Cabin Fever in the Land of Infinite Winter

“Powerful storm brings blizzard conditions to much of South Dakota” was the headline many residing in the state woke up to on Monday morning. By Tuesday afternoon, the list of schools on the closeline had grown, and state government offices were shut down for a second day. Social media spun with posts about the onset of the dreaded cabin fever, and dreams of summer breezes danced through our heads.

InfiniteWest.jpgWhile relentless winds rattled the windows of my 110-year-old house in the state’s capital city, I began to plan my first “nice weather” excursion—perhaps for a day when the wind dies down to a mere thirty miles per hour and the temperatures rise to a balmier fifty degrees. Turning to my books for inspiration, I picked up Infinite West: Travels in South Dakota by Fraser Harrison. The wit and unique insight of this Englishman as he explores my home state alters what has become an everyday landscape to something fresh and exciting.

In chapter three, Harrison, with his wife and son, decides to drive to Hot Springs in the southern Black Hills via the twisting scenic road that leads through the Badlands:

Though this broken land was one of the chief objects of our trip, we were still mystified as to its exact nature, having nothing to enlighten us except some improbably lurid photographs in the brochures. . . . We rolled over the crest of the ridge and found we had strayed onto a plateau of the moon. Its skyline was a palisade of jagged ridges and pinnacles, an extended curtain of rock many miles long, from which the town of Wall derived its name. The floor of this lunar grassland was littered with the ruins of peaks that appeared to have fallen out of the wall, and the entire moonscape was composed of pink and cream rock piled in layers but scattered across the plain like the remnants of an exploded ice cream (p. 87).

Traveling through a mystical landscape of lunar peaks and valleys certainly sounds more enticing than sitting surrounded by four walls, watching as the world outside fills with ice and snow until it resembles the planet Hoth from Star Wars.

—Jennifer McIntyre

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Photograph by Chad Coppess, SD Department of Tourism

 



The image at top is by Christina Oey of Pierre, South Dakota, who photographed her doorway filled with snow on 6 March 2018. Used with permission.