Badlands National Park – Rugged Beauty on a South Dakota RV Trip

August 2017 – Several states boast rugged landscapes that are known as “Badlands,” and we have enjoyed two trips to the mysterious Bisti Badlands in New Mexico. But the Badlands in South Dakota are sizeable enough to have been set aside as a National Park.

Landscape Badlands National Park South Dakota

Badlands (along with dot-sized cows) in South Dakota

The town of Wall, home of Wall Drug, sits right next door to Badlands National Park, and after just a short drive from town we found ourselves immersed in the moonscape of a windswept desert where relentless erosion has shaped the sedimentary rock into an endless array of triangles.

South Dakota Badlands Scenery

Rugged “badlands” landscape

As far as our eyes could see, the land was rippled with peaks and valleys, natural pyramids and buttes.

South Dakota Badlands scenery

Slightly hazy from smoke coming from Montana’s wildfires, the golden glow was still beautiful.

Unlike Bisti Badlands, the rock in Badlands National Park is not brightly colored. There is a small section that features rolling yellow and red mounds, but for the most part the land is filled with shades of brown and beige. Despite the drab colors, it is a very stimulating place for photography, and we had fun trying to capture the essence of this desolate land on our cameras.

Photography Badlands National Park South Dakota

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Golden Hour Badlands National Park South Dakota

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Badlands National Park is quite popular, and there are several overlooks where you can get an outstanding view.

Overlook at Badlands National Park South Dakota

There are badlands as far as the eye can see!

For us, one of the coolest things in Badlands National Park was the large resident herd of bighorn sheep. These guys wander throughout the park at their leisure. They are well accustomed to tourists and totally unafraid of people. Best of all, it didn’t take long to spot them relaxing on the various precipices and promontories as they took in the views of the Badlands!

Bighorn Sheep Badlands National Park Overlook South Dakota

Two bighorn sheep enjoy the awesome view.

Like the wild animals at Custer State Park and Yellowstone National Park, this herd of bighorn sheep can hardly be called “wild.” The rangers keep a close eye on the herd and follows their movements about the Park. To help with their monitoring, some of the bighorn sheep have been outfitted with collars that carry rather bulky radio beacons, complete with a long antenna.

Bighorn sheep walks past an RV wearing a radio collar

Have radio, will travel! If the rangers gave this sheep an iPhone X, he could make calls and post pics on Facebook!!

This wasn’t the first time we’d seen bighorn sheep decked out with radios around their necks. The whereabouts of a herd of bighorn sheep at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is monitored this way, and the elk that have repopulated Great Smoky Mountains National Park are tracked via radio beacon too.

But the animals seem to manage just fine despite this bulky electronic gear, and only a few in the herd were collared. As the sun set, we found ourselves very close to the herd as they munched the grasses near the road, and we were able to get some wonderful portraits at close range!

Bighorn sheep at sunset Badlands South Dakota

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Bighorn sheep (ovis canadensis) really are in the sheep family (ovis), and they have been around on the North American continent for millenia. During our stay in Wyoming, we’d had a chance to get some fun mom-and-baby shots of domestic sheep too (ovis aries), and this made for an interesting comparison between the two species.

Mama sheep and her lamb

Very sheepish, but a little different looking!

Bighorn sheep in the prairie grasses Badlands South Dakota

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Pretty soon the herd began to leave the roadside and make its way across the shimmering golden grasses of the Badlands. The crowd of tourists on the side of the road murmured and held up their cell phones to capture this majestic and classic western sight unfolding before our eyes. How fabulous!

Bighorn sheep family at sunset Badlands South Dakota

A family of bighorn sheep moves through the golden grasses.

Big horn sheep family at sunset Badlands South Dakota

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Herd of bighorn sheep Badlands South Dakota

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Badlands National Park turned out to be an excellent place for wildlife viewing, and one day at a watering hole just outside the Park we spotted a flock of pelicans getting a drink and a bath. What an unexpected surprise!

Pelican Badlands National Park South Dakota

Here’s a Badlands visitor we didn’t expect to see!

But perhaps the most endearing animals were the prairie dogs. These little guys are just too cute for words!

