Tuesday was about the best test for the RV windows that I could imagine. After another gorgeous morning, clouds started rolling in in the afternoon and at around 3:30 the thunderstorm hit, in force. It rained, it hailed, and it rained some more, for a good hour or so. I was working until 5:30. We had customers coming in who were amazed at how fast it started, and the wind whipped the hail up into little ice drifts that stayed for quite some time after it stopped coming down. The hail wasn’t big, mostly pea sized.
The roof at the Lodge leaked, pretty spectacularly. It’s in the process of being re-done, and last week the old tin and shingles underneath were torn out. The crew working on it put the ice and water-proof (supposedly) membrane shield thing down on Friday, and then this week they’ll be coming back to put the new tin over top of that. In the meantime it was suppose to be safe in case of rain, but it obviously wasn’t. Luckily, the leaks didn’t come down on top of any of the merchandise or customers, but it sure didn’t look very classy having all of those garbage bins out to catch the dripping water.
I was worried about what I would find when I got home. Three of my five windows had leaked when I was driving through heavy rain in Missouri, and this was the first significant rainfall Cas has been through since then. I walked from the Lodge back to the campground under clearing skies and to the accompaniment of bird-song, and gritted my teeth as I unlocked my door.
Bone dry, not a drop from any of the windows. I’m very happy, but in the dark over exactly what happened to make the windows leak during the drive here. They were on three different sides of the RV, so the wind couldn’t have been entirely to blame. I might never know, but in the future I guess I’ll want to do my best to avoid driving through downpours.
In other news, an afternoon safari through a good portion of the park on one of my days off last week turned up some buffalo! In the first day or two that I was at the Badlands I had seen the mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep, but the buffalo are a bit off the beaten path.
Many folks who come through the Badlands don’t expect to find them here. Custer State Park to the west (the Black Hills region) is much more well known for it’s buffalo herds, but according to signs and literature Badlands National Park, and the protected grasslands to the west of it host somewhere between 500-800 of the animals. They hang out down Sage Creek Rim Road, a dirt road that splits off from the main scenic loop just two miles from the northwest entrance to the park.
When I first arrived the road had been closed because snow melt made it muddy enough to be impassable, but it’s opened now and in good driving condition. The buffalo may be found at any point along the road between where it splits from the main loop and the rustic camping area about 10 miles down. When I went, there were a few quite close to the road which made for good pictures, even with a camera that doesn’t have a zoom. They were not grouped together in one big herd, but were in smaller groups of 5-20 animals, but often with more than one group visible at any one location. There were even some within sight of the rustic campground, and I bet they occasionally go through it.
The rustic campground is a semi-level dirt loop that you can pull your RV over to the side and stay in, or park your vehicle there and set your tent up in the grass next to it (although with the buffalo so close I’m not sure if you’d want to). There’s a pit toilet and trash cans, but no other amenities that I could see. On the plus side, there is no fee to camp there, although I think they do have a donation box.
After tracking down the buffalo, a coworker and I followed the dirt road right out of the park and grassland area and into a tiny little ghost town called Scenic.
Scenic was eerie, in a very photogenic way. The dark rain clouds brewing over the ramshackle buildings probably had something to do with it. What stood out most to me was an old saloon with animal skulls hanging on the sign and falling into ruin on top of the porch awning. It’s hard to read the sign in the photo, but this is what it says:
OLD LONGHORN SALOON
1906 SCENIC SO. DAK 1906
INDIANS ALLOWED LAKOTA IYUSNANYA(? Not positive of that word) UPO
To the right of the saloon was a tiny building with a tin roof overhang that was open to the elements on one side. It had three solid walls and was separated into 2 cells with bars in the front – an old jail, nifty stuff.
But in contrast to how old everything else looked, the light poles seemed newer and the road through town was more or less maintained. It makes me wonder if it’s suppose to be some sort of tourist attraction that just isn’t open yet for the season: “Come see our old buildings!” But there wasn’t any sort of souvenir shop or visitor center nearby, so I’m not sure. Whether it was meant to be a stop or not, I sure found it fascinating. Back east, ghost towns just don’t exist because land is at a premium. It boggles my mind to find places like this with nobody around, there weren’t even any other visitors there except us. I guess if I’m going to be hanging around in the West I’ll be seeing more of this kind of stuff, and I’m looking forward to it!