Buffalo and Bad Weather

buffalo-storms1Tuesday was about the best test for the RV windows that I could imagine. After another gorgeous morning, clouds started rolling in in the afternoon and at around 3:30 the thunderstorm hit, in force. It rained, it hailed, and it rained some more, for a good hour or so. I was working until 5:30. We had customers coming in who were amazed at how fast it started, and the wind whipped the hail up into little ice drifts that stayed for quite some time after it stopped coming down. The hail wasn’t big, mostly pea sized.

The roof at the Lodge leaked, pretty spectacularly. It’s in the process of being re-done, and last week the old tin and shingles underneath were torn out. The crew working on it put the ice and water-proof (supposedly) membrane shield thing down on Friday, and then this week they’ll be coming back to put the new tin over top of that. In the meantime it was suppose to be safe in case of rain, but it obviously wasn’t. Luckily, the leaks didn’t come down on top of any of the merchandise or customers, but it sure didn’t look very classy having all of those garbage bins out to catch the dripping water.

buffalo-storms2I was worried about what I would find when I got home. Three of my five windows had leaked when I was driving through heavy rain in Missouri, and this was the first significant rainfall Cas has been through since then. I walked from the Lodge back to the campground under clearing skies and to the accompaniment of bird-song, and gritted my teeth as I unlocked my door.

Bone dry, not a drop from any of the windows. I’m very happy, but in the dark over exactly what happened to make the windows leak during the drive here. They were on three different sides of the RV, so the wind couldn’t have been entirely to blame. I might never know, but in the future I guess I’ll want to do my best to avoid driving through downpours.

In other news, an afternoon safari through a good portion of the park on one of my days off last week turned up some buffalo! In the first day or two that I was at the Badlands I had seen the mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep, but the buffalo are a bit off the beaten path.


Many folks who come through the Badlands don’t expect to find them here. Custer State Park to the west (the Black Hills region) is much more well known for it’s buffalo herds, but according to signs and literature Badlands National Park, and the protected grasslands to the west of it host somewhere between 500-800 of the animals. They hang out down Sage Creek Rim Road, a dirt road that splits off from the main scenic loop just two miles from the northwest entrance to the park.

buffalo-storms4When I first arrived the road had been closed because snow melt made it muddy enough to be impassable, but it’s opened now and in good driving condition. The buffalo may be found at any point along the road between where it splits from the main loop and the rustic camping area about 10 miles down. When I went, there were a few quite close to the road which made for good pictures, even with a camera that doesn’t have a zoom. They were not grouped together in one big herd, but were in smaller groups of 5-20 animals, but often with more than one group visible at any one location. There were even some within sight of the rustic campground, and I bet they occasionally go through it.


The rustic campground is a semi-level dirt loop that you can pull your RV over to the side and stay in, or park your vehicle there and set your tent up in the grass next to it (although with the buffalo so close I’m not sure if you’d want to). There’s a pit toilet and trash cans, but no other amenities that I could see. On the plus side, there is no fee to camp there, although I think they do have a donation box.

After tracking down the buffalo, a coworker and I followed the dirt road right out of the park and grassland area and into a tiny little ghost town called Scenic.

Scenic was eerie, in a very photogenic way. The dark rain clouds brewing over the ramshackle buildings probably had something to do with it. What stood out most to me was an old saloon with animal skulls hanging on the sign and falling into ruin on top of the porch awning. It’s hard to read the sign in the photo, but this is what it says:


1906 SCENIC SO. DAK 1906



To the right of the saloon was a tiny building with a tin roof overhang that was open to the elements on one side. It had three solid walls and was separated into 2 cells with bars in the front – an old jail, nifty stuff.


But in contrast to how old everything else looked, the light poles seemed newer and the road through town was more or less maintained. It makes me wonder if it’s suppose to be some sort of tourist attraction that just isn’t open yet for the season: “Come see our old buildings!” But there wasn’t any sort of souvenir shop or visitor center nearby, so I’m not sure. Whether it was meant to be a stop or not, I sure found it fascinating. Back east, ghost towns just don’t exist because land is at a premium. It boggles my mind to find places like this with nobody around, there weren’t even any other visitors there except us. I guess if I’m going to be hanging around in the West I’ll be seeing more of this kind of stuff, and I’m looking forward to it!

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22 Responses to Buffalo and Bad Weather

  1. Paul May 10, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    Thanks for the great update Becky! I found your blog through the TrailerLife/RVNet forums. Been following your adventure for a few weeks. My wife and I live in Oregon and are leaving this morning on our own trip to the Midwest. We were both born and raised in Minnesota and have family there and in South Dakota. We will be traveling with our 16 year old son and there’s a chance we may be able to take a run through the Badlands. If we do we will try to say hello.

    • Becky May 10, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

      Hello Paul and welcome to IO! Glad to hear that you’re finding the site helpful. Oregon is on my list of places to visit, I’ve seen beautiful pictures of it. I hope your trip to Minnesota goes well, and yes, if you have the opportunity to stop in and say hello you should! If it’s busy I might not get much of a chance to talk, but I like meeting people who follow my blog all the same. πŸ™‚

  2. cozygirl May 10, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    Loving the ghost town….with the cloud cover your photos really set the mood. And the buffalo…jackpot! You sure found some true Western views. We are SD bound in a few weeks…but just to the other end of the state this time. Might stay in that same place you did. Hoping the DL goes smooth and nice weather for our travels. you’ll have to check out our latest Casita mods…last post. Glad your in such the perfect spot…going to be the best summer ever…and thumbs up on the no leaks!
    cozygirl recently posted..What should I pack?!My Profile

    • Becky May 10, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

      Heya Carla!