Tourists like us love them, of course, because of their funny antics as they pop in and out of their holes. But they are not so popular with ranchers because their massive dog town communities spread out for acres and acres. They dig up the grasslands, leaving very recognizable little piles of dirt outside their holes, and it’s just too easy for a horse to step in a hole by accident and injure itself.

But we couldn’t resist them!

Prairie Dog Secrets Badlands National Park South Dakota

“I wanna let you in on a little secret…”

Two Prairie Dogs Badlands National Park South Dakota

“No… are you serious?!”

Prairie Dogs Badlands National Park South Dakota

“Hey! Guess what I just heard…!!”

We made our way across the Park, and at sunset the striped eroded sediment rock of the Badlands began to glow.

Badlands National Park South Dakota

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Badlands National Park South Dakota

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As we drove out of the Park the sun slowly sank out of sight and disappeared behind the hills, taking the rich golden light and dark shadows with it. Suddenly, we spotted one of the bighorn sheep standing on a ridge against the fabulous Badlands backdrop. What a classic image!

Bighorn Sheep Badlands National Park South Dakota

First there was one…

Then two of his buddies joined him.

Bighorn sheep Badlands National Park South Dakota

…and then there were three!

So often we have looked around at a classic western desert landscape and said, “Wouldn’t it be perfect to see a bighorn sheep standing right there!” And there they were right in front of us!

Red ball at sunset Badlands National Park South Dakota

The sun sets in a fireball of red.

If Badlands National Park seems a little out of the way, or if the scenery itself doesn’t lure you to the Park, perhaps the chance to see large communities of prairie dogs and a sizeable herd of bighorn sheep will. We were surprised at just how easy it was to spot these animals and how much they make an otherwise barren landscape come alive.

RV camping in the South Dakota Badlands at sunset

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Solar Eclipse 2017: Time-Lapse Videos from the South Dakota Badlands

August 21, 2017 – We first noticed the mania about the 2017 solar eclipse when we took our RV through the cute towns of Chugwater and Douglas, Wyoming, a few weeks ago. There were solar eclipse glasses for sale at checkout counters and all kinds of tourist pamphlets advertising the event.

We watched it in the Badlands of South Dakota where the eclipse would 95.7% of maximum — pretty close to total.

Timelaps video setup for Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota August 21 2017

Timelapse video setup for Solar eclipse 2017 in the South Dakota Badlands!!

We set up three tripods with our cameras facing the rugged Badlands landscape to capture time-lapse video sequences of the two and a half hour progression from normal daylight through the dark skies of the eclipse and back to normal daylight again. We started the time-lapse videos a little more than an hour before the max eclipse time, and set the cameras to take images every four seconds. Then we got busy doing other things.

Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota tripod set up for timelapse video time-lapse August 21 2017.

We set the time-lapses to take a shot every 4 seconds.
It was cloudy at the start, and we had no idea how dark it would get, so the exposure settings were a wild guess!

Because of the clouds, it was a little hard to tell that anything was happening. However, the sun eventually came out and it was a little dimmer than normal. Using a technique similar to the pin-hole boxes we had both made during solar eclipses as kids, Mark flipped a pair of binoculars upside down to show the image of the moon crossing the sun on the back of a white pizza box.

He thought of this technique at the last minute, and impressed the heck out of me. What a creative mind he has!! I asked him how he came up with the idea, and he just said, “Well, I needed something with a round hole.” Oh. Right. But of course!

Solar Eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota viewing through binoculars August 21 2017.

It’s started!

We were in a quiet area, but as the eclipse progressed we noticed a fire engine pulled up to park a bluff. One firefighter climbed up on the roof of the truck to look at the changing landscape and the other stood out front. Cool!

Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota fire truck on hill August 21 2017.

A fire truck showed up on a bluff.

I remember when I was child there was a solar eclipse visible across North America (in March, 1970), and my great-uncle, who was 85 at the time, began telling stories of a solar eclipse he had lived through as a kid in the last years of the 1800’s. He said the animals had gotten confused and had settled in to go to sleep. The chickens all roosted, the dogs curled up on the ground, and all the critters thought it was time to go to bed.

I don’t know if he was pulling my leg or not, but all of a sudden we saw a pair of big horn sheep babies playing out in the grasslands. They were romping around together bounding over the tall grasses when all of a sudden they stopped dead in their tracks and turned around to look at something behind them.

