I’m experiencing a second spring. When I left Georgia the leaves were nearing full size and everything was vibrantly shaded and alive. By the time I got up here to the Badlands, spring had regressed to browns and below freezing temps, like someone hit the reset button on the season. Now, in South Dakota things are about like they were when I left the Southeast. I got to have spring twice this year, how neat is that?
That’s not the only neat thing I’ve experienced lately. I awoke one morning this past week to fog rolling down off the higher prairie, shrouding the tops of the badlands in mist and creeping down the wall towards the lower side where the campground lies. Luckily, since my phone and my camera are one and the same, I’m rarely without it.
After snarfing a quick breakfast at the lodge I jumped in Bertha and drove out to get a better view. This is the first and only time I’ve seen this phenomenon so far, I doubt most visitors to the park get this rare opportunity. As Bertha diligently scaled the road up the wall, the fog got thicker and the temperature dropped, I’m guessing the temperature difference between the upper and lower prairie helped contribute to the phenomenon. Merely an hour later the fog was all gone, it was a warm and sunny day.
Last Wednesday was my only day off this week, and by coincidence there was a company sponsored trip happening on the same day down to Pine Ridge.
Those tuning in last week remember that my original intent in heading South on my last day off was to go see the reservation, but somehow I missed seeing much of anything down there. Well, it turns out I was on the wrong road.
The tour was very interesting. I liked it, even though it was a far cry from a normal touristy type trip, or maybe because it was so different. Our guides were natives, and gave about as thorough a history and culture lesson as could be asked for in the time that was available while the bus was in motion, plus we made several stops: a museum, two different schools, a visitor’s center, and the Wounded Knee massacre site.
Part of why I liked the trip so much is because it made me think. Pine Ridge isn’t just poor when compared to local counties in South Dakota, it’s the second poorest county in the whole country. While the visit was during about the prettiest time of year with everything green like it is, most of the towns weren’t very pretty at all. One of the silent questions I couldn’t help but ask myself while we were touring is who’s to blame for the reservation being in the state it’s in.
So many people on the internet just like to point fingers. I’m don’t like to do that, especially on the internet where you can’t have a real back and forth conversation. Very rarely in real life are things black and white simple, and this is definitely one of those cases. I thought about it for a few days after the trip, and the only conclusion I can come to is that with only about 6 hours or so experience on the issues faced at Pine Ridge I simply don’t have enough knowledge to make a fair conclusion.
But, in the grand scheme of things what’s past is past. No matter what kind of circumstances you find yourself in, it’s important not to let your past define you. I believe things can always get better if you work at it, and this tour program is part of what Pine Ridge is doing to improve their situation. The visitor’s center is a pretty new building, designed to help improve tourism to the reservation and educate outsiders about the Lakota Sioux. Their also negotiating with the National Park Service to develop their half of the Badlands to be more like the north loop where I work, complete with it’s own gift shop and the like. I’d like to come back to the reservation in ten years or so and see how things have changed.
So yeah, an interesting trip. The best learning experiences aren’t the ones that simply give you answers to questions, they’re the ones that make you ask more questions and give you a different way of looking at things. They promote growth by making you step outside your comfort zone. And last Wednesday sure gave me some things to think about.