Hiking | Spearfish Falls

On a recent drive up to Spearfish Canyon, we hiked the short trail down to Spearfish Falls, which was a sight to behold. This is another of those destinations in the Canyon that I somehow had never seen, and it is well worth seeing. The trail is very well maintained, and only about a mile total, there and back. Definitely a kid-friendly trail. The afternoon light was beautiful, in spite of it being overcast, and I couldn’t pick a favorite shot of this beautiful location!IMG_3062eIMG_3060eeIMG_3066eIMG_3052eI know autumn is the waning of the year, but there is a glorious freshness about everything in the fall.


Hiking | Devil’s Bathtub

I’m honestly not sure how I made it this long without hiking Devil’s Bathtub. It’s a quick, beautiful hike to possibly one of the prettiest places in the Hills, and very unlike much of the terrain in the rest of the Hills. The hike is roughly 1.5 miles there and back, with approximately 12 creek crossings one way. The trail crosses private property at the beginning of the hike, but please be respectful of the trail and other hikers regardless of it being public or private land.
IMG_3114eIMG_3127eThis time of year, the creek was pretty low, but I’ve heard that during wetter times, the creek crossings can likewise be much wetter. After our French Creek Adventure I have a whole new perspective on creek crossings, so these were exceptionally mild. But if the creek is higher and you don’t want to get your hiking boots wet, wear water shoes! The destination is the Bathtub, where a swim would sure be refreshing in the hotter months. It is a pretty well established trail, definitely kid-friendly, but sometime next year they’ll be tearing it up and making it even more established, which is rather disappointing. From what I’ve heard, it gets enough traffic already – why make it even more accessible?
IMG_3131eThe trail follows the creek the whole way, through some stunning and massive rock formations and boasting beautiful views up and down stream. This is a hike where you’ll definitely want your camera! Find the people in the above picture to get a sense of the scale of the rock formations along this hike!
IMG_3191eIMG_3153eIMG_3156eA freak tornado earlier this year ripped through huge areas of Spearfish Canyon, including parts of Devil’s Bathtub, so there was quite a bit of debris and fallen trees, but it gave the hike a wilder feel. The beautiful, towering cliff faces and weird, layered rock formations sure made this a memorable hike. And then this beautiful spot as payoff at the end: IMG_3178eIMG_3174eI’d like to go back in the summer, when its hot and the water would be refreshing!

Another beautiful hike in the books.

Quoted | Octobers

Each season has its own glories, but there is something gets in the air in the autumn – a spice, or an energy, or a sparkling joy and beauty.

Not-So-Still Life

Cats have got to be some of the most ornery critters. And the most curious. Which makes them some of the most obnoxious. And the most cutest.IMG_5804eIMG_5850eYesterday morning, I was out snapping pictures of the autumn loveliness and saw this old lantern sitting on the ground by the tool shed. If you’ve been around here long enough, or if you’ve browsed my galleries, you may recognize it from my black-and-white photograph, “Falling Stars.” I was delightfully surprised. Since it had only ever been hanging in a shadowy corner of the shed, well above eye-level, I’d never realized that it had a blue enamel cap. How lovely!IMG_5851eAs soon as I set it upright on an old barrel and started to photograph it, Saber thought it was pretty interesting, too. And as soon as he thought it was interesting, the kittens joined him. These cats really are wonderful company – they’re extremely social and friendly, and often come check out whatever projects I might be working on outside. Except for when I mow the lawn. They hate that. But their friendliness can sometimes translate to in-the-way-ness.IMG_5835eIMG_5855eIMG_5822eSo my still life study quickly became a not-so-still life study. Because cats do not sit still, especially if you want them to. IMG_5871eCats and autumn. And old lanterns. Three really beautiful things.



Coyote Lessons

This time, the forecasters may have actually gotten something right. It’s snowing outside right now, and is downright chilly. But yesterday morning (and really, all of yesterday) was blissfully autumnal, with dazzling sunshine in the morning, clouds and sunbeams in the afternoon, and a beautiful crisp, cold evening.IMG_5879eIMG_5789eYesterday morning, the aspens caught my eye. They’re in just the right place to catch the morning sunlight from behind, so I see them glowing from the cabin window. They also are back-dropped by the ridge, so the ridge face is in shadow when they are lit from behind, which makes for just a lovely sight to behold.IMG_5725eNow for the fun part of my morning.

