Over second block break, I joined nine other CC students on a photography extravaganza at Badlands National Park in South Dakota.
After finishing our classes at noon on Wednesday, everyone eagerly met up to begin our adventure. Once the van was packed tight with backpacks, food, and ten enthusiastic students, we set off towards our destination, eight hours away in South Dakota.
Our adventures began a little sooner that we had anticipated, when shortly after entering Wyoming, a light rain turned into an increasingly heavy snowstorm. As the skies darkened and the roads became coated with a layer of fresh snow, we pulled into Hawk Springs Campground in northern Wyoming, where we decided to spend the night. After scoping out the area and taking some photos of the snowy night landscape, we piled into the van for our first night of sleep.
Despite the not-so-restful night, the sunrise the following morning made our night well worth it. The sunlight on the nearby lake and frosted trees created a winter wonderland that was difficult to capture, even with ten people taking photographs.
Once we had taken our fair share of pictures, we enjoyed a warm breakfast of oatmeal (courtesy of our wonderful leaders!), and headed back to the van for the next leg of our journey. After passing through the expansive countryside and tiny towns – one with a population of only 18 people – we arrived at Badlands National Park. Just one brief stop at the Visitor Center where we put on as many layers as possible, and then we were off to find our campsite, spotting bighorn sheep, numerous deer, and even a porcupine along the way. The temperature continued to drop as we set up tents, but the fried rice we made for dinner was an awesome end to a great, albeit chilly, day!
The next morning, we enjoyed some hot cocoa and breakfast burritos before packing up our tents and venturing off into the park for a day filled with exploring. We wove our way through riverbeds and climbed some of the ridges sprawling across the landscape, while enjoying each other’s company, and eating an excessive amount of gorp.
After getting a chance to explore the Badlands and attempting to capture the incredible landscape through our photos, we returned to our faithful van for the drive to Custer State Park, home of Mount Rushmore and our camping site for that night. Upon our arrival, we eagerly made some delicious quesadillas for dinner, followed by a wonderful dessert, which we dubbed “Dirty Pigs in a Blanket.” The dessert consisted of Snickers on a piece of tortilla with brown sugar melted on top.
On our final day of the trip, we lucked out with some beautiful clear skies and comparatively balmy temperatures. Taking advantage of the fair weather, we went on a day hike in Custer State Park up to the Cathedral Spires, which are some stunning rock formations. Winding along a snow-covered trail through rocks and woods, we reached an exposed peak with an incredible 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains. We relaxed on top of the ridge for a while, enjoying some apples, granola bars, and of course, more gorp, while taking some pictures of the pristine winter landscape before returning to our van and beginning our drive back to CC.
Thanks to our leaders’ determined driving, we arrived back on campus on Saturday night. A late dinner of pasta and veggies before a slumber party at the Russian House concluded our fantastic block break trip in the Badlands!