have latrines, but this was backcountry camping.  The shovel doubled as a toy/distraction for our young explorer! Here's the shovel, go dig a hole.
Our tent went back to Marmot over the course of winter and they are replacing it under full warranty - this year, we will stay dry when adventuring!

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