On the Edge

May 17, Wednesday

The rain holds off just long enough to hitch up Cas and get on the road. By Rapid City, SD the gray sky is teasing me with sprinkles and a blustery wind is blowing from the north. The temperature is dropping, and I eye the Black Hills in my rearview mirror. It’s not so hard now to imagine that tomorrow they’ll have a blanket of snow. This is what camping in spring and fall is like, you never really know what you’re going to get for weather.

I head east on I90 for warmer temps at a lower elevation. I have somewhere in mind, but the rain has made getting there a dicey proposition. At the town of Wall I stop at Buffalo Gap Visitor Center. Like National Forests, sometimes National Grasslands allow free dispersed camping and Buffalo Gap is one such place. I speak to the ranger on duty and ask about the state of the road I’m thinking of camping down. Like many public land access roads it’s dirt, and when I read the description on Campendium several reviewers remarked on how it becomes rutted and inaccessible after a good rain – and last night it rained pretty good.

The lady doesn’t know about that road specifically, but says Sage Creek Rim road out to the primitive campground in nearby Badlands National Park is still open, so it may be okay.

It’s a problem I’ve been faced with several times since I started boondocking: risk the potentially bad road, or play it safe and pay for camping in town? “I’ll take Option 3 Alex, scout out the road and then decide.”

Of course, this method only works when there’s some safe place you can park your rig nearby. I’m in luck, and there’s a wide spot along 240 where I can pull over to look.

On 240 south of Wall and just north of the Pinnacles entrance to Badlands National Park, on the east side of the road is an array of cell towers with a dirt access road out to them. This road doesn’t show up on Google Maps and I’m not even sure what it’s called (no signs), but the towers make it easy to find. The road is literally a single track through prairie.

I walk all the way down it. Farther in are old deep ruts that would be impassable for my rig, but others have taken to driving beside the ruts creating a new road, and this is in good shape. The ground is damp, but not saturated. I’ll be able to make it and not create new ruts that would hamper others.

And on that note, I’d like to make a quick public service announcement: Even if your rig is capable of making it down a muddy wet road, please think of others who only have 2WD or are lower clearance. If you create deep ruts getting to or from a camping spot you hinder others ability to enjoy these areas. Waiting until the road has dried out some (even just a few hours after a rainfall makes a huge difference) keeps these camping areas in better shape so that they can be enjoyed by all. Thank you! Okay, now where were we…

Buffalo Gap National Grassland surrounds Badlands National Park, and this little access road has fantastic badlands views. Once past the towers, you can turn left or right to follow along the rim of a cliff with badlands stretched out below. There are four other RVs present when I arrive (I find out later that I know three of them – it really is a small world!) but in my opinion the best spot is still open and I’m quick to take Bertha and Cas up to claim it.

Shortly after I get unhitched the promised rain arrives. It rains the next two days, a cold biting rain accompanied by wind (but hey, no snow!). I enjoy my magnificent 180 degree view (my spot is on something of a peninsula jutting out from the edge) but the weather prohibits outdoor exploration. On the evening of the third day, a minute before sunset, a break appears in the clouds and the sun shines through. What a sight for sore eyes!

The wind never really lets up on the rim, but the rain becomes less frequent after that. I’m able to get out and explore around camp…

…And try my luck at capturing how pretty this place is.

It’s hard, the views are so expansive that pictures don’t do them justice. This spot makes my top five list for scenic boondocking for sure.

I get a lot of work done. Inspiration to write and edit videos comes easily with this kind of view out the window.

I also do a lot of reading when the afternoon storms blow through, forcing me to put my solar away. Have you ever read a book about the area you were visiting while you were there? It’s a neat way to learn. I picked up Stone Song, a novel of the life of Crazy Horse a couple months ago and have been waiting to start it until I got into South Dakota. It’s good, and being here on the plains I feel like if I strain my ears just a little, I can hear the echoes of 1876 in the rolling of the thunder – this region has a turbulent history.

This storm brought the hail that I videoed for Facebook/Instagram/Twitter last week.

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18 Responses to On the Edge

  1. Jodee Gravel May 29, 2017 at 7:33 pm #

    You found a gorgeous spot to ride out the storm. Those vistas are amazing! I love finding books set in the area we’re visiting. It’s especially fun when you drive down a remote road that’s been featured and you recognize a few things!
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Emeralds, Diamonds and Sapphires – Crater Lake, OregonMy Profile

    • Becky May 30, 2017 at 6:21 am #

      Yes Jodee, it is so fun! The Badlands got a mention in this book, I smiled when I read it.

  2. Judy May 30, 2017 at 12:18 am #

    You find the most beautiful areas to camp! It’s just amazing!! We tried going up a dirt road near Bridgeport, CA. It was so bad with rocks and dust we turned around. I lost more glasses and cups in the rv. Now we bungee them closed. We never made it to that place. Thanks for your great posts!!

    • Becky May 30, 2017 at 6:22 am #

      You’re welcome Judy! I like having a smaller rig that can make it to more remote areas. If I’m not sure of road quality I always scout first, saved myself from getting stuck a few times that way.

