July 30, 2007
Badlands National Park, S.Dakota
The miles of corn and soybean fields of Iowa and SW Minnesota have given way to the vast expanses of tan colored rolling hills of the prarie. As we came in to the Badlands area, Pronghorn antelope, mule deer, enormus jackrabbits and western birds started popping up. We entered the park near sunset on the full moon, the setting sun illuminating the spires and craggy outcroppings so magnificently even the kids tore themselves fully away from Harry Potter. Cassidy kept calling out birds--western kindbird, mountain bluebird, prarie chicken (he is still unsure which one), and very common nighthawks. It is 8am and he has been out birding with Chris since 6:30.
Chris just returned with some fresh sage......it feels like a full circle has come since we met in Chinle and took long walks on the mesa through the sage. Although the landscape is quite different, the expansiveness is the same. Restful, open, quiet. Romantic!
We spent the last 3 nights at Gull Point State Park on Lake Okaboji in northern Iowa. Chris's sister Sherri was there and her sweetie John. John took us all out on the Lake in his boat and towed a humongous intertube for the kids. Teslin kept asking him to speed up by rolling her hands. John who is used to towing water skiers gave them quite a work out with circles and speed. Teslin then added more desperate stopping motions. It was all great fun and they kept asking for more.
The campground was like a city in the woods---wow! It amazes me how close people are willing to stay to go camping. It happened to be over a weekend so it was particularly crowded, but it makes the space out here seem even more precious. The night we drove from Fort dodge to Okaboji, we passed through another of those midwestern storms.....We were driving straight into a vast purplish-black cloud that was forming these ghastly V-shapes in it. Cassidy was asking what we do if we see a tornado, and Teslin was reassuring us all that the safest place was in a car. hmmmm. Lightning, winds, pelting rain, we were waiting to be swept away to Oz in big funnel cloud. Chris actually had sore arms from keeping the trailer on the road through that one. Luckily it was going south and we were going North. Luckily I wasn't driving! By the time we reached Okaboji, it had cleared and 99% humidity and deep puddles were the only traces left.
The storm had an amazing effect on the reptiles in the campground: MUDDPUPPY MANIA!!! The bathroom was at the top of a hill and the grounds outside it were literally filled with Muddpuppies and frogs. Mudpuppies are big, thick black salamanders. They are very cute and not too quick. Then there were all sizes and shapes of frogs. They must have been flooded out by the storm and were climbing to high ground. Cassidy and Teslin had alot of fun watching them and rescuing them from the bathroom doors.
Other children were not so kind and caused Cassidy and Teslin great distress in their antics. There were 3 bothers in particular that we named the 3 billy goats rough. They were all under 8 and the youngest was maybe 4 or 5. These were the same 3 that hurled themselves down the hill we were camped on riding rickety scooters starting at 7am. They went so quickly that their scooters shook from side to side....should I mention the lack of shoes or helmuts? Horrible Horrible. Horrible. Chris and I were thinking about the Epocrates oath of healthcare providers and if that applied just to doctors or nurses too. ...then there was the fact that we weren't licensed in the state.... Later in the day, the middle billy goat threw the youngest billy goat to the ground because he wouldn't give up his Mudpuppy. This caused such a fight that the mother was hailed by the eldest billy goat. Before she got there, i intervened and tried to keep the blood to a minimum. When mother goat arrived, I told her they had been fighting pretty bad. She looked at me plainly with the expression that matches a teen saying "Duh!" and said "that's what brother's do". Chris thinks we could make a little money on the side with campground parenting classes. No doubt.
Cassidy had the odd experience of being stalked by young sports fans. He has been living in his Iowa Hawkeye t-shirt and is sporting a new Hawkeye hat. Plus we have a big garrish black Hawkeye door mat in front of the Pop-up. Cassidy first noticed something was up as he rode his bike thru the campground and certain boys would scowl at him and follow him around on their bikes. Then we went to Arnolds park, a permanent amusement park near Spencer, and it was at the bumper cars that Cassidy got his first real taste of The Big Ten drama. 2 oversized Crabbe abd Goyle types took after Cassidy in the bumper car ride. They kept cornering him and smashing his car. Cassidy kind of shrug it off, but I must say, it was a bit creepy. Things just aren't like this in the Happy Valley! And people say the Yankees and the Red Sox are bad!
Well....we are staying in a beautiful KOA out in the middle of nowhere near the s. entrance to the park. It has electricity, wireless internet and Navajo Tacos for dinner. We're in heaven. If Chris and Cassidy return from birding and Teslin ever wakes us, we will venture forth into the sites of the area. It is great to be back in Indian Country again, and we look forward to sorting out all the history with the kids. We hope they will leave here with more of an impression of Crazy Horse than Mt.Rushmore.