Porcupine School

Kat wanted to hike some trails so we set out to climb the Cliff Shelf Trail, rated Moderate by the Badlands NPS. Once I was an athlete (Kat still is), but age and injuries have worn out some of my key mobility joints. Moderate sounded Aggressive to me, but we set out to do it.

Kat drove to the trailhead. I was free to gawk at the scenery, and Look a Here! There’s a herd of bighorn sheep sunning and chewing cud right above us alongside the road! We parked, bailed out, and began to survey them with binoculars and camera. They weren’t keen on being photographed by the paparazzi, and in a couple of minutes the herd began scampering down the hill heading across the road.

 

bighorn first

 

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We arrived at the trailhead, packed up our camera, binocs, hiking sticks and water. Then we set out on our hike. The signs warned us about rattlers, and I was glad to be armed with a sturdy stick. We climbed and climbed, past all kinds of rocks and through mini-forests of mountain cedars. The smell was like being in a Christmas tree lot on a still day: very woodsy. Then we were at the peak of the trail, and as the saying goes, “It’s all downhill from here.” We looked out over the valley below for familiar landmarks, and there was The Kat’s Cradle. It is true: you can spot an Airstream from a mile away. This picture was closer to two miles away.  (It’s in the center of the picture, just over the uplifted bough:  squint!)

 

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We drank our water and began the trek downhill. On the trail we met a class from the Porcupine School enjoying a Field Trip.

 

INDIAN KIDS

 

They were a well behaved group having fun. For thousands of years their ancestors “owned” this land to an extent greater than is possible today, while also believing that land cannot be owned anymore than the weather. Today their descendants are visitors to the same land. Like those ancient ancestors, and like you and me, those kids own this National Park today.

An old folk song writer, Woody Guthrie, put it best way back in 1940:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters,
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking that ribbon of highway
And saw above me that endless skyway,
And saw below me the golden valley, I said:
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
And all around me, a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
That side was made for you and me.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters,
This land was made for you and me.

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