Baby Big horn sheep solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota

A pair of baby big horn sheep pause in the grasslands to look over their shoulders.

Mark grabbed his Nikon D500 camera and very long lens and snapped a few priceless pics. As we watched this sweet pair, we were both amazed when they suddenly laid down right there on the ground.

Resting big horn sheep solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota

Time for a little rest.

Baby Big horn sheep solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota-2

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I’m not sure if they thought nighttime was coming, but one of them dozed off for a moment!

Sleeping Baby Big horn sheep solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota

Nighty-night!

And then the magic moment arrived. 11:51:36 am was maximum eclipse time for us, and for the next two minutes we were at maximum moon-over-sun darkness of 95.7%.

Mark put his 16-80 mm lens on his camera, attached two 10-stop neutral density filters, popped out the live view display, and took a few shots.

Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota photographing 95.7% eclipse August 21 2017.

Mark sets up to see what he can get at the moment of maximum eclipse.

I sneaked behind him to see what he was getting. Very cool!!

Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota photographing 95.7% eclipse August 21 2017

There it is!

solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota 95.7% eclipse at maximum August 21 2017 11-51 am

95.7% of total eclipse.

I wandered around with my pocket camera and got some images of the Badlands. Frankly, it wasn’t really that dark. At least it didn’t seem to be to me.

Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota 95.7% maximum eclipse August 21 2017 August 21 2017.

It didn’t seem all that dark during the maximum solar eclipse.

The sun was definitely still shining and there were distinct shadows on the ground. I took a shot of my shadow.

My shadow Solar eclipse 2017 Badlands National Park South Dakota

I could see my shadow plain as day at max eclipse time.
Friends of ours in Idaho said the true total eclipse was as black as night. They even saw stars for a few minutes!

But when we looked at the time-lapse videos later, we discovered the cameras had picked up the darkening light very well. I had a polarizing filter on my Nikon D810 with an 18-35mm lens set to about 20mm with a shutter speed of 1/50 and aperture of f8. Mark didn’t have a polarizer and used a 24-120mm lens with a shutter speed of 1/200 at f5.6.

Here are the three time-lapse videos, the first two from our Nikon D810 cameras and the third from the Nikon Coolpix A. Each one is about 30 seconds long:

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The solar eclipse I remember from childhood was on March 7, 1970, and occurred in the middle of my weekly piano lesson. My wonderful piano teacher and I kept peeking out the window and looking into my pin hole box between recitations of Bach’s sonatas. Very fun! Here’s some info about that eclipse.

More On Photography: Photography Gear, Tips and Resources – What we use and how we learned photography

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Eggs & Aliens in Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands)

May 2017 – There’s a wonderful natural treasure to be found in northwestern New Mexico at the Bisti Badlands — or Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness — just 40 miles south of Farmington.

Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico Photographing the Eggs

Hanging out with the alien eggs at Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico

We had a very magical experience in this exotic location five years ago and we wanted to get back once again.

Exotic Landscapes Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

There are all kinds of hoodoos in the Bisti Badlands

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a huge area filled with crazy rock formations that resemble everything from spacecraft to furniture to alien eggs. Because it is a wilderness area, there are no trails and no vehicles are allowed either. The only way to see it is to walk on in and start exploring.

The hoodoos and colorful mounds make for a great day of fun just getting lost in a maze of crazy shapes, and on our last visit we roamed all over the place climbing up and over red and black and orange striped conical hills that easily stood 50 to 100 feet high.

Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

There are no hiking trails in Bisti Badlands, but walking in any direction takes you to cool rocks!

But the “prize” in Bisti Badlands, if there can be such a thing, is the tiny group of stones that look like alien creatures emerging from their cracked egg shells.

Cracked eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

In one corner of the Bisti Wilderness there is a collection of rocks that look like alien eggs or pods.

Alien eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Cracked egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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This is a favorite area for photographers, and we headed out in the late afternoon as the shadows were getting long.

Alien egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Some of the rocks look very much like eggs sitting on a dish or embryonic alien life forms emerging from the shell.

Eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Each one is a little different, and some look as though they might come to life.

