Ashfall, the Badlands & Rain
May 23-25, 2009

Alora & Brittan have really been bugging us to go camping, so this past weekend, despite the rain, we bit the bullet and did it. As with most of such trips it had a geologic theme to it. We started off Saturday morning at the Ashfall Fossil Beds, where 11.83 mya a supervolcanic eruption in Idaho blanketed a large swath of central North America with ash, killing just about everything. The Ashfall beds were a watering hole were the animals came to die and were eventually buried under the falling ash. Only a small part has been excavated so far, yielding a large number of rhino fossils as well as camel and deer. The trip only drove home the emptiness of the plains today without it's historical megafauna, especially to Maxwell, who really wanted to know where the rhinos were today.
Undisuaded by the rain, we continued north to the confluence of the Niobrara and the Missouri to camp not far from where Lewis and Clark once did on their trip up the Missouri two centuries ago. As they then noted, the Niobrara is not really navigable, but they failed to draw the concurrent conclusion - that the many sandbars of the braided Niobrara make for fun wading! Alora, Brittan & I climbed down from an old railroad bridge to see what the birds were up to down there in the rain. The late evening finally brought sunshine around 7:30 and we built a fire and roasted marshmellows for s'mores while discussing what to do tomorrow. Cara suggested the Badlands and we realized it was about as far to go there as home, so why not?
Sunday morning we headed out into the cloudy dawn for western South Dakota. So far we'd traveled on a few miles of Interstate, but today we were going to be on I-90 again for a while. The Badlands was a place which really captured Cara's imagination when we visited there 9 years ago and she was very excited to be returning. Having left the girls in charge of planning and packing supplies, we were running low on food (except chocolate & marshmellows), so we decided to stop at Wall Drug for lunch. The place was just as knickknacktacular as we remembered it; naturally the kids wanted souvenirs in addition to lunch: pocketknives for the girls (Maxwell already has one), ponies for Zara, and magnetic rocks for Maxwell. Let's just say 11-year-olds are less careful with pocketknives than 5-year-olds and magnetic rocks aren't too hard to get out of ears. Long car rides can be slightly hazardous to your health.
Arriving in the Badlands after driving along the Wall, we stopped at the first scenic overlook so the kids could run right up to the edge of the cliff. I realized then that, while I trust Alora & Brittan's judgement and Maxwell's conservativeness to keep those three safe, Zara is a completely different story. I shadowed her for most of our climbing adventures in the park as she tried in vain to keep up with her sisters. Poor Zara has not done that much climbing, but her monkeyness kicked in after awhile and she started choosing routes befitting short legs rather than blindly following her sisters.
Cara is famed for her Irish luck in bringing rain to the desert - from the 10 minute cloudburst that hit as soon as we started setting up our tents to the downpour overnight, this trip was no exception. Between the rains, however, was plenty of sunshine to get burned in ... at least for me. The kids seem to favor their mother more in not having the sun sensitivity of a naked mole rat.
The drive home we took a different route to hit Valentine and the Nebraska National Forest - planted entirely by people. Both were fairly underwhelming but enjoyed all the same. Our last stop was at the I-80 rest area just east of the Platte River to take pictures in the same spot as ten years before on our first road trip.

Brittan in 1999

Brittan in 2009

Alora in 1999

Alora in 2009


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Last ∆ on 30 May 2009 by Bradley James Wogsland.