Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sheep Mountain Table

The Badlands are aptly named: they are bad. I did a Google search for "Sheep Mountain Table," where Kim, Matt, and I went hiking yesterday, which netted me the following image:

It also netted me the notes of a court case detailing the death of a 17-year-old who fell from a ledge and the story of a successful search-and rescue operation after a drunken man stumbled who had fallen from a ledge at Bombing Range Overlook.

Then there is that name right there: during World War II, the U.S. Air Force seized some land from tribal members for use as a gunnery range. According to a ranger I met this summer, 99% of the ordnances have been cleared. "But you should NOT go exploring out there," he cautioned.

I don't think we were within the gunnery range. But it's boundaries aren't clear to me (nor, apparently, were they clear to some of the bombers, as a church and post office in Interior "received six-inch shells through the roof," according to Wikipedia).

One of the facts in the deposition for the court case I mentioned is that "There were no warning signs posted in the area and no gate prevented access to the road leading up to the top of the table." In "Desert Solitaire," Edward Abbey argues for the removal of pavement and warning signs and railings in our national parks. The wilderness is a dangerous place, and we should keep it wild.

I tend to agree. Which is why we set out down the crevice of that very same table, gingerly following the path of erosion through the rock and dirt to the valley at the bottom. A month or so ago, Zach and Darius found shell casings in a similar area, but I didn't see any: I came across a few sets of fossilized teeth, a lot of bison turds, and--the sole evidence of the goverment's foray into these lands--a few small pieces of scrap metal, rusted and covered in dirt.

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