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Backpacker Magazine – November 2009

Rip & Go: Sage Creek Loop - Badlands National Park, SD

Explore off-trail in a wilderness with more bison than boot prints.

by: Kim Phillips

Trailhead at Conata picnic area (Kim Phillips)
Trailhead at Conata picnic area (Kim Phillips)
MSR Dromedary Bag (Courtesy Photo)
MSR Dromedary Bag (Courtesy Photo)
American Bison (Donna Ikenberry)
American Bison (Donna Ikenberry)

Take it With You
Download a printable PDF of this entire weekend.

GPS-Enabled Trip Report
See this trip on a map, download it to your phone, GPS, or computer, and more.

On The Menu

Breakfast 1
Wall Drug Café for muffins and $.05 cups of coffee
Lunch 1, 2, and 3
Peanut butter and jelly on bagels
Dinner 1
Prairie Pesto
Breakfast 2 and 3
Oatmeal with brown sugar
Trail mix, dried fruit, ginger snaps
Dinner 2
Badlands Curry

Prairie Pesto
A fresh pasta dinner

4 ounces spaghetti noodles
1/2 cup mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried basil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook spaghetti in boiling water, then drain. (Water is scarce; set aside for tea.) Stir in olive oil and all remaining ingredients. Mix well and eat.

Badlands Curry
East meets Midwest.

1 boil-in-bag rice
1 cup bison jerky, shredded
1/2 cup cashews, chopped
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup dry milk
3 ounces pepper jack cheese

Cook rice as directed. As water boils, add jerky. Dice cheese. When rice is done, remove from bag and drain all but 1/2 cup of water. Stir in curry, salt, and dry milk. Add cashews and cheese.

The Grocery List (Aisle # in Nearest Store Below)

1 jar peanut butter (1)
1 jar jelly (1)
2 packs dried fruit (1)
4 oz. spaghetti (2)
1 boil-in-bag rice (2)
1 box oatmeal (3)
1/2 C. cashews (4)
1 box granola bars (4)
1 box ginger snaps (4)
1 package bagels (7)
2 packs trail mix (7)
1 C. buffalo jerky (checkout stand)
1/4 C. grated Parmesan cheese, 3 oz. pepper jack cheese (dairy)
1/2 C. mushrooms (produce)
Pack Olive oil, spices

Pit Stop
Grab a posthike meal at the Elkton House. Locals rave about the hot beef sandwich. Top it off with a scoop of Fjord's Ice Cream (voted "Best Ice Cream in the Black Hills"). 203 South Blvd., Wall, SD; (605) 279-2152

Nearest Grocery Store
Wall Food Center
103 W. South Blvd.; Wall, SD;
(605) 279-2331

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Reader Rating: -


Sep 16, 2012

Just went on this trip mid September. A few points

-The wash can be confusing and you can find yourself backtracking if you aren't paying very close attention. Make constant use of your compass and GPS in this area. There are many washes and many of them look the same. We had one area where a rock collapse caused a large back-flow of water. We had to use the terrain to move around it and found ourselves going down a wash a mere 5 feet away from the wash we were intending to return to. This led to a small detour but it was somewhat frustrating in the heat of the afternoon.
-I cant imagine camping in deer haven and being happy with the mileage one would have to put in the next day. Push yourself further (we camped in the hills about .5-1km before marker 013. The views are fantastic and the sites are numerous.)
-We ran into several buffalo up close in the wash. These are large animals and can be unpredictable. Try to give them a wide berth.
-Two of the days had highs of 90-93 degrees. The hiking from 1-3pm can become quite exhausting and can consume quite a bit of water as you are sweating a fair amount. Consider taking your lunch from 2-3pm in the shade to conserve energy and water.
-We did not see any rattlers, we did avoid tall grass when possible though.

This was a fairly tough trek, definitely not for amateurs. The views are amazing and you truly feel like you are in a wasteland at some points. Enjoy the trip and be mindful of your navigation at all times. Even with some of the issues, this was still one of my favorite trips I have ever taken. We packed in a gallon of water per day (3 days) and found it to be sufficient. I notice a few people tended to have a fair bit less and rationed their water. Not something I would recommend even if the weight can be a bit much.

Luis Orozco
Sep 10, 2012

My friend and I did this trek in early July. It was our first stop in a road trip that took us 8 thousand miles around the US from NYC. He used Backpackers guide to follow our way. We must confess that it was challenging since the heat was extreme and the place that is suggested here for camping was kind of risky to reach. (the rocks fall apart just from touching them). It was a total adventure that included a punishing sun, beautiful landscapes, and not a single soul during our 4 hours walking trip and climbing. My friend lost his engagement ring in the suggested spot from this magazine--- other than that, the experience was amazing, the landscape, I agree, from another planet, and the night sky with the most striking number of stars I have ever seen. If you find the ring contact me! ;) By the way, there is a parking area. We left the car overnight .

Robbie Helgason
Sep 02, 2012

There is parking at Conata. I did 2.5 days there. good stuff.

Kevin Wolff
Jun 20, 2012

there is no overnight parking at the conata picnic area.

Badlands National Park
Dec 22, 2010

Badlands National Park is very beautiful. If you wish to travel back in time then there is perhaps no better place to choose for the hiking trip than the Badlands National Park. It is in the South Dakota. Here centuries of the wind and the water have carved out deep canyons where the dinosaurs once roamed millions of the years ago and where scientists today enjoy some of the world's most extensive fossil deposits.


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