Message of the Day – A Playpen

Separated by over 50 years, I visited the Badlands again last summer. Fifty-four or fifty-five years ago our family was living in Salt Lake City and we took every route between the Eastern Shore of Maryland, our home for my lifetime up until then, and Utah. If there was a tourist spot, we probably saw it on our three trips back and forth in 1953, ’54, ’55 and ’56.

A view of where most people walked around the crumbling hills.

Last summer I was really surprised that there was an area where people were encouraged to climb the fragile hills.

Imagine, a national park where damaging the environment is actually encouraged!

How fragile are they?

We learned at the visitors’ center that the hill erode about an inch a year. How long will they last, the Ranger inquired?

My son guessed 100,000 years and his estimate was right on the button.

(So, why can’t he guess the number of items in the jar at the dentist’s office?)

People were encouraged to walk around in the area near the first parking lot.

People often had to create their own parths. This was a place for sturdy clothes.

But, please understand, there were no official paths. It was hard not to get one’s clothes a bit dirty.

These three teens were at the notch in the ridge planning to climb higher.

One teen from Park Ridge climbed almost to the top of one ridge.

This Park Ridge, Illinois, teen made it to the top of the peak of the ridge.

As we watched him climb, his father said he had a cousin from the south side of Crystal Lake.

View from the notch. It was a long way down. This was as close to the edge as I was willing to get.

This Dad and son went to the cut in the ridge that overlooked a precipice of scores of feet. The Mom was down in the valley.

Look closely (click to enlarge any photo) and you will see a family in the distance. Also note the yellow flowers, an invasive species I can't remember the name of.

And, out in the distance was a family who had walked around the ridge and was exploring.  So, if anyone fell, there obviously was a way to get around to the other side.

The Badlands had had a lot of rain.

Footprints in the drying clay.

Imagine the “fossil” that would result from the foot prints you see above, if the area had been buried by volcanic ash shortly after we visited.


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