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Need a Sage Creek Wilderness (South Dakota Badlands) expert opinion
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Eric Carlson
(carl9son) - F

Locale: Upper Midwest
Need a Sage Creek Wilderness (South Dakota Badlands) expert opinion on 04/09/2013 10:52:54 MDT Print View

I'm starting this thread after a fruitless search of these forums. Hoping a few of you have completed the Sage Creek Wilderness loop. Here's an example of the typical route:

I've also encountered a small handful of "trip reports" although none of them are what I would consider specific in terms of navigation. The gist seems to be "Walk clockwise around a few tablelands for two days, then return via Sage Creek wash. Or you can go counter-clockwise. Bring water."

Notwithstanding the seeming absence of beta, I see potential for a navigational challenge where the route would lead along the tables instead of around them. Specifically I'm thinking of the high areas between Tyree Basin and Sage Creek Basin. See locations 43.858452,-102.306275 and 43.848858,-102.295461 and 43.833289,-102.280054.

So if I was prepping for a trip like this in the Rockies, I would be able to gather a reasonable amount of information from the available topo maps regarding a feasible route. You can generally get an idea about which ridge(s) might take you to your destination or help you continue along your way.

The problem I'm running into with the Badlands is that the topos don't always seem accurate. And not just because of the annual erosion in this area. Contour lines are an average account of the elevation change at times, which is workable when you're talking about thousands of feet. But in the Badlands we're talking tens or hundreds, with abrupt crevices and spires that won't appear on the topos.

Getting to the point, who among you has spent enough time in this area to give me an idea about the apparent ridge lines on topo maps and Google Earth? At times they seem as if you could walk right up them following animal trails. (In fact, some of those trails are visible in Google Earth.) If that's the case, then I think my route might be possible. But I'd like to hear your thoughts as well. There are, of course, other challenges to backpacking in this area (lack of potable water chief among them), but really I'm just looking for feedback on navigation. Thanks.