June 14, 2009
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Last night we had a torrential rainstorm. We both thought today would be rainy but were pleasantly surprised to wake to bright sunshine and clear skies. Today will be a slow-down day allowing time to get caught up on planning the next leg of the trip and up-dating the blog. The internet reception is not that great here so we are a little delayed getting it out.
We finally got out the door around 10 AM and stopped in at the Prairie Homestead just outside the park entrance. The prairie homestead is one of the few sod dwellings intact today.
The sod shanties were common throughout the prairie but most have disappeared, melted away by prairie rain, caved in and returned to the earth from which they came.
The sod houses were built by the “sodbusters” the last of the great wave of settlers in the west, long after the fur trappers, miners and the cattlemen. When they arrived they did not know what they would use to build their homes so being a hearty breed they used materials at hand and that was the earth upon which they stood.
The houses would leak and living conditions were very poor. I can’t imagine living in those times with all the hardships.
Later we took a hike into the Badlands on a one-mile trail. Of course we ventured off the trail to explore. The landscape is so barren its hard to imagine anything living here.
There was a prairie tour and talk that we attended. The wildflowers that are growing are quite beautiful. The skies west of us were turning dark and storm clouds developing. The Ranger informed us that west of us there was severe thunderstorms and tornadic activity. Yeah, my worst fear may come true. The storm clouds passed but the threat remained for later that evening.
Back at the campground we could see lighting across the sky in the distance and debated whether we should attend the evening astronomy program. We opted to go and about 30 minutes into the program it was called off due to the approaching storm. The skies were the blackest I have ever seen and very menacing. The lighting was spectacular but scary and the Ranger told us there was golf ball size hail falling with the storm.
We got back to the camper and of course my NOAA emergency weather radio was not functioning. I had not been able to get it programmed correctly. So in the middle of the storm –no hail, thank God- Ron and I talked through the very complicated directions. Ron finally figured it out once the storm was over but now we have the weather radio working.
Interestingly enough we had been talking to another traveler about the weather fluctuations and he mentioned that on his Cobra CB he gets the National Weather Service updates as he is traveling. Ron tried our Cobra CB and guess what??? – NWS was broadcasting severe weather conditions for our area with a tornado watch.
My NOAA radio was chirping about severe thunder and lighting and tornado watches as well for our county. What to do – What to do!!! We looked around and said where would we go anyway – there is no place to run or protect yourself so we chose to go to bed. Before settling in for the night the weather broadcast called off the severe weather for our area.
The good news is that we now have two methods of determining severe weather anywhere we are in the country. The bad news is that more severe thunderstorms are expected for the next three days.
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