Bucket List Sunrise

I’m not one for making bucket lists. The only time in my life I ever did, I came back from the hardware store with a five-gallon plastic pail because I needed something to transport water.

Sometimes, I’m too literal for my own good.

Saturday morning, though, I did a thing that would certainly count toward crossing off a bucket list item if I actually had one.

Tara had left the evening before for a trip to Nevada and Arizona to visit her sisters and newborn nephew. It’s a complicated getaway that involves driving to Denver (six hours) and flying out there, then repeating the process in reverse when she comes back. What an adventure, huh?

I craved a bit of adventure myself, so pretty much on a whim, I decided to catch a sunrise at the Badlands yesterday. The internet told me sunrise was 6:52 a.m., so I did a bit of backwards math—figuring out how long it would take to drive the 75 miles, factoring in the getting-ready-at-home-while-still-waking-up part, and figured I’d have to be out the door at 5 a.m.

I was kind of on the fence about the whole thing, because, 5:00 is awfully early for a Saturday morning. I get up around then most days before work, so weekends are my reward, you know? I didn’t even have an alarm set, figuring if I woke up automatically and was keen on going, I’d do it.

I did and I was, so I went.

Driving along the interstate across the rural South Dakota plains 90+ minutes before sunrise is dark. There are no towns and very few cars, so I kept my high beams on for much of the trip. It took a little over an hour to reach the national park, and by then dawn was creeping in. Sunrise was half an hour away when I parked my car, but I could tell already it was going to be a beaut.

I trekked across the Door Trail, a rugged landscape that kind of resembles the surface of the moon. It was fairly breezy but the temperature was in the mid-40s and I was comfortably dressed in layers.

Even before the sun came up, the scenery was amazing.

With time to spare (and not another living soul around), I was able to scout out the perfect spot. Then, I sat back and waited.

And while the actual sunrise was beautiful…

…I was most impressed by what was going on behind me. As the sun crested the horizon, the cliffs and buttes shrugged off their shadowy blankets and lit up like glowing embers. It was breathtaking.

I loved the wispy clouds and dramatic contrasting colors. The landscape resembled a painting.

Also, without a doubt, getting up so early to witness this firsthand was…at the risk of sounding corny…magical. And totally worth it. 10/10 would recommend.

It was barely 8:00 by the time I dragged myself away. The day was young! I wanted to go hiking and figured the Badlands were a better bet than the Black Hills, still buried under snow from last weekend’s storm. So, I decided to set out on the Castle Trail. Sure enough, there was much less snow out there…

But. You can see the trail in the bottom of the photo. All the snow that had been there was melting rapidly…and that turned the trail into a muddy, swampy mess.

And, see this little factoid from one of the interpretive signs in the park?

That, my friends, is a gross understatement. The mud was so slick in places, it’s a miracle I didn’t fall on my ass. At one point I came to a hill coated in mud, and tried a few tentative steps but my hiking shoes couldn’t get a grip. I knew if I tried to push on my feet were going to slide right out from under me and I’d end up a mud-splattered mess, so I cut my losses and turned around at that point.

After stopping at Wall Drug on the way back, I was home by 1:00. The rest of the day was spent kicked back on my recliner. I watched a couple episodes of You, a psychological thriller series on Netflix about an obsessive stalker-slash-killer that was recommended by a friend. I’m really digging it.

I ordered Chinese food for dinner and started to watch Adrift (that Netflix subscription is definitely paying for itself!), but it had been a long day and my eyes were the only things adrift at that point, so I called it a night midway through the movie. I’ll resume that today.

Gotta make me some scrambled eggs now. Tara called earlier and we had a five-minute conversation about how to make them. Ha…what can I say? She’s the breakfast cook and her scrambled eggs are perfection. Not planning on doing much else today, though I’m pretty sure Bloody Marys are part of the game plan.



Categories: Photography, The Great Outdoors

Tags: , , , , , ,

29 replies

  1. That sounds really awesome. Thanks for sharing the experience with us. I wonder how early I’d have to get up to make it to the Badlands from San Diego for sunrise. Better pack some CM for the road. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well that hiking link just went into my folder, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That looks amazing. Unfortunately, as a woman, I’d never feel safe doing something like that alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How awesome! I am a sucker for sunrises and mountains and snow. You hit the trifecta!

    Volcanic mud. Wow. Am filing that away for horrors to visit on characters in a book someday.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I understand there’s a lot of pro photographers that will only go out to shoot during golden hour and blue hour (sunrise and sunset plus an hour or so), just because the light is so much nicer. Maybe they’re on to something.

    Personally, I get some of my best sleep at 5 AM…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Bravo! The only sunrise I see is the one from my bedroom window. Stunning pics though. But poor Tara, a 6 hour drive just to get to the airport? That’s my idea of Hell.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sounds like a lovely little adventure. I love the early morning. One of the things that makes beautiful sunrises so special is that they are gone so quickly. I know I keep saying this, but I gotta get to the Badlands one of these days, but not ’til it’s warmer.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a fun post. I’ve never seen what you photographed so it’s all new and wonderful to me. Such views. I can’t even imagine. As for scrambled eggs, if you stir them too much they get all weird and dry. But I’m sure Tara explained that to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. From grey to golden: I feel a metaphor coming on. Then the gold of scrambled eggs. What an excellent day.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have been in awe of your breathtaking photos on Instagram, Mark! You picked the perfect day for this adventure. Every single photo is stunning! I suspect you had to choose from many great photos. First time I have heard of popcorn rock. I have been looking forward to read your posts. A good part of my day.🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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