Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Travelogue: Sheep Mountain Table, Badlands, South Dakota"

Welcome to Sheep Mountain Table, found in the North Unit of the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. It's actually a part of/up against the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation, Sheep Mountain being an area publicly accessible, just south of a bend in the highway called Scenic, South Dakota...all about an hour east of Rapid City, SD.

The Badlands are surreal to begin with, and future Travelogues on the park will show a different 'look'...but this was one of my on a rough gravel road a few miles, making your way through a veritable moon-scape, climbing a steady grade to the top of this large mesa...(click on pics to enlarge)...

Here is my "K9 LIMO" atop the you can tell, not much to look at per the flat grassy expanse on top. But drive along one of the few rutted roads and you soon approach the edge...and you've got a whole different world opening before your very eyes...

To say it takes your breath away is a bit of an understatement. You can see the flat table at the top, and yet the immense erosion and canyon-esque formations that surround you at every turn.

For miles this large mesa has myriad scenes and features to look at and visually explore from afar...and your mind can't help but wander to the not-so-distant past when the Siouxian bands had to traverse and hide out in these landscapes they called "mako sica" for "land bad" (pronounced "mah-ko SEE-cha")...

The Badlands themselves are sedimentary formations that are full of significant prehistoric mammalian animals....the classic "dinosaurs" like T-Rex, et al, are found in the Dakotas, but not in the Badlands, which has formations from the more recent late Eocene and Oligocene epochs.

No matter what the activity, the rules of the Lakota Nation have to be respected first and foremost, leading to activities and opportunities that must be closely controlled for all the right reasons. The Badlands scream at you to get out of the car and get away from the asphalt ribbon even if for a moment, to be still and soak in the unusual raw beauty and history of the region.

Part of the park was used as a gunnery and bombing range in the past, so you will see signs warning of possible live ordinances in the area. If you know something of the Lakota heritage there, you will know of the famous "Ghost Dances" of 1890 which were held in what is the Stronghold Unit of the Badlands, co-managed by the Oglala Sioux Nation, just west of Sheep Mountain.

I trust the pictures give you a good idea of why I loved to escape to that mountain. Many a trip did I make that I saw not one other vehicle or person. And you can easily imagine how playing my flutes and music from a lookout ledge was nothing short of other-worldly.

If you travel out there, take the time to get off the beaten path and experience the Magic for yourself. Take the time to travel in the landscape, not just through it...

(REMINDER: This is my last post for the week as I will be out of town through Sunday. My next blog post will be early Monday morning, the 26th.)

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