Traveling the Badlands and Beyond

Badlands National Park

Entering the Badlands © 2013 Bo Mackison

Rapid City. 6:27 am. Sunny and 37˚F.
Filling the car’s gas tank is morning’s first priority – $2.94 a gallon,
cheapest gas on my travels. I buy sunglasses as I pay for my gas.
Standard equipment in Arizona, I’ve three lost pairs in the car,
and I’m driving due east into sunrise.
Streaks of angry orange flames decorate the cheapest pair that fit.
No matter, I buy them, in a hurry to find the back road to the Badlands.

I am the sole traveler on Highway 44 for miles, the country’s rough, desolate, beautiful.
The Badlands rise from prairie, stark layers of sediment,
rock ribbons in tan, gray, yellow, black.
Grasslands and badlands – a contrasting combination
of pale green growth and rock erosion. Soul soothing.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park © 2013 Bo Mackison

My hike is brief – an hour in, an hour out – I make the time.
Hiking in rocky wilderness is good for what ails me.
I celebrate with lunch, Indian Tacos at the Cedar Pass Cafe,
visit the Badlands National Park’s Visitor Center.
Roam through the twenty site campground – more family trips
come to mind. I am grateful I’ve held tight to these decades-old memories.

I’ve avoided the mindless Interstate roads for 2100 miles, but no longer,
Back roads that head east are no longer an option.
Roads in South Dakota head to outlying ranches or farms, or towns 50 miles to the south.
I pull on I-90 East, set the cruise control, and become traffic.
Destination: Sioux Falls, a decent dinner, a quiet hotel room.

On my last night on the road, I wade through puddles in the cold rain,
enter the nearest restaurant,
and order a steak. It comes with a first class salad bar –
bowls mounded with fresh veggies along a twenty-foot table.

Contentment eases into my being.
Tomorrow I will be in Wisconsin,
but for now, a walk in the rain soaks me in Midwestern welcome.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. A cross-country traveler by day, and an occasional poet by night. This is a poem in nine parts, because the trip lasts nine days. This is Day Eight.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Gandalf says:

    Great photos

  2. This is so beautiful – both your verbal description of your journey homewards..and the accompanying visuals. Wonderful!

  3. Just, wow. I close my eyes and see what you’re seeing, you are such a grand writer. And photographer. Wow.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Hey, the Badlands have a hard name to overcome. I think they are tremendously beautiful, though mostly impossible to photograph to get the grandeur and the feel. Ha!

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