      Glad to hear that things are progressing well with your plans, you both must be very excited with it getting so close now! Big Sioux was a beautiful park, if you have the chance to stay there I’d say go for it. I’ll go peek at your post when I’m done catching up with comments here. While you’re in the rush of the final few weeks remember to take breaks every now and then to breathe and find your sanity. It’s a whirlwind time, but worth the hectic rush!

  3. Susie Rollyson May 10, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    I am so living this experience thru you….keep up the good work.

    • Becky May 10, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

      Glad you’re enjoying it Susie, thanks for reading.

  4. Kim May 10, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    Cool! Looking forward to seeing the bison. And I’ve never seen a ghost town. You’ll have to point me toward both. Great news about the lack of water in Cas!
    Kim recently posted..Metropolis, ILMy Profile

    • Becky May 10, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

      Yeah, it was a blast to get out there and see them! When I got out to the rustic campground and found traces of buffalo at the sites it reminded me of your story about the day you decided you needed a RV, you were there in spirit with me and soon you’ll be here in body too. πŸ™‚

  5. Tom May 10, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    We went thru Scenic about 10 years ago and I seem to remember the saloon was still open. It was a tough looking place.

    • Becky May 10, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

      Ahh, one little piece of the puzzle solved. Yeah I was getting mixed signals because it looked like it may have been functioning even though everything was really old and boarded over now. I guess the closure was a more recent thing.

      • Tom May 11, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

        Another cool old saloon that is still open is in Rochford, SD. Try it during the Sturgis Rally if you enjoy that scene at all. It is a cool little off the beaten path town. Really good burgers at the Monshine Gulch Saloon.

        • Becky May 11, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

          Thanks Tom! If I make it out that way I’ll check it out.

  6. Dennis Smith May 10, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    There is so much to see and do in there area. You will use every day off seeing stuff. And before long it will be 100 degrees and you will be wishing for cold wet weather.

    • Becky May 10, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

      Yeah, I haven’t gotten any farther than Wall yet sight-seeing, it might take me the whole summer to do it all. Now that I’ve got my VIP pass I’ll be able to get into a lot of area attractions at reduced prices, that’ll be real nice.

      As for the hot weather, I’m curious to discover if I hate it more than the slightly cooler (low 90’s average) but very humid summers in SC. This’ll be a dry heat at least. We’ll see.

  7. Pleinguy May 10, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    Wow! That’s some really neat stuff. I hope to get up that way sometime. We’ve had tons of rain here lately too. Great to hear that Cas is solid. Take care.
    Pleinguy recently posted..Forest CampMy Profile

    • Becky May 10, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

      Thanks Plein, it’s raining again here as I type, but not nearly as strongly this time. I’ve loved my time here so far, and would recommend the place to any traveler with the means to get here. I think this time of year is about perfect too, the crowds have yet to arrive and daytime highs are in the 70’s, very pleasant when it’s not raining. πŸ˜‰

  8. Ross Macintosh May 11, 2013 at 6:07 am #

    Hi Becky — I did a googly search on Scenic SD and found some interesting info. A British newspaper site had an article on Scenic written in 2011. At that time there were eight residents. An elderly woman, Twila Merril, had over the ears gradually bought up the whole town. With her health failing she had to move to the city and put the town up for sale. Originally she was asking for $3 million but eventually sold the 46 acres & all the buildings for under $800,000. The article describes the buyer as “a mysterious Filipino church”.

    Since you are in the area, be sure to go to Sturgis. I’d love to go there to see their world famous motorcycle rally thingie. This year will be its 72nd year! It would be cool to visit both during the rally (Aug5-11) & when it isn’t buried in thousands of motorcycles & people. In recent years the attendance has been over 400,000. That’s a lot of people in a small town!

    Regards, Ross
    Ross Macintosh recently posted..the ferry to Nova Scotia…My Profile

    • Becky May 11, 2013 at 11:52 pm #

      Heya Ross,

      That is some interesting information, thanks. It doesn’t look like anyone lives there now and I certainly saw no signs of a church, how odd.

      I’ve heard lots about Sturgis on the other hand. Apparently it’s the busiest time of the season for CPL so I’ll be working a lot and not sure how much time I’ll have off to go run up to see the actual rally. We’ll be getting bikers galore at the shop and restaurant though sounds like. πŸ™‚

  9. William May 11, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Looks like Twila Merril was quite the character, ex- rodeo rider. She did not do the standard woman thing like barrel racing, but rode the real thing like bucking broncs.

    As for the sign on the saloon; Per South Dakota Mag http://southdakotamagazine.com/scenic-where-characters-have-a-town “Twila has tried not to change the aura of the place. However, she did have the sign changed. It once read β€œNo Indians Allowed.”

    This is a very interesting article on Scenic.

    No one knows what the Filipino church wants to do with the town, but it was one of many who offered to buy, and Twila was real happy to have them buy it. Lets hope they do something good with Scenic.

    • Becky May 12, 2013 at 12:00 am #

      More pieces fall into place, thanks William. Maybe next time I come through the area it’ll be in better shape. πŸ™‚

  10. Jerryc May 12, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    Hi Becky,
    I don’t know the details of your leaking situation, but one thing to possibly keep in mind. If you have a roof vent or fantastic fan under a cover of some sorts, and tow with the vent open, it can create a lower atmospheric pressure inside the trailer compared to outside. Though it is negligible, it is enough to suck water around the windows in a heavy downpour. We have had it happen with our Casita, so we try to make sure both roof vents are closed if towing in rainy weather. Also, really enjoy your blog. Lots of good, entertaining, information.

    • Becky May 13, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

      Hmm, I do have a fantastic fan in the roof. Normally I remember to lock it down when I travel but occasionally I forget and I remember it happened once on this trip. I just can’t remember if it was during the downpour or not. Either way thanks for the info. πŸ™‚

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