I’ll keep the text short as I’ve got to get to another campsite 35 miles from here by tonight. I’ve just done a few short but stunning hikes in Badlands Nat’l Park. Yesterday I rode 95 miles through the Pine Ridge reservation, which has a bit of a reputation. People refer to it similarly to how they might mention Camden, NJ. No problems for me, other than a few chasey dogs and some hot weather, until the very end.
The landscape got steadily more exciting yesterday. Hints of limestone bluffs began to poke their heads out from the rolling plains, and soon mesas, buttes, and copses of line were dotting the landscape. I was buffeted by crosswinds most of the day, until I finally turned north for the final push to the Cedar Pass Campground just nside the national park. A fantastic tailwind propelled me to the top of a ridge, where the ghostly white profile of the main badlands ridge stood out against a dark blue sky.
Dark blue…hang on, that’s not a great sign, especially when heading straight into it. Well, nothing to do but forge ahead. The light coming through distant rain showers looked incredible – riding with a tailwind across rolling plains, with a range of spectacular mountains on the horizon, and beautiful evening light filtering through the clouds is pretty much the real an why I wanted to do this bike trip.
Then in about five minutes, the wind reversed direction and sped up to about 70mph, the temperature dropped 20 degrees, and even with no knowledge of Great Plains meteorology, I could tell I was in for trouble. It had suddenly become impossible to ride a bike in any direction but that of the wind, and anything from hail to a tornado might be on its way. I had seen a lone farmhouse just a short distance back, and decided I would duck into one of its buildings to wait out the storm. I pulled into a barn full of farm detritus and some cats and began to wonder just how long this would last, and how likely I was to get shot.
Then a pickup truck pulled in. It was driven by the owner, a lady who I later learned would have no problem shooting a potential home invader, though at age 74 she wasn’t sure she’d be able to drop them in time. (“I’m veeeeerrrrry conservative,” I also learned. Luckily she invited me inside to wait for the wind to pass, and fed me hamburger, rather than blowing me away with a shotgun. Coincidentally that would also have been my favored option, given the choice. We hung out and had nice conversation until about an hour later when, having unloaded some much-needed rain, the storm had passed through. I couldn’t get w clear answer on how typical winds like that were, but I think that squall was at least somewhat remarkable. Good to know they’re not an everyday occurrence.
It was getting late enough that I didn’t make it into he park as planned, but stopped at another campground a few miles out. The post-storm light was even better and I think I got some nice shots of the scenery.