Only once during my youth my parents took a very long day’s journey, with me and my younger sister in tow, to visit the Badlands. I don’t remember very much of that trip except Medora’s tiny bath tub. She must have been very small. Ever since I left home I have wanted to explore the Bad Lands from various entrances, but like many must places to see, it too fell through the cracks as I had a career to build and other places to see.
Years later, sitting around my sister’s table, with my niece’s and nephew’s, telling Norwegian jokes, my nephew Dean, offered to take me on a tour of the Bad Lands. Dean’s friend, whose acreage abuts the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, gave him exclusive access to the park through his land. Naturally, I simply could not pass up this once in a lifetime opportunity.
I remember Dean as a child with, beautiful sea-green eyes, and before he could speak, he was drawn to engines and all those tools that still baffle me. As co-owner of a business catering to the oil industry, the engines and tools have grown bigger and more baffling. Along with his success comes a high degree of stress.
As adults we discovered what great friends we were, and how easily we discussed events and delved into a range of topics. Even though we disagreed, we would listen to each others’ point of view without judgement and the necessity to be right. Dean manages to navigate his feelings without fear, and in moments, his heart is on his sleeve. I love him dearly.
Always eager to discuss politics, ethics and religion, this trip was no exception. We left Williston in the wee hours of the morning, and over breakfast in a small road side restaurant we discussed the ethics of religion. Whew! Now there’s a hot topic for those who have the courage to admit their own frailties.
As we entered the Bad Lands I knew I was entering Dean’s sanctuary. This is where he found solace, cleared his mind, and erased his stress. With a source of pride and pleasure he took me over narrow passages of rock, down gullies, and up steep banks, where views of wooded ridges, bluffs, buttes, pinnacles and rolling plains, converged and stretched into the horizon.
Each area of the country has their own spectacular beauty, which all of us can put into words. The Bad Lands of North Dakota has rock formation’s that simply cannot be adequately described. Only an ace geologist can explain how, over millennia, ice and water eroded soil and rocks to form Daliesque contortion’s that defy gravity. I was amazed, how this rugged, dry, territory supported wandering buffalo, elk, big horn sheep as well as deer and prong horn antelope.
Never having ridden an RV, I was hesitant at first, but after a few minutes I was grateful to be chauffeured over very rugged terrain. I felt very safe through out our tour, but there were a few times I thought surely we would flip over, and roll forever down a steep embankment.
I had a serious OMG moment when we had to stop, and hike over difficult paths where the RV could not maneuver through to reach certain points. Dean reached out his hand to help me down a very steep but, short incline. I was wondering why he was helping me when, OMG, I realized what he did was what every young person does to help the ELDERLY. ELDERLY? ME? WWWHHHOOOOOAAAA! NO! NO! NO!
Roaming through the Bad Lands without designated roads, NO TRAFFIC, not a single person within 25 miles, made me feel absolutely free. Not a care came to mind. Each of us is uniquely affected by the same experience, but I felt Dean and I were in sync as we left his sacred space. I cherish the memories of our time spent together in the wilderness.