Hiking | Big Falls

Another favorite destination for Black Hills locals is Big Falls, also known as Hippie Hole. We’ve hiked it a number of times from the Foster Gulch trailhead off of Rockerville Road, but Sarah, William, and I decided to try it from the Highway 40 trailhead, and it was well worth it! The trailhead is about halfway between Rockerville Road and Hayward, on the north side of the highway. I would say that it is a more strenuous hike, but given that there is no easy way down to Big Falls, that is somewhat hard to estimate.
IMG_0661The views were beautiful – Sunlight sifted through the pines in the higher elevations of the trail, then through an emerald canopy of deciduous trees as the trail dropped into the canyon. Birch trees and huge granite boulders lined the trail. Splashes of wildflower color sparkled here and there, and there must have been roses earlier this year, since there were rosehips! Little gems of the wildflower world.IMG_0673We saw a mama and baby mountain goat pair down closer to the creek, and seeing them so close was quite the surprise! We’ve seen them near Big Falls at a distance that nearly required binoculars, but this darling pair was no more than 20 yards away! God has designed His creatures so beautifully. It was amazing to see the little baby scrambling around like a pro with his mama.
IMG_0645IMG_0642IMG_0628It was rather quiet at Big Falls when we went, which was a nice change from the usual. Weekends are not recommended for Big Falls, since that is when the younger, rowdy, bikini-clad, beer-drinking, smoking crowd tends to show up. But there were only a  family or two and a young couple there, and it was fun to watch them deliberate and try to get up the courage to jump off the Falls into the pool below. Sarah and William climbed up to a good vantage point for watching the deliberations.
IMG_0664Once again, Trixie came with us for the hike and she loved it – When she is better trained and we can trust her to come when called, we’ll be able to let her swim and run around by the creek. She was great on the trail, though, where the distractions were fewer. She is becoming quite the hiking buddy!
IMG_0671Keep an eye out for garnets along the trail – I read in a book on gemstone hunting that the Big Falls/ Battle Creek canyon area is a great place for garnet hunting, and this proved true. The girls and I are seasoned garnet hunters, and the best garnets we have found have been in the vicinity of Big Falls! Yesterday did not disappoint!

One warning: there is a lot of poison ivy on this trail. Wear protective clothing and wash afterwards! Trixie was very much into the poison ivy, so even she got a bath – She hated it.

Laura Elizabeth


Bats in the Miner’s Cabin

I love bats. Such tiny, mysterious little creatures, with their furry little bodies and leathery little wings, and little pointed ears. Unfortunately, I think the heat may have gotten to our bat population today. I saw one out in the heat of midday, which is almost unheard of, and then I found two babies as they fell out of their roost. By the time I had come back with gloves and my camera, they had died, presumably from the heat. Hopefully not from a bad disease. IMG_6913

Tonight in the Miner’s Cabin, there was a high-pitched squeaking and an occasional scrabbling sound coming from outside. When I went out to look, there was a baby bat clinging above the window, sometimes retreating into a crack above the window frame, and adult bats swooped around, sometimes coming to rest right near the baby. I’m afraid I agitated them a little bit in my admiration, since they swooped closer and closer to my head! They didn’t seem to appreciate my presence.

Judging from the number of adult bats and the squeaking, I’d say we have a bat nursery in our Miner’s Cabin! I can think of a handful of people who might not think this is such a nice thing. But I have no complaints.

Laura Elizabeth


Little Blue

This little guy caught my eye.Little BlueGrey outsides of his wings, but the brightest blue on the inside. God’s Creation is truly to be wondered at.

Laura Elizabeth


Darling Pair

After such a good drive through the Wildlife Loop on Monday, I couldn’t resist and I drove it again (yes, I burned a lot of fuel this week!). The buffalo weren’t much in sight of the road, and the burros had made themselves scarce. However, these photos made it all worth it.
IMG_3926Mama and baby antelopeI caught sight of this mama and baby antelope over an embankment, close to the road but almost sheltered from view by the slope and the guardrail. Fortunately, there were no other vehicles behind me to scare them away. Mama antelope was as contented as can be, cleaning her little kiddo’s bum while he nursed. When my little sister saw that picture, her response was: “That’s just wrong.” No, it isn’t! That’s mama antelope taking good care of her little one!

What a darling pair.

Laura Elizabeth

