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The Last Best Place - Day 8

A Cruise Through the Badlands

“God never made an ugly landscape. All that sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.” ― John Muir

It was our final morning Montana. Leaving is always so bittersweet. Every trip to those mountains cleans my spirit, fills my soul, and leaves me renewed in a way that nothing else can. We enjoyed one final morning by the fire, one final trip to the shores of a pristine lake, filled with the mountain runoff and so cold and pure that you can't help but marvel that there are still places like this.




Before heading back to the airport, we made a final stop at Montana Coffee Traders for my favorite breakfast.


And then it was time to lift off.


We decided on Wall, SD as a stopping point for the trip home, wanting to do another drive through the Badlands. We didn't realize that Wall doesn't even have a rental car agency, so imagine our surprise when we contacted the small Wall airport to inquire about transportation and the airport manager offered us use of his personal vehicle for our overnight stay.

The airport manager is also the Mayor of Wall. I joked that he is probably also the sherriff, the postman, and the City Judge, given the size of Wall. Seriously...who just lets a stranger use their truck for free? Wall is small town hospitality at its best.


He did warn us that all he had was a Ford Ranger pickup, but as my Grandaddy used to say, "A free ride is better than a proud walk," we we crammed ourselves into the mini seats in the back and were on our way! Classy.

Yee-Haw! We were doing it South Dakota style, y'all!


We checked in to the Frontier Cabins, and were pleasantly surprised at the cozy, clean cabins that waited for us. It was a great place to stay, although, there were an inordinate number of fake animals on the premises, some in better shape than others. It was sort of like staying in a giant putt putt golf course.



My favorite was this quadriplegic squirrel. He has seen better days and lended an element of creepy to an otherwise charming place to stay.

Note to self: yard ornaments are not always cute.


We paid an obligatory visit to the Wall Drug Store, where I scored an awesome $10 pair of spa sandals, which were exactly what my tortured feet were begging for.


Then it was off to drive the Badlands Loop in our super slick Ford Ranger Pick up.

With a storm rolling in the distance, the Badlands were simply awesome. We saw bighorn sheep, bison, coyotes, a double rainbow and prairie dogs before finding some dinner nearby.













There isn't a lot to choose from in the Badlands, so we grabbed some dinner at the Wagon Wheel in Interior. This was literally a hole-in-the-wall bar, but the pizza was hot and delicious.



As the sun dropped lower in the sky, the canyons were illuminated. It was a magic moment, one of those few that life offers up to you as a gift. I sat mesmerized as everything turned golden and the world was ablaze with the dying rays of the sun. I realized how big this world that God had created is and what a small piece of it I am. I felt blessed to be lucky enough to enjoy another special moment in God's creation and I was reminded that this is what matters, this is what is eternal, and I vowed to carry that remembrance home with me to help me keep sight of what is truly important in life.


Life is not about paychecks and 8 hour days. Life is not about worrying what to wear tomorrow or where you are going to eat tonight. Life is not about the car you drive or the house you live in. It's not about who likes you and who doesn't. Life is about the gifts that God has given us. God gave us so much and asks us for so little in return. And I am thankful for this great, big beautiful world and for my part in it, no matter how small or fleeting.

Truly, God never made an ugly landscape. All that the sun shines on is beautiful.


Posted by vicki_h 09:12 Archived in USA Tagged mountains hiking montana glacier_national_park kalispell

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Hi Vicki, my name is Tiffany and I love your travel blog! I check back frequently to read about your next adventure/entry. I also love traveling as much as you but unfortunately I don't get to travel as much as you luckily do!

I would love for my husband & I to do this Montana hiking trip! We don't have any backcountry experience but we have hiked in our favorite mountain destination of Rocky Mountain National Park/Estes Park, Colorado.

by Tiffany_R

A few questions if you don't mind:

1) How is easy/difficult is it to obtain a permit for the camp site you want to stay at?

2)How do you pack all those delicious eats? Day 3 you had smoked trout/cream cheese; homemade brownies; day 4 hash browns w/ ham & cheese; day 5 Italian meats/cheeses on asiago bagel and at the Chalet, jambalaya w/ summer sausage and for waffles for breakfast! Did you pick this up from home and obviously it is packed in your pack and then in the bag away from bears at the campsite?
It seems that you made the raisin bars/brownies at home and took them with you. I'm just curious because I really would love to do this trip and it would be our first time so I'm interested in how to bring along these delicious eats!

Thanks in advance from a frequent reader!

by Tiffany_R

Tiffany -

1) It's not super difficult to obtain a permit for a backcountry site in GNP, but it does require some planning and flexibility. Each backcountry campsite only has 3-4 tent sites, so only a few people can stay each night. There are 2 ways to get a permit: a) you submit a backcountry application between Jan 1st and April 15 for the lottery - only about half the tentsites at each campsite are reservable in advance through the lottery; b) when you arrive in the park, you can try to get a permit for the tentsites that were not able to be reserved in advance by stopping in a ranger station to see what is available - these are first come, first served.

We have had success on 2 different trips by submitting an application to the lottery.

You can find all that backcountry information here:


2) I am a slave to food. Seriously. No one in their right mind would pack in the kind of food I do, but when you are only camping one night, you can carry more food weight than you could if you were doing an extended trip (one reason I'll only camp one night at a time!). I just plan carefully and try to come up with great meals that can be left unrefrigerated for a day or two and can be prepared fairly easily. I bring some food from home (yes, I made those brownies and the raisin bars at home and flew them to Montana with me!) but we buy most of our groceries in Columbia Falls on the way to the park. We get a styrofoam cooler to keep it in and pack our meals from the back of the car. I'd be happy to email you my "food plan" if you'd like. Just shoot me a message. It has several menu ideas and what foods to buy that will keep in a pack without refrigeration.

by vicki_h

Vicki, thanks for your response! I would like to know your "food plan", thanks!

My email is: [email protected]

It will take some detailed planning for this trip to Montana. I would have to know which day we would be hiking to the Chalet in order to reserve it. I looked up the Chalet and they start taking reservations Oct 29. I would love to stay there too! I really want to do this trip but we will probably have to wait for Aug 2014 because we are making plans to go to London/surrounding are with my dad next Sept. At this time next year, I will start thinking about campsites and contacting the Chalet. I just loved your report so much on this trip that I just have to do it!

I also wanted to tell you that I loved your blog of Kauai. Kauai is our favorite place in the world! Kauai to me is Abaco to you! We are addicted! We have been 4 times! It is not the quickest place to get to...we fly from Austin, TX. We just love the North Shore of Kauai!

by Tiffany_R

Wow you captured some awesome lighting.

by JMQ

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