  3. KJ May 30, 2017 at 9:13 am #

    So cool. I really enjoyed your photos. Thank you for sharing.

    • Becky June 1, 2017 at 8:33 pm #

      You’re welcome KJ.

  4. Michael May 30, 2017 at 9:17 am #

    Any chance you could include GPS coordinates of these places like these in your posts? I’d really love to add them to my bucket-list of places to visit!

    Thanks.

    • Becky June 1, 2017 at 8:35 pm #

      I intentionally don’t include GPS coords. But the written directions will get you to the right area. You can also look on Campendium and Free Campsites for more exact listings, that’s where I find all these places at. 🙂

  5. John May 30, 2017 at 7:31 pm #

    Great site. That storm photo is amazing.

    I was driving in the area of Badlands at night. I finally reached my destination and parked and slept. The next morning I had to backtrack and realized the pitch black views from the night before hid amazing badlands views.
    John recently posted..Borobudur in Java, IndonesiaMy Profile

    • Becky June 1, 2017 at 8:37 pm #

      I try to avoid arriving after dark if at all possible. Could you imagine arriving at this spot after dark? I’d probably drive right off the cliff, haha. But that must have been nice to wake up to.

  6. Jimmy May 30, 2017 at 8:34 pm #

    Another well-done and easy-to-read travelogue-type post.

    I see at the end of each post are three “Related Entries” (I assume these are keyword generated). One of them happened to be “Southbound”, from 08.12.2016. So I read that in addition to today’s entry…..

    I noticed a pattern (which your long-time readers are no doubt familiar) — you often take a photo or two of your rig against a backdrop of where ever it is you happen to be travelling. See also: Your current homepage, with Casita in foreground, shining in the late-afternoon sun, with brilliant Utah red rock in the background. (I can’t bring myself to calling it “Cas”…..that’s YOUR name for it……LOL)

    Which brings me to……

    Ever thought about collecting all your “rig-with-spectacular-background” pix in one location on your site?

    For that matter – I bet you have the makings of a whole coffee-table style book there!! Description: “Image after image of unique Texas-built fiberglass trailer framed by stunning scenery.” In addition to the RV community, I bet the hipster crowd would go nuts for it too! =)

    (When it gets published just remember to give me a cut of the action for hatching the idea ….LOL… =)

    -J………=)

    • Jimmy May 31, 2017 at 9:57 am #

      Ohh BTW….”Southbound” (above) mentions you packing up from a stint at Old Faithful.
      Did I mention I spent a summer in college working in Yellowstone? Was a cashier/waiter/bartender at the Mammoth Hot Springs Dining Room (I think they are calling it the “Terrace Room” now?) Sure looks the same from the outside.

      Had a blast. Lot of other college students worked summers. Think of it as a long party punctuated by 8-hour work shifts ….LOL LOL

      Mammoth may not be as scenic as some of the other Villages, but one big advantage was – it was short ride down to Gardiner to get “off base”. =)

      http://www.yellowstonepark.com/mammoth-dining-room/

    • Becky June 1, 2017 at 8:45 pm #

      Several readers have suggested I create a photo book over the years. But it’s harder to put one of those together than a regular book (requires more design skills), and my iPhone pictures don’t blow up to book size as well as photos from a regular camera. I haven’t completely ruled the idea out though. It’s more likely I’d offer prints of my travels for sale, that would be easier.

      I worked in Yellowstone in 2015 at Old Faithful, that’s how I was able to stay at the employee campground last year during the family reunion. Met some great people that summer and I only worked 6 hour shifts – more time for exploring and hiking! The names of the lodges and restaurants change when a new concierge company takes over the contract – copywrite infringement or some such. Glad you had a good time!

  7. Gerri & Mike June 1, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

    Beautiful spot!! What a view!! Do you have a link on your blog on finding boondocking sites, BLM sites etc?? Would love to give the “off the grid” camping a try. We have an Oliver and are equipped just not experienced. Thanks!
    Gerri & Mike recently posted..Remember that Glitch???My Profile

  8. Gerri & Mike June 2, 2017 at 10:49 am #

    Thanks so much for the link!!
    Gerri & Mike recently posted..Remember that Glitch???My Profile

  9. Keith McKenna June 11, 2017 at 11:39 am #

    I camped on the same pinninsula (probably) that you did. Such amazing views. I love waking up just as the sky starts to lighten, making a pot of coffee and watch the day be born! The sun rise on the ridge is staggering!
    On another note, I really admire what you are doing with your life , and I love and follow your blog. I like that your posts offer much in the way of practical guidance and that you are involved in work camping so much. If I were ever in a position to make this leap, I think that I would support myself getting jobs through places like coolworks.com and such.
    Thanks for your advice.
    Safe Travels, Keith.

    • Becky June 11, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

      I’m not a morning person Keith but I did get one sunrise on the rim and it was beautiful.

      Four years later I have no regrets about going full-timing, it is the best thing I could have done with my life. I’m glad you’ve found IO helpful and inspiring and I hope you get the chance to travel full-time someday if that’s what you really want to do.

      Take care!

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