Farewell, Badlands

Farewell, Badlands

It is hard to believe that I have been here a month.  When I first arrived, a month seemed like all the time in the world.  Now, I look back and realize just how short a time it really was. With close to forty blog posts and almost three thousand images captured, I have just begun to explore this place creatively.  Do I have favorite moments?  Do I have favorite places?  Yes and yes, but not specifically.  Any time I explored off the road would be a favorite moment.  When the light was hitting the formations just right, or when I had special encounters with wildlife – whether I captured them on camera or not.  These are all great moments.  There are some paricular day hikes I enjoyed, like the Saddle Trail to Castle Trail, or getting out and exploring on my own in the Conata Basin or the bottom of Norbeck Pass.  I particularly enjoyed my backpacking trip into the Sage Creek Wilderness.  I also found myself making connections with people that shared in my passion for all things Badlands, whether it was because of the great recreational opportunities the park presents or the unique geology.  I think that connecting with people is one of those things about our national parks that makes them special.

It is hard to say more than what I have already said about this place.  But, as a sort of closing, I can only say that a place like the Badlands will always be mysterious, full of opportunity for discovery, awaiting exploration, even for someone who has spent an extended period of time here.  I was speaking to one of the park rangers today, and he told me that in the ten years he has been here, there are still places he has not seen.  Every once in a while he will go to a new place and be surprised by it.  I think we all can learn from that.  No matter how many times you have been somewhere, like a national park, it is always worth returning to.  Unlike one former Alaskan Republican Senator who once said, in referring to a national park, “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.”  Quite the opposite is true.  Even if you have seen one, and seen it a lot, it will always offer you awe, wonder, excitement, and a chance to learn, if only you give it the chance.

I want to thank again the National Park Service for this wonderful creative opportunity, and for financial support from the Alaska Council on the Arts and the Alex Johnson Mercantile in Rapid City.  Thanks to the crew at KEVN Black Hills FOX for a nice piece highlighting my work here.  It is such a great opportunity for an artist to be featured in the local media like that, and such a treat given that I grew up in their broadcast area.  Thanks to Randy Brich and his wife Michelle for their interest in my work and for letting my photograph them biking through the park.  Thanks also to Christopher Pellowski, a Ph.D. candidate at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, for his tips and info on Badlands geological formations.  And thanks especially to my wife, Michelle, who is such a source of strength and inspiration as I seek to become the photographer I want and hope to be.

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