Eggs on pedestals Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

A creature from afar?

Alien eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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As we wandered around the perimeter of these fantastic rock formations and crouched down to see them up close, I suddenly heard Mark yell “Help!”

I turned around and saw his hand reaching out… he’d been swallowed up by an alien egg!

Human eating alien egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Oh no!!

Not really, of course, but these little guys were very engaging and we were having lots of fun getting photos of them and playing with effects.

Eggs alien egg factory Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness

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Sometimes we couldn’t help but get in the photo in one way or another, even if it was just a shadow of ourselves.

Photography at the Eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

With such long shadows sometimes we had to incorporate our own shadows!

Hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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As the hours went by, one by one, each egg lost the sun’s golden glow. Then the setting sun threw some pretty colors across the sky.

Hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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One of the things I love most about these alien egg rocks is that each one is decorated with a different pattern on its surface.

Some have a wonderful pattern that seems very deliberate, as if carved by a divine hand.

Exotic egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Each egg was decorated with a unique pattern.

Some are very bold, with definite lines and carvings.

Alien shellback Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Others have finer lines and have started to fade in places.

Decorated egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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And some don’t have any decorations at all.

Egg in shell Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Decorations or no, you just can’t beat seeing one of these crazy egg rocks set off by a pink sunset.

Eggs at sunset Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

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And then, with a flash from the west, the sun was gone.

Sunset Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness

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We decided to stick around to see what this other-worldly place looked like at night.

We’d brought our big flashlight with us which is like a car headlight (review here). We put it on its lowest setting and began playing with it doing “light painting” on the rocks. Cool!

We also had two smaller 1000 lumen pocket flashlights (review here), and we experimented with using them for light painting as well. The smaller, dimmer lights produced a wonderful effect.

721 Cracked eggs at night Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

We did a little “light painting” on the eggs with a flashlight as it got dark.

A few stars began to twinkle in the rich light of dusk. The moon was rising and looked like a huge street light above us. Mark was using his favorite wide angle lens and it made a fabulous starburst out of the moon!

Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

The nearly full moon created a starburst in the sky at dusk.

Back at the trailer when we were going through our photos, Mark emailed this cool shot to a friend who’s a video arts and Photoshop expert. Suddenly he got an email back that looked a little spooky!

Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico with UFO

What’s that flying over the cliffs?

As a gag, he emailed the revised photo to another good friend who is also a photographer and Photoshop expert, and suddenly it came back looking even spookier!

UFO Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

OMG – They’re shining their spotlight on our rig!

But before we could play with our photos in the rig, we had to get back out of Bisti Badlands in the dark.

I was glad the moon was so bright. Like our old days of sailing on our boat when we made long ocean passages at night, the moon was like a very dear friend in the sky. The eggs around us were easy to see, and it even cast shadows on the ground.

Stars at cracked eggs Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Eggs by the light of the moon.

Even with the moon so bright, more and more stars began to appear in the sky above us.

Stars at night Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

As we hiked out we saw more and more stars.

Hiking out in the dark was quite a thrill. We heard some coyotes very close by and were hoping to catch a glimpse of them, but they must have caught our scent and heard our footsteps because they soon headed off into the night.

Stars over hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Stars over the hoodoos.

Every so often we could see the lights of a power plant in the distance, keeping us more or less on track! We ended up scaling a few more deep washes on the way out than on the way in, but we made it out just fine!

Some notes and a word of caution for folks heading to Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness with RVs:

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is a very special place that is well worth a detour to visit.

RVs are allowed to park overnight in the fenced off parking area which can hold a few truck campers or perhaps 3-4 larger RVs. The “RV” end of the parking lot can get very muddy when it rains and the ruts from RVs that had been there during recent rains were quite deep.

This parking area is located about 3 miles down a dirt road off of Route 371. When we went to Bisti Badlands in late September of 2012, the 3 mile dirt road was well graded and it wasn’t difficult to drive on with our fifth wheel trailer.

Now, however, it appears that the road has not been graded in a very long time, and it is absolutely terrible. We drove at 3-9 mph the entire way in both directions, no joke. Not only was everything in our rig badly shaken up but we discovered the locking nut on one of the bolts that goes through the equalizer in our fifth wheel suspension actually fell off. Without a locking nut, the bolt had worked itself almost all the way out during our drive in. Luckily, Mark was able to fix this right there in the dirt parking lot. More on that coming soon!

