Arriving at Badlands National Park

arriving-at-badlands64/20/13 – Saturday

Upon arriving in the Badlands, I wiz through the entrance gate – it’s so early in the season it’s not manned right now, and the park rangers are relying on people being honest and self paying on the way out. I was expecting to see snow, but there’s hardly any. Now that the sun has come out the temperature has climbed into the mid 50’s, and it’s melting rapidly. The next few days look colder though, with the possibility of more snow.

I stop by Cedar Pass Lodge, where the gift shop I’ll be working in is located. I was told to report here to find the campground manager so he can show me to my temporary spot – the ground is so muddy with the recent snow melt that the permanent employee housing complex up at Circle 10 isn’t open yet. In the meantime, all the RVing employees are staying in the campground meant for guests within walking distance of the Lodge. Before I pull out of the Lodge parking lot, I snap a picture – I think I’ve finally got this picture-of-rig-with-epic-background thing down, what do you think?


arriving-at-badlands4The campground likewise has an amazing view of the badlands – badlands with a lowercase “b” describing terrain where erosion has gouged out features like this. There are badlands in other places around America – North Dakota, Wyoming, mostly out west. Badlands National Park is just the best display of such features. These peaks you’re seeing here aren’t rock you see, neither are they mountains. It’s all volcanic earth with a clay like consistency that has eroded back from ancient river beds over millions of years. Because the climate tends toward arid, vegetation doesn’t grow to protect against the erosion, and when it rains it usually pours, which loosens up more dirt to keep the faces looking fresh. There, don’t say I never taught you anything.


This place is incredible, I can already tell from the tiny bit I’ve seen so far. It’s every bit as neat as I remember it being when I came out 15 years ago. I won’t be going in for my orientation and paperwork signing until the bosses get back on Monday, so I have the rest of today and tomorrow free. I have no map, no park pass for free entrance and exit, and no access to WiFi – all of that stuff won’t be coming until Monday, but that doesn’t matter right now, I want to get out and explore.

arriving-at-badlands2Before unhitching I drive down to the dump station to get all of the chlorinated water I’ve been letting slosh around in the fresh water tank out. Right there at the dump station is a herd of what I later discover are mule deer, just hanging out and grazing. They let me drive up close to them, and I take a couple pictures from Bertha before they wander off. That was pretty darn cool.

Miracle of all miracles, the hoses look clean and free of black oook after dumping, hurrah! Once I get Cas leveled back at the campground I take a picture of the view from my large rear window, that’s the view I’m looking at right now as I write this. Then I heat up supper, and eat it out at the sheltered picnic table at my site, also complete with jaw-dropping view. Then I go out walking towards the Lodge.

arriving-at-badlands5Here it is, the place I’ll be working for the next 6 months if everything goes as planned. Inside it is a cabin rental desk (the cabins are behind the Lodge), the gift shop, and a restaurant. I’ll be learning more about all that on Monday though. From the Lodge I turn towards the badlands, and as the sun goes down I get a little camera-happy. It’s really hard not too.

When I turn in for the evening, the night is beautifully silent. I haven’t slept somewhere this quiet in ages, the Interstate is on the other side of the park and the local roads get little traffic. There are few campers tonight, and the stillness is so relaxing. I sleep very well.

arriving-at-badlands74/21/13 – Sunday

After a slow and lazy start to the morning, I take a walk around the campground and Dave the campground manager and I get to talking. He’s a seasonal employee like me, and not quite a full-timer but nearly so. He loves hiking as much as I do, and invites me out to go hiking in the afternoon. I didn’t expect to be connecting with my fellow employees this early on, but am very happy to be doing so. My biggest problems working at Amazon last fall was that I didn’t really have anyone to hang out with, or fun things to do, and it wore me down after a while.

Dave picks me up later, and we swing by the Inn just outside the park where the Lodge employees who don’t live nearby or have RVs are staying. Like us they’ll be moving out to Circle 10 once it opens, but Dave lets me know that it might be several weeks – besides being muddy it was also just purchased by Forever Resorts this year and the maintenance people are still working on getting it ready. We pick up Pat, who works in the gift shop like I will be, and we head out to the trails.

arriving-at-badlands9The sky is mostly cloudy today compared to yesterday afternoon’s sun, and it lends a whole different mood to the badlands. It’s still lovely though in a different way. We walk through a juniper forest on a shelf halfway up the side, and there is more evidence of mule deer. After that Dave takes us around the whole park loop, and I gawk at every vista we drive past. When I get some time, I’m coming back to several of these places with my kindle to read and hike.

arriving-at-badlands8We find a herd of bighorn sheep at one of the overlooks, they’ve been hanging out in this area lately and almost seem to pose for the cameras. Because of the cooler weather and possibility of rain there are very few other visitors in the park. We almost have all of this natural beauty to ourselves, it’s breathtaking. Now this, this is more like what I imagined when I dreamed of what full-time RVing would be like. Again I can’t believe how close we can get to the sheep, my poor iphone camera is certainly getting a workout. The females and young ones are by the cliff edges themselves, while the males are across the road grazing on the grass. I do my best to get pictures, although with no optical zoom I’m rather limited when it comes to wildlife photography.

