Badlands National Park: Unexplored Trails

Below are four approaches to exploring a National Park with limited time.

(This holds true for cities or countries or museums, and so on, but let’s just discuss parks.)

  1. See nothing: Take a picture with the park sign. Get a National Park passport stamped at the Visitor Center. Get back on the bus. (These types of people are “Park Collectors.” They don’t want to see the world, they only want to own the map.)
  2. See everything: Move as quickly as possible, keep the camera rolling, and find out how much was missed when watching the video at home. (They actually DO want to see the world; all of it, once.)
  3. See the highlights: Consult the guidebook, the ranger, or the map. Figure out how to fit in everything notable. (This crowd is a combination of the first two, in that they want to “conquer” the site, but they do so thoroughly. They value maximum impact over interaction.)
  4. See how it goes: Start with what is most interesting. Savor the experience. Move on to the next thing when ready. (These travelers aren’t out to conquer, or check off a list, they want to immerse themselves.)

For the record, and I write this sincerely: no approach is wrong.

While I regularly travel with someone who uses the third approach, I personally prefer the fourth approach, which results in some serious disconnect.

Whether I am rushed by circumstances or by a travel companion, the phrase that eases my tension is, “Save it for next time.” Leaving the possibility open that I will be back again and that new areas to explore will make the next trip significantly different allows me to appreciate the things I DO see, as opposed to fretting about all the things I WON’T see (“on this trip”).

Even so, I’d been thinking that Badlands was a “one and done” until I saw the sign for the Notch Trail on the end of the day.

Oops! Guess I’m saving that for next time!

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