FKT: Lance Smith - Sage Creek Wilderness Area Loop (Badlands National Park, SD) - 2020-11-07

Route variation
Standard loop
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
4h 58m 44s

See YouTube Video to get a feel for the route.

This was a fabulous day in the Badlands.  Probably my best 5 hours hiking/running EVER! Weather was great. 45 degrees at start and 62 degrees when I ended.  I slept in my car at the Conata Picnic area the night before.  Got up at 4:30 am, made some breakfast and coffee and was ready to go by 5:30 am. 

Took off from the sign in register at 5:30 am. I saw deer eyes right away and made my way to Deer Haven with out incident.  It was still dark but the sun was starting to illuminate the sky as I climbed up and over the formations at Deer Haven. Deer Haven is a stand of cedar/juniper trees up on a shelf in the formations.  It is an area a lot of day hikers go.  What a beautiful experience to stand at the top and see the sunrise!  I was the only person there and I saw no one out on the route.  I gave my God and audible thanks for blessing me this day and continued quickly.  

I continued NW through the Sage Creek Area until I got to my move to go more West.  I scared a lone Bison Bull at about mile 3.  I made it past him to see a group of mule deer that I continued to bump for a mile.  I started to see more Bison and finally ran into a group of Big Horn Sheep.  I was once again blown away with the wild life in this area.  I have done this loop 5 times before and each time I have seen wildlife.   Next were the Prairie Dogs.  They didn’t like my intrusion with out invite to their morning breakfast.   I also came across three Bison skulls and one large Big Horn Sheep skull. 

I continued West but stayed pretty far North in the Sage Creek Basin.  Your intuition tells you to stay South but don’t.   This will pull you into the creek bottom which continues to get deeper as you go farther West.  At mile 8-9 I past a dried wetland area.  Just past this area is where the Bison use a slot in the formations to enter the Tyree Basin.  For this FKT, we bypass that short cut and continue just a little farther West around the end of the formation but you don’t have to go around the last big one farther to the West.  

Niw heading South through the Tyree Basin I spot more Bison laid out in front of me.  They are curious of me but do not run or move.  I am able to skirt past them at a safe distance and still stay on course.

 At the South end of the basin, I spot the grave site of Howard and Eugene Tyree.  They were born in 1916 and were twins.  Eugene died at birth and Howard lived to 88 years old and died in 2005.  Howard had his ashes placed with Eugene’s.  It was a special moment seeing this site and then researching it when I got home.  Their parents were some of the first homesteaders in the Badlands Area.  

I started the turn more SE and came to the Sage Creek Pass.  Stay on the South side and follow the heavily used Bison trails that will lead you down.  From here you will continue East and follow a fence line until you hit a steep decline.  Take the decline to lower land and head NE to a fence line corner post.   Don’t go under the fence.  Stay along the fence till the corner and then head due East to the finish. You will have the formations on your left side and go by Deer Have again.  It was here I saw a lone Ram looking down at me.  I’m sure he was wondering what all the huffing and puffing was about as I had quickened my pace to try and finish under five hours.  I did stop and get videos of many things along the way.  It is part of the experience I enjoy.  To be able to share the experience with others, in hope to get them curious about the natural world and themselves.  

I ended up running pretty much as fast as I was physically able to the last couple miles to get to the place I started in 4 hours 58 minutes and 44 seconds.   I had no idea how fast I could go but I really surprised myself.  I had always backpacked here and took it slow.  I brought 4.5 liters of water which was way to much in this day.  I ended dumping 2 liters at mile 14.  I also brought to many snacks but the little extras provided me more confidence at the beginning.  I carried a minimal set up and used trekking poles.  I started with a wind jacket but took that off after the sun came up. There is no water that is potable on the route. 

I am very satisfied with my effort and I appreciate the Fastest Known Time website putting up this route for others to try.