arriving-at-badlands10After that quick tour, Dave takes Pat and I out to Wall, which is about 30 minutes from the park and the closest town of any reasonable size, but notably still too small to have a WalMart. Our destination is the infamous Wall Drug store. What makes Wall Drug unique isn’t what it sells, which is some useful but overpriced items for travelers and then plenty of gimmicky tourist stuff, but rather what the owners did to promote the store. In the early days they sent store customers home with signs with the distance to the store printed on them, be it 100 miles or over 1000 miles. Folks traveling would see signs to Wall Drug and wonder what was so amazing about that store that there were signs half a country away and go investigate. It was a brilliant bit of advertising really.

Back home I enjoy another quiet evening, although the promised rain has started as a drizzle and at some point during the night it’s going to switch over to snow. 3-7 inches of accumulation are expected by tomorrow afternoon, and then the temperature tomorrow night is suppose to drop to 15, brr! It’ll be the first time I’ve been living in Cas when it has really snowed, and the first time I’ve RVed in temperatures this cold. Dave is going to lend me his second heater, and I’m grateful since my small electric one can only keep the temp indoors about 30 degrees warmer than it is outside.


Other Articles You Might Enjoy

Road to Yellowstone

May 7, 2015 |

Tuesday, May 5 The weather is promising: mild temperatures, a cornflower blue sky adorned with wispy white clouds, a beautiful spring day. A good day for driving. By 10 am I’m rolling down my parent’s driveway, it’s a right turn from there to get to Yellowstone. The biggest journey starts with but a single step.…

Read More

Night Falls on Colorado

October 10, 2018 |

September 23, Sunday Last night was my first night sleeping in the Hiker Trailer, and I underestimated how many layers I’d need under me when sleeping. It’s getting quite cold at night here in Leadville, CO. Eventually I’ll get a custom sized mattress, but I wanted to wait to order until I figured out the…

Read More

A Busy Month

April 2, 2012 |

April is going to be amazing, if a bit crazy. I sit now at my computer desk, and through my head runs a list of the things that still need to happen before I move into the Casita. It’s long and kinda scary, but I know I’ll manage to pull everything together in the nick…

Read More


At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Arlon on May 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Here I sit in civilization making great money and turning green with envy. Don’t mention it much but I really enjoy the escapism your journey has provided. My Casita is parked in the back yard right now.. )-:}

    • Becky on May 1, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      Heya Arlon, thanks for commenting!

      While sitting in civilization making great money might not be your ideal situation, think about it this way: That money you’re earning now can be saved up for great adventure somewhere down the road. 🙂 Just don’t sit on it so long that you forget why you earned it!

  2. Kat on April 30, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    So enjoy your blog. We are 2 60 somethings and a pup named Pink just starting on our full-time journey.

    Congrats on being so adventurous ..we plan on visiting The Badlands soon.. on our way to South Dakota for drivers license.

    Hope we cross paths someday..we love to cook so maybe for some Cajun food.

    have fun! Kat, Jackson & Pink


    • Becky on April 30, 2013 at 9:26 pm

      Heya Kat, thanks for commenting and following along, and congrats on joining the full-timing ranks! I hope it goes well for you guys and if you do make it through the Badlands before October you can stop inside Cedar Pass Lodge where I work and say hi, although if it’s during the height of summer I probably won’t have time to talk.

  3. Jeff on April 30, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Wow, that panorama shot would sure be a good header for your blog if you ever decided to change it.

    • Becky on April 30, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      I’ts going on the Rig page when I get a chance for sure. 🙂

  4. Fireman steve on April 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I love your “Epic” pic… They are all awesome photos. Good luck on your time there. It should be quite an adventure. Great work on your blog. I look forward to every entry.
    Be safe,

    • Becky on April 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm

      Thanks Steve! I’m going to be putting that photo up as the new header for the ‘Rig’ page to replace the Roaring River one, it’s prettier. 😛

  5. Becky on April 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Congratulations on the house sale Plein, things are indeed looking up for the summer, and I hope your own RVing journey goes as smoothly. 🙂

  6. Daphne on April 28, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey. And the pics! The iPhone isn’t too shabby in the pic department. 🙂 The Badlands are so magical… sigh. Have a great summer!

    • Becky on April 28, 2013 at 8:45 pm

      You’re welcome Daphne, and yeah the iphone doesn’t do a bad job, just no zoom. 🙂

  7. Pleinguy on April 28, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    Glad to hear you arrived safely and on time. Looks like it’s going to be a swell gig for you. Enjoy the summer! I’m still prepping to hit the road, and getting eager to roll.
    Pleinguy recently posted..Home FreeMy Profile

  8. travelfables on April 28, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Coolness, thanks for the pics. I remember going through that country a long time ago. Wall Drug had nifty animatronic singing cowboys that amused me back then. They were all about pitiching thier free water back then (for miles and miles and miles).

