I was told the Badlands erode an inch every year. That’s a lot when you think about it. It’s a foot since I was last here. Measurable difference in a human lifetime. The Black Hills next door erodes 10,000 times slower. The Badlands are only 500,000 years old, and in another 100,000 – 500,000 years they will be gone.
That’s one of the things that I love about this place. The impermanence. I always found the Rockies so foreboding. Like the ocean they felt primordial. But they were a dominating prescience. They cast a constant shadow.
The Badlands are beautiful and temporary. And yes, extend the line out far enough, and everything is temporary. But they feel temporary. And they feel alien. A “moonscape” is the word used by the South Dakota tourist website. Otherworldly is what I would use. You can feel it in the ground and in the air. It doesn’t hurt that by September it’s mostly deserted.
I came out here to try and finish this fucking novel before starting a new job (I won’t finish it, but I guess I already knew that). I picked here because I have childhood memories of driving through the Badlands on the annual summer pilgrimage to Colorado. Most of the trip bled into my Gameboy screen. But not the badlands. We would stop and having a picnic by the highway. The canyons beneath us cutting away into the distance, uninhabitable and foreign. It seemed unlike anything else I had seen in real life or read about in my fantasy novels. It still does. It cuts away beneath you and rises up in front of you, the colors constantly shifting with the light. I lose track of whether I’m up, down or sideways.