On this glorious autumn morning, I took my camera and my dog and figured I’d go on a quick little hike to let Trixie stretch her legs. We have a shock collar (go ahead, report me to PETA), which has been fantastic for working with Trixie, since she isn’t motivated to do anything unless it is fun to her. And believe me, chasing turkeys is a whole lot more fun than coming when called. Amazing how fast dogs learn to associate even just the collar with needing to obey. They learn fast. Very fast.IMG_5890eSo we headed out towards the Hole-in-the-Wall road, through the pasture behind our cabin and into an old creekbed. I was happily snapping pictures and Trixie was happily staying within sight. Then she disappeared. She has this trick mastered. I’m convinced she waits until I’m busy staring at a leaf or a flower or a rock and then she slips out of sight. This isn’t surprising, since she’ll do this for five or ten minutes at a time, but she always reappears so it really isn’t an issue. Our neighbors are pretty far away. But I thought she headed up the hill that bordered the creekbank, so I headed up after her, intending to get down in the draw on the other side where I had seen some beautiful red fall colors from a distance. I got to the top and she was nowhere in sight. I called. She didn’t come. Huh.

All of a sudden from behind me and to my right, from the ravine further down the creekbed, I heard some sort of canine commotion. In retrospect, I’m not entirely sure what I heard, but I know I heard my dog, and the first thing that occurred to me was a rattlesnake encounter. I ran towards the sound, and could hear a yipping and a howling which sure sounded to my very worried brain like my dog angry and in pain. The barking would break off for a second, then resume again, persistent and disturbing.

I got to the end of the little ridge I was on and then was down on Hole-in-the-Wall road itself. I could still hear the barking and hipping and howling, a really weird sound. And then Trixie showed up, a little out of breath but perfectly sound. And she wasn’t the one yipping and howling. Yes, I was a little irritated with my dumb dog and figured she’d gotten in a tussle with another dog and injured it or something. I pulled out my cell phone thinking to call Dad to have him come down with his gun and put the critter out of his misery, but realized I had no cell reception. I had no leash with me, so I briefly explored the idea of trying to locate the animal more specifically, which was still caterwauling, but I abandoned the idea (thankfully, it turns out) since I wasn’t sure how I’d keep Trixie off the critter, whatever it was. I figured to take her home, call Dad, and we’d check it out. I came to the gate, which I think must have been rehung recently, since the wire loop was tight, so I crawled through the fence instead. I’m glad for that as well, since it took less time than struggling to open and close a too-tight wire fence.

Lesson #1. God really does direct the details.

I wasn’t more than a few steps from the gate and something made me look over my shoulder and to my left. Thirty or so feet away was a coyote, yipping and howling and most definitely watching us. I’m bad at estimating distances, but it was close, too close, and it hadn’t been there before, since the yipping had been coming from further away. So it had put itself there. It became apparent that it wasn’t injured. In case you’re not familiar with coyotes, these critters are practically nocturnal and known for being shy in general. It is pretty rare to see them in daylight, particularly at such close quarters, and for them to show interest in a human and a dog is also not normal behavior, at least not to my knowledge. Trixie was my first concern, since I figured she’d want to go investigate, but she really had no interest in the animal. I remember wanting to take a picture, but I didn’t have a zoom lens, there was Trixie to think about, and I think something about the scenario wasn’t sitting right with me.

So we headed home, which was about a quarter mile away.

And whaddya know, the coyote followed us.

Oh, yay.

Lesson #2. Wild animals really are unpredictable. What they normally do really is somewhat irrelevant when it comes down to it. They’re wild.

My initial concern with Trixie going after it turned into a desire for Trixie to go after it, but she was more than happy to leave it alone and even to put me in between herself and the coyote. Stupid dog. There she is, hardly acting concerned,probably knowing that the coyote would get me first and she’d get off without a scratch. Cute, Trixie, cute. I walked quickly, thinking it would lose interest, but it didn’t.

Lesson #3. Trixie is useless.

First it stayed on a little hill above the jeep trail we were on, continually yipping and howling. It would yip or bark a few times and then the barking would roll into a weird howl. I like coyotes at night when I’m inside and they’re outside singing to the moon, but up close and personal I could definitely do without. I turned towards it and hollered at it and tried to look big, but it wasn’t phased a bit. It kept coming towards us, so I figured I’d better keep moving away. I didn’t really like turning my back on it, and maybe I shouldn’t have turned away from it, but I could definitely walk quicker facing the direction I was headed. I kept a close watch over my shoulder, though. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. It was very probably five of the most unnerving minutes of my life, since that’s probably about all it took to get home. Ever since I was a kiddo, I’ve had kind of a built-in fear (now it’s mostly just a caution) when it comes to dogs, so being followed by a wild one was quite the creepy experience. I watched for trees with branches low enough I could climb up if the coyote decided it wasn’t just following us, though it was close enough it could have closed the gap in probably 5 seconds flat, and I picked up a big stick. I felt a little better. Maybe.

