Badlands National Park, like any other national park, is largely composed of various trails to hike on. That was my chosen means of exploration as a tourist in this part of South Dakota.
As one enters the Badlands National Park through exit 131, you drive up a long strip of pavement through very flatlands, until the pavement begins gathering a slight incline. Soon enough you’re approaching the first chunk of rock on the prairie. This rock formation offers the first few trail heads, the Door, Window, Notch, and Castle trails.
The castle trail is truly massive, and thus was not one we dared attempt. The Door and Notch trails however offer a very playground-like sense of exploring the canyon-like terrain of the Badlands.
The Notch trail was a trail that began with rickety wooden rope ladder that laid against a wall of rock. From there you would cling to the edge of the rock, and walk to a greater opening. From there on you’re basically clambering up and down slopes of rock, like multi-leveled bowl of rock. At the end of it, you reach the edge of that bowl, which reveals a startling overlook of the grand expanse of the Badlands.
This sort of wild and grandiose scenery was entirely unfamiliar to me. Climbing a rope ladder was daunting, clinging to the side of a cliff was nerve-racking, and looking down to see ground hundreds of feet below me and a distance that stretched miles upon miles before, was a kind of beautiful threat to my existence I could not ignore.
With this introduction I felt truly OUT of place in fact, and in that vulnerability I began to feel something of a sense for this place.