Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Merger of Wind, Rock, and Sky

Badlands National Park in South Dakota is a 244,000 acre landscape that is both barren and beautiful. After driving several hours through the Great Plains and vast expanses of grassland, an eerie moonscape of deep gorges and jagged sawtooth ridges opened up in front of us.

Around 65 million years ago, the area was lifted and transformed by vast geological forces. The black, muddy floor of an ancient sea that once covered this area was compressed into a band of 2,000 foot thick rock known as the Pierre Shale. Forests flourished and withered away. Volcanoes laid down a thick layer of ash and rivers repeatedly flooded the region, depositing sediment, and carving out odd spires and rock formations. Now the area is slowly eroding exposing fossilized remains of saber-toothed cats, and rhinoceros-like beasts.

We particularly liked hiking the trails in the morning when the sun cast its deepest shadows and played with the colour schemes of the multi-hued rocks.

As we sat on some upper promontories we felt the merger of wind, rock, and sky. We could look for miles across the stupendous landscape. Here the rocks seems to engage in a slow dance with the wind. The mixed species of grasses also participated in the grand spectacle. The air was dry, fresh, and revitalizing. We had never seen such an open sky.

(My two pictures project out from the edifices behind me. I found the vista looking out into the horizon most inspiring.)