    • Becky on April 28, 2013 at 8:40 pm

      Haha, those free water signs are still up Dale! There was a cowboy in a kiosk thing that talked, I think if you fed him quarters he did something.

  9. Sherry on April 28, 2013 at 11:05 am

    This looks like it’s going to be a great experience. Friends already is a really good sign. I loved the Badlands when I was there. Could have stayed forever if I hadn’t had to be somewhere else and was on a schedule. Really hate having to do that. Can’t wait to see pictures of the badlands in snow. Thanks John for the electric heater tip.
    Sherry recently posted..Last Days at St Andrews and a reviewMy Profile

    • Becky on April 28, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      So far it’s shaping up to be a good time yeah! Snow pictures are next, although it melted too fast to get many.

  10. Theresa on April 28, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Loved reading this! When we visited the Badlands last year, I wondered about workamping but I have a question: do they provide full hookups for workampers, or do they perhaps provide pump-out service?

    • Becky on April 28, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      Circle 10 will have full hookups when it opens, but right now I just have electric at the visitor campground. Dave as campground manager gets a full hook-up site, I drive my RV over to him to fill up my fresh water tank then I drive to the dump station near the campground entrance to dump. I found this job on and as I talked about a few posts ago, most places who hire work campers will tell you right in there promotional material what the site costs and if it has full hookups. Otherwise, make sure to ask.

  11. Randy K on April 28, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Becky great post…you will love it there..the night sky will be amazing. We love the area of the Badlands, and the Black Hills plan on being there this summer. Enjoy your summer employment. Maybe we will see you at the visitors center…

    • Becky on April 28, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      Heya Randy, thanks. The night sky is really pretty, it’s easy to see the stars with the nearest city being over an hour away. I look forward to exploring the black hills and other SD attractions too once I get my VIP pass that’ll let me get into them for less money. If you come look for me, I’m not at the Visitor’s center, that’s the next building over. I’m at Cedar Pass Lodge.

  12. Kim on April 28, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Good to hear you are settling in. Having good folks to hang out with makes all the difference!
    Kim recently posted..RV Buddies Get-TogetherMy Profile

    • Becky on April 28, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      It really does Kim! I hope I’m still able to manage this once I get back to Amazon.

      • Reine on April 30, 2013 at 11:53 pm

        I bet this year at Amazon will be little better than last year. You know what to expect, you’ll be experienced so maybe will get a better assignment and you will at least see a few familiar faces. Or something else more interesting and better paying may turn up between now and then.

        I’m also glad you have some good folks to hang out with. It will make the time go faster and they can show you stuff you might have missed otherwise.

  13. Evelyn on April 28, 2013 at 9:07 am

    So glad everything worked out and you are so happy with your choice of places to work this summer. I’m very envious about the big horn sheep sighting. We tramped all over Arizona and California looking for them and never saw a single one.
    Evelyn recently posted..What Kind of Spring is This?My Profile

    • Becky on April 28, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      Aww, sorry to hear that Evelyn. The bighorn sheep here like to hang out near that one overlook on a regular basis. For any visitors who ask where to find them it’s easy to tell them where to go. Although if they’re out on the badlands like in that last panorama and you don’t have a zoom they can be hard to see.

      In other news, hope spring finds you soon! It’s been colder and wetter than this area usually is this time of year too, but we’re predicted to have a hotter than usual summer. Not sure I like that since it regularly gets over 100 here in the summer as is.

  14. John Hussey on April 28, 2013 at 4:51 am

    Great Blog, Becky. I really enjoy reading it and look forward to the next “edition”.

    • Becky on April 28, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      Glad you liked it John. 🙂 I’m able to get the WiFi from Cas now, woo! That’ll help a lot with posting more regularly.

  15. John Hussey on April 28, 2013 at 4:43 am

    I have a little Broan cube heater that just on low is more than sufficient for warmth when it is below freezing:

    Buy one with some of your Amazon earnings that should start coming in soon?

    I have had three heaters. This works best for me.

    • Becky on April 28, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      Ahh, yeah that definitely looks fancier than my current little heater. The worst of the cold weather is now over here after that dip earlier this week, if I ever work camp at a place that regularly gets below 20 definitely.

  16. Misty on April 27, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Hahaha, you’ve got to love those panoramas! 😀

    So awesome!
    Misty recently posted..Without a Shepherd is live!My Profile

    • Becky on April 28, 2013 at 8:12 pm

      Yus! It’s gorgeous. I mean, really. Wow. And to think next summer I could pick an equally picturesque but totally different location to work at. This whole RVing thing is pretty darn awesome right now.