More importantly, it seems that Bisti Badlands has been “discovered.”

In 2012 we were the only RV there for one night and we had just one companion RV another night. This year the parking area was quite busy every night with cars, vans, truck campers and short Class C’s crammed in, and lots of people came in cars to hike for the day as well.

In 2012 there were no footprints beyond the gate into the wilderness area, and this year there were footprints everywhere, especially leading to the eggs, and there were lots of people out hiking. In 2012 there were a few boondocking areas down the road, but now there are markers at those spots saying “No Vehicles.”

As we were packing to leave Bisti Badlands on a Saturday morning, four cars arrived and joined the RVs that had stayed overnight. During the 45 minutes it took us to drive the dirt road out to the highway, 12 more cars and trucks passed us on their way in. I have no idea if or how all those vehicles could fit in the parking lot!

So…. if you own a bigger RV, it might be wise to leave it in Farmington and make a day trip to Bisti Badlands in the tow vehicle or toad. Mid-week will be quieter than weekends, especially during the peak seasons of spring and fall.

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More info about Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands):

The website for the BLM is undergoing many changes and doesn’t have information about Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness at the moment. We describe how we found the eggs on our previous visit at this link.

Location of Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Parking Area – Interactive Google Maps

If you go into the Bisti Wilderness with a friend or spouse, it’s a good idea to stick close together or take a set of two-way radios. We used both our radios and a hand-held compass. A hand-held GPS can be a helpful tool too (although we just used our compass). We also used all three of our Lumintop flashlights (reviews HERE (searchlight) and HERE (pocket flashlights).

Other blog posts from New Mexico:

Night hikes and starry skies:

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Bisti Badlands NM – Mysterious rocks and an alien egg factory!

Bisti Badlands hiking in the wash

Hiking into the remote and mysterious Bisti Badlands.

Late September, 2012 – One of the great things about hanging out with the photography pros at Nasim Mansurov’s Colorado Landscape Photography Workshop was that they knew where the cool places were to take pictures.  Nasim suggested we check out the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico where there are all kinds of rock formations, hoodoos and some mysterious alien looking “eggs.”

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Hiking through the rock formations

We hiked on ridges and in valleys

This is a very remote place, 36 miles south of Farmington, New Mexico, and when you get here after miles and miles of boring flat land, it is a wonder to behold.  Even more startling for us, though, was having an Indian on a spotted Appaloosa horse ride up to our campsite to chat with us.  His name was Nelson, and I suspect his first language was Navajo, as he spoke English with an unusual accent.  He had been out rounding up a miscreant brahma bull that had wandered away when his nephew accidentally left the paddock gate open.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico lots of colors in the rocks and Teepees

The colors vary from one neighborhood to the next.

Tourists from all over the world make their way to Bisti Badlands, and Nelson has met folks from Europe, Asia, and all the states.  It is a wilderness area, so there are no signs and no trail markers, and too often hese tourists wind up on his ranch, quite lost.  The rather baffling maps from the BLM office make it look easy to find your way, but they quickly prove almost useless once you start hiking.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Indian on an Appaloosa Horse

An Indian visits our campsite on his spotted Appaloosa horse “Oreo”

Just last week Nelson had rescued a Japanese family that saw the light on in his house near midnight.  They knocked on his door seeking refuge from the cold, scary desert night.  He brought them back to their car in the morning.  “Don’t they see the movement of the sun, or watch the moon?” He asked us, shaking his head in disbelief.  Then he spurred his horse and cantered down the road in a cloud of dust, his faithful dogs following.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico hoodoos

Exotic hoodoos surrounded us.

Wow.  That was right out of the movies!!

Bisti Badlands Alice in Wonderland furniture

Mark finds himself a little table.

 

 

We ventured into the badlands armed with a compass, binoculars, a good sense of the sun’s path, a bunch of food and water, and our cameras.  The “egg factory” is a collection of rocks that look like aliens hatching out of their eggs, and finding it was our ultimate goal (as it is for most travelers here).  But the rock formations and desert colors we saw on the way were just as inspiring.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Alice in Wonderland hoodoos

Obama and Romney should pontificate a bit out here!!

