If you have never been to badlands, never seen pictures of them, or never heard of them, you will find yourself amazed by them. They seem to be out of this world, like a moonscape. We had already seen some badlands at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota however it still didn’t prepare us for the immense volume and grandeur of the Badlands National Park. It was beautifully desolated.

It was hot there. The 1st day we were there, it was 109F at 2PM. We waited until the next morning to go for a hike as we usually like to hike for a minimum of two hours and it was not wise to hike in heat. Badlands near Notch TrailWe picked the Notch Trail because it was only about 1.5 miles so we would have a lot of time to explore the trail and the area around it before it would get too hot.

The trailhead also had trails leading to the Door and Window trails. We warmed up by taking the short Window trail first to get a great view of an intricately eroded canyon. There were many rattlesnake signs to warn unwary tourists. Stairway to Heaven, Badland, Notch TrailAny chance of snake sightings would always get me agitated and cautious; we decided to take our hiking poles as safety measures.

We started off the Notch trail by winding through a canyon. Susan with Bryden climbing stairs at Notch Trails, Badlands NPBadlands got the name because pioneers found them to be hard to navigate through and we soon discovered the reason. About a half way through the canyon, we noticed some people were hiking at the top of the canyon above and ahead of us. We were wondering how they got up to the top and soon we found out how: there was a steep ladder about 100 feet tall. I took Kadia by hand up the ladder. The last 20 feet were too steep to walk together side-by-side. Kadia with no fear, climbed up the rest of the way herself. Susan & Kada on Notch Trail, BadlandsSusan, with her fear of heights, scrambled up with Bryden on her back. It wasn’t difficult climbing up but, later on, on the way back down the ladder, she was shaking with fear: every step took many seconds.

The trail up on the canyon provided us a great view of the canyon we just hiked in.
Hiking at Notch Trail, Badlands NPIn some places, Looking down at the Notch Trail, Badlands NPit was a little treacherous so I had to keep a good hold of Kadia’s hand and we were glad that we brought our hiking poles. There were very few people on this trail and we felt like we owned the place, exploring through some of the side canyons there, enjoying ourselves. At the end of the trail, we arrived at the Notch above the Cliff Shelf with a great view of White River Valley. We waved to some people down at the Cliff Shelf nature trail and had the feeling that we were in heaven. This was a great and fun hike. Next time we will do some fossils hunting as well; maybe we can come face to face with a dinosaur and not blink.Ralph and Kadia having fun at Notch Trail


After visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park, we tried to find the best way to head up toward Nebraska on a Colorado state map. When we travel, we usually like to take side roads as opposed to major interstate highways unless we are pressing for time. When we saw Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument on the map, instead of cutting across on 160 and taking 25 straight up, we decided to take 285 then cut across on 24 to 25. We have never heard of Florissant Fossil Beds but the name ‘fossil’ intrigued us; we decided to explore it and maybe we could find some fossils.

We got to the Visitor Center and saw some fossils and petrified wood on displays. We thought we may have hit a jackpot with both rare forms of rocks. However soon we were disappointed as there weren’t any fossils to be found and there were only a few petrified stumps scattered across a one-mile trail. Later I discovered that most of petrified wood were taken from the area back in late 19 century when they were first discovered. People carted them off by wagons. What a tragedy.
Petrified Forest Painted DesertPetrified Wood Instead, if you want to see petrified wood (see right), go to Petrified Forest NP in Arizona. We were there a few years back and it was a wonderful place to visit with many different types of petrified wood and lots of hiking trails through many different and beautiful landscapes (see above left). Please don’t collect them though.

And if you want to look for fossils, then you can go to Craigleith State Park, Ontario, Canada. We had never heard of Craigleith until we were at Markham visiting our friends, Harry and Jennifer and their family. They told us that they camped at Craigleith many times and had a lot of fun looking for fossils on the beach there. After the experience with Florissant Fossil Beds, we didn’t have any high hope but went there nevertheless as it was on the way to Bruce Peninsula.

FossilCraigleith State Park is on the south end of Georgian Bay, a part of Lake Huron. We arrived there on a Thursday afternoon and were lucky to get a campsite. Evidently, it was a popular spot to camp and soon we knew why. The rocky shoreline was beautiful and the water was warm.
FossilInstead of sand, it has a flat rock beach comprised of shale plates that contain invertebrate fossils around 450 million years old. Shale is a sedimentary rock comprised mostly of mud and clay. We strolled along this rock beach teemed with shale fragments, thus many opportunites for great discoveries. We, with our adventurous spirits, took to this task as if we were pioneers out for a fossils hunt for the 1st time carefully combed the beach looking for fossils and shouted with excitement when we discovered them. It was a wonderful time, especially for Kadia as water and rocks were two of her favorite things just like most kids. Soon it was getting late so we sat and watched a spectacular sunset, a favorite hobby of ours when we are on a trip.
Sunset at Craigleith State Park