Grand River

My second night of grassland camping this fall was spent in South Dakota’s Grand River National Grassland—over 150,000 acres of beautifully desolate terrain in the state’s most sparsely populated quadrant. The silence here is deafening; this was easily the most silent night of camping I have ever experienced. The only sound that came to me in the darkness was the sweet twilight music of the coyotes (I shared that audio recording with you two months ago in this post).

If the skyline in the photo above looks familiar, it’s because I had previously written about my ascent of that butte on the left back in October of 2018. I had not planned to end up in this location once again…it was a happy accident. I drove in from the northeast this year, rather than from the west, and after several hours of looping across these wide open spaces on deserted gravel roads, I crested a hill and immediately recognized these buttes. Remembering the wonderful silence and solitude I experienced here two years ago, it seemed the perfect choice for my campsite.

I pitched my tent at the base of the hill you see above—a gentle but long grassy slope, topped by a rocky summit. Naturally, there was no way I’d leave the area without hiking to the top, so after striking camp the next morning, I walked up to check out the panoramic view of my neighborhood. Turns out that the summit of this hill was much more intriguing that the view from below suggested. Just on the other side of the peak, I found a garden of large and unusual rock formations…

Just a bunch of unnamed rocks atop an unnamed hill—a hill that likely sees very few visitors in any given year. But finding and exploring this hilltop was a wonderful surprise and a memorable experience. These small and unsung pieces of wilderness are responsible for my lack of interest in the popular and obvious destinations found in National Parks that draw tourists by the thousands.

On my next trip to Grand River, I hope to spend less time driving and more time hiking. I’m sure that other satisfying discoveries await me there.

A small, solitary wildflower growing near my tent.

 

5 thoughts on “Grand River

  1. Those rock formations remind me of Vasquez Rocks in California, which have sedimentary layers that look like that. I’ve never been there, but those rock formations are familiar from on-location shooting in every generation of Star Trek. (Just two examples: Kirk famously fought the Gorn there in the 1967 episode Arena, and season 1 of Picard, released in 2020, had one of the characters living at Vasquez Rocks.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Indeed, the Arena view is the one that has always come to mind. But having recently viewed old westerns that pre-date Kirk’s visit (Wagon Train, Laramie, The Rifleman, Tales of Wells Fargo, etc.), I now know that Vasquez has been a popular filming location for quite some time. Interesting to see those rocks in black & white.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It is quite possible, that some of those rocks enjoyed a past of being carved by an ancient civilization, before falling into a state of natural erosion. Much like the Great Sphinx, that shows signs of ancient water erosion, dating back to the Younger-Dryas, or even before.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

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