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Nights out here almost defy description. It is quiet, it is cool, and it is almost always clear. Due to the elevation, the low humidity, and the fact that there are no cities of any size, anywhere near this place, it is one of the best spots in the country to view the night sky. There is also wildlife here. I have seen rattlesnakes, bats, pronghorns, coyotes, and toads here, and have heard countless other animals. The Park Service, aware of the spell that this place casts at night, offers a night prowl, during the summer months. This is a series of ranger led walks/talks out into The Badlands at night. This is likely to be the highlight of any visit here, and has always been one of my favorite activities.
Though I have been to The Badlands a number of times, this is the first time that I have ever made this place my ultimate destination. Generally, I stop off here for a few days, on my way to Yellowstone, or the mountains of the West. On this occasion, I was to stay here for several days, in one of the little cabins offered right in the park. I had also planned on using this time, to visit the new Minuteman Missile NHS.
Though Minuteman is designated as a site in it's own right, it is nominally a part of Badlands NP, and is administered as a part of the park. It was given to the Park Service, by the Air Force, upon the retirement of 500 Minuteman missiles, back in the 1980's. The rest of these sites were destroyed, by implosion; but this one was allowed to remain, for historical purposes. For years, this area in the heartland of the country, was the home of our protective nuclear umbrella. It worked so well, that for fifty years there has never even been a remote chance that the military of any nation would even consider attacking this country. These are the classic ICBM's of the Cold War, called the Doomsday Weapons, by those who knew no better, these weapons have saved uncounted lives, and prevented untold misery, by preventing the outbreak of any major wars for decades. The only serious forces arrayed towards the destruction of this system were those of domestic liberalism, which is always on the prowl for new causes with which to weaken and attempt the destruction of this country. Fortunately, they have so far failed, and our way of life remains, though a bit diluted by their constant efforts.
This is one of the best parts of the country in which to revisit America. The way of life here is still distinctly, traditionally, American. Ranchers, farmers, country people, and the types of hard working people which their self appointed betters have taken to derisively calling rednecks, dominate the culture of the area. A large number of the people here drive pick ups, and own guns. In the past, much of the country was like this; now, sadly, much of the country is not. Flags fly from countless front lawns, and numerous windows indicate the homes of proud parents of soldiers, sailors, and airmen.
No visit to this area would be complete without a trip to Wall Drugs, the Black Hills, and Mount Rushmore. There is also Al's Oaases, right at the Missouri River, as well as the countless small towns, truck stops and tourist traps.
Return to the Badlands, and to Minuteman Missile.