Maybe we were born to be wild. I know it’s hard to think of “wild” in a modern, luxury RV but when we have the chance to choose campground (with hookups, around the crowds) or wild camping (without hookups away from crowds) – it’s wild for us.
Driving across South Dakota, you will not escape the signage for Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota. Every handful of miles for 300 miles you will find another billboard touting anything from cute to corny messages inviting you to stop in instead of passing.
What caught our eye was “old fashioned ice-cream”. So along the trail, I started thinking about an old pharmacy soda shop, where soda jerks cranked out root beer floats to the hungry and hot masses. But alas, upon arriving at the pharmacy, it felt rather…modern. So we skipped and headed across town to our REAL destination – the South Dakota Badlands.
We weren’t doing the tourist version. We were wild camping along the rim.
Just south of the Wall, South Dakota exit – 6.4 miles to be exact – is a radio tower which as it turns out is open land for wild camping. The gate closure is just a simple looped wire. Enter the gate and you can spend a night along the rim of the Badlands.
Admittedly, it’s a little creepy pulling up to a wild camping location, opening an unsigned gate, driving your home away from home on wheels in and setting up shop for the night. Off in the distance we could see 2 RV/campers but still, we didn’t know them and couldn’t make much about them from this distance.
And just then, as we pulled in and hopped out to open the gate, a couple with a camper pulled in behind us. We pulled far enough in and ahead for them to join us so we could close the gate for them. As we hopped out and met them, we learned that they had just passed the location and were doubting it only to turn around down the road to see us pull up and in which felt more comforting to them.
So together, we rode on through the tall grass and lightly beaten path up to the rim of the Badlands. Julie, Jonathan and I hopped out once we reached the crest and helped our new friends – Paul and Ellen – to navigate and find a great location with enough clearance for their rig.
And there we were – meeting new people out in the wild, enjoying stunning views. As the sun sat and night fell upon us, it hit me – the Milky Way was peaking in the late evening instead of the late morning. So we ran to get the astrophotography lens and gear out then walked ½ mile until we were beyond the radio tower and lights of the other campers to capture an incredible shot of the Milky Way.
Not only was the shot amazing, but after 45 minutes of white light absence, we could actually see the Milky Way with the naked eye – better than I’ve ever seen before. That left quite the impression on the kids.
The sunrise was just as beautiful.
This is why we wild camp. With plenty of battery life to run lights as needed, it was a perfect way to enjoy nature and ponder big ideas without all of the noise of modern life. And modern was only 10 feet away with everything we could need in our overly-equipped RV if we needed. That night, our needs were far more simple and consisted of views that most people will never stop to see.