The crazy coyote kept following me – now I say “me,” since by this point Trixie had pretty much abandoned me and I was actually calling her trying to keep her a little closer. Stupid dog.

Lesson #4. Apparently I’m not a panicker. This was actually good to realize. Scared, absolutely. Panicked, nope.

To bring a long story that probably should have been shorter to a close, we made it safely home. Once we were close enough that I figured I could get to the house before the coyote got me, I ran, though by this point I had lost sight of it when it went into the corral, still yipping and howling. I have no idea if this coyote was rabid, protecting something, or just likes hanging out with humans and their dogs, but I’ll be taking a gun with me next time I hike up that way. Thinking back, I’m kind of doubting it was rabid, but we’ll sure be keeping an eye out for it. Definitely a weird encounter.

And I don’t even have any pictures to prove it.

Summer 2018 | In Hindsight

Fall is officially here. October is officially here. I can’t believe how fast this summer flew by. And everyone says that. Sometimes I wonder if there is a time warp or something. It’s kind of fun looking back over the pictures I took this summer, a lot of which I never culled, edited, or shared, and remembering what a great summer it was, easily the best summer I’ve had since we moved here. IMG_8853eIMG_8925eIMG_8830eIt was a summer spent outside, spent sweating and working hard and getting sunburned and sore and hiking and reveling in the delight of family and friendships and new adventures. It was a summer of change and newness, starting with getting certified as a Type II Wildland Firefighter at the end of the spring, taking shifts at the fire station, learning about plants and greenhouse care while working at Dakota Greens, exploring new places in the Hills. We enjoyed a litter of growing kittens, unusual quantities of rainfall, massive numbers of wildflowers, and a greenness of the landscape that persisted all summer long. We enjoyed a few family outings, which are rare these days due to Grandma’s poor health, and Sarah and I enjoyed a drive out in the Medicine Mountain area, and found fireweed on Odakota Mountain. I spent some lovely time with the friends God has blessed me with, hiking and exploring and sharing life together.IMG_2928eIMG_8899eIMG_8915eGreenhouse work was a source of joy this summer – early mornings weeding and maintaining the gardens at Prairie Berry Winery, hot days sweating in the greenhouse, cool and rainy days cozy in the greenhouse, days watering and caring for plants, watching flowers bloom and bring a rainbow of colors.IMG_5797IMG_6683eIMG_7128IMG_6678IMG_6823IMG_6808IMG_6664IMG_6804As wonderful as the summer was, it definitely had its share of struggles. I tend to struggle with feelings of depression and overwhelm, and I’m in a place in my life where loneliness is a very real thing, and I have to remind myself that God IS good, and He DOES love me and have a plan for my life. I have to remind myself of that, and often forget to. That’s when I start getting depressed and discouraged.IMG_7885eIMG_8792eeRarely do I get out my camera or work on blog posts when I’m feeling down – Depression tends to shut off both of those things. And years ago I decided I didn’t want to journal my negative feelings, but only the encouraging things. I’ve had people question me on that, since the negative IS a part of life. Very valid, absolutely. God uses what we perceive as negative experiences to sharpen us, to refine us, to make us more like Jesus, and those things are worth remembering. But for someone who has no trouble in general remembering the negative, I don’t need any help with that, or any assistance in going back and reliving my discouraged feelings! I’d rather document the joy.IMG_7821eAnd there is a Biblical principle in this:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~Philippians 4:8

Now the flip side of what I just said is that I could and should proactively choose, in the midst of feeling discouraged, to do those things that remind me of God’s goodness and the joy of life, but sometimes that’s exactly what the struggle is, and exactly where I fail. But the Christian life is about growth, and I hope I am growing in that area.IMG_8882eBut what I love about photography is that what I remember through the photography are the things that delighted me. I don’t remember what overwhelmed me, and I don’t remember why I was struggling or even if I was struggling. I don’t even remember how hot and sweaty and tired I was when I took certain photos, and I like being hot and sweaty and tired. I just remember the delight, the friendships, the beauty. How wonderful. My photography generally springs from joy or results in joy, and that is what I see reflected in the pictures when I look back over them.IMG_0230eSo enjoy these little glimpses into my joy-filled summer, as I enjoy sharing them and reliving them myself. So much beauty, so much peace, so many new things, so many blessings.IMG_8900eIMG_0211eSo long, summer. Howdy, autumn. The year is wearing on, and winter is just around the corner. A wonderful time of year.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11