In the Badlands, a scar of rough, sandy stone and rock running through South Dakota, every swipe of your boot through the grass sends another wave of locusts, crickets, or grasshoppers. Whatever the jumping creatures are correctly called, the landscape sets an epic contrast to their little hopping lives. Close to the bugs, all you can hear is their buzzing; rise out of the dry grass and climb a ledge and there is no sound, save the occasional tourist helicopter skimming the canyons and buttes. If you spend ten minutes waiting for the clouds to change, the colour of the rock changes with them. Vultures drift overhead. Amongst the buttes are rudimentary fields populated by black cattle. From the mandibles of a four inch grasshopper to the miles of grassland at the foot of a cliff, everything becomes a photograph. Which is annoying, when you are on a hike, miles from anywhere, have run out of water, and want to go home.
Home for the evening was on a cliff overlooking the White River, a winding, creamy line sitting before the pointy bits of the Badlands proper. Setting the tents as far away from the rattlesnake holes that riddled the area, and as close to the edge as was safe after half a bottle of whisky (three to four feet), I started a fire as the sun went down over some unnecessarily dramatic scenery. Fortunately, the site itself was on an Indian reservation and cowboy ranch, and the cowboys themselves had a freezer full of steak, in various shapes, sizes and degrees of marbling. I had three (they were all different, so it made sense to check each out), and all went into the top five steaks I have ever had. There were no cows that I could see on the ranch itself. We may have eaten the last ones.
Essentially, everyone was terribly overstimulated by the whole day, and as some unnecessarily dramatic stars came out and the feeling of seclusion became overwhelmingly exciting, the group became terribly drunk on very limited alcohol and ran from one photo to the next like children on Panda Pops. Axes were flying, the fire was raging, people were laughing and screaming. It was like a lumberjack's fifth birthday. All was good until the meat sweats came, but they were worth it.