We hiked for hours, following first one wash and then another, climbing up and over tall pyramid shaped rocks and skirting around the bottoms.  Over the years visitors have given the different groups of rock formations names:  The Wings, Alice in Wonderland, The Teepees, etc.  Spread out over several square miles, you only know you’ve arrived in a particular neighborhood when the rock formations look like the names they’ve been granted.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico searching for the cracked eggs

Mark scans the horizon for the eggs

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Collared Lizard

This lizard wasn’t lost!

We came across a group of rock formations that looked like furniture.  A perfect little table and a podium were fun to pose with.

 

 

 

But where in the world were those crazy eggs?  They were supposed to be about two miles into the badlands area, along a wash that branched southeast.  Well, there were lots of washes, and they branched all over the place.  We saw lizards scampering along the desert floor.  Surely they knew exactly how things were laid out in this vast barren place.

Bisti Badlands Rock Formations

Well, the eggs aren’t here, but this is cool!

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Wings

Winged things.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Flying Saucer

A flying saucer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We found ourselves in another area of formations that had flat roofs, or wings.  These hoodoos were otherworldly.  One even looked like a flying saucer.  Some of the flat tops were detachable and could be lifted off.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Pyramids

Mark stands at the base of a pyramid

Continuing on, we wandered between tall pyramid shaped formations that were decorated with fantastic horizontal stripes.  They stood just a hundred feet or so high, and were easy to scramble up onto for a birds-eye view.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico colorful black and red pyramids

The colors change to black and red

The landscape changed from shades of white and yellow to shades of red and black.  It was all quite beautiful and exotic.  But the eggs were nowhere to be found.

Bisti Badlands bird

Bisti Badlands New Mexico searching for the egg factory

“North is that way!”

We returned to our campsite and studied the BLM map once again.  Maybe they would turn up on a second day’s quest.  We headed out again the next day and this time recognized many of the landmarks and had a much better sense of where we were.  “North is that way,” Mark said at one point.  He had a photo of the eggs from the BLM and now we knew what they would look like if we found them:  small egg-like rocks backed by white eroded cliffs.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico cracked eggs

Two of the elusive alien eggs

Finally we found them and whooped and hollered in triumph.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico the black boobs

The black boobs – important landmarks!

In the end, they are actually very easy to find.  There are GPS coordinates available on the web, but here is an easy landmark-based way to get there:

 

Follow the fence on the left side of the parking lot into the badlands.  When the fence takes its second sharp 90 degree turn to the left, look straight ahead in the direction you’ve been walking, and look for two black “boobs.”

Bisti Badlands New Mexico the egg factory

Mark sits among the eggs

Walk towards them.  As you approach them, walk around the leftmost one (the further one), leaving it on your right, and continue on to the black topped white cliffs in the distance.  The little collection of eggs is right there in front of the cliffs.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico egg factory

The best light for these guys is dawn and dusk

Bisti Badlands New Mexico cracked eggs

Bisti Badlands New Mexico egg factory

We had arrived at the eggs in the glare of midday, but who cares?

Bisti Badlands New Mexico the egg factory

In a softer light at dusk

Bisti Badlands New Mexico the eggs

An alien rises up out of its shell!

Bisti Badlands New Mexico the eggs at dusk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We felt like successful Explorers!  The following afternoon we returned to the eggs a second time to capture them in the softer light of sunset.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico egg factory light painting

A full moon rises behind the eggs

There were a few other photographers with us, and we all had very a funny moment when we suddenly noticed the full moon rising opposite the setting sun.  All the cameras and tripods turned around in one motion!

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Cracked Eggs light painting

Light painting on the eggs

We hung out as the sky darkened, and we played with a new photography technique Mark had learned:  light painting.  Using a flashlight, we “painted” the eggs with light and used long exposures to get a wonderfully eerie effect.

This was the last of our RV travels before we returned to Phoenix to visit friends and family. Then it was time to store the trailer and board a plane to Mexico where our sailboat Groovy waited for us in a slip down south in Marina Chiapas.

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We returned to Bisti Badlands in the spring of 2017:

Alien Eggs in Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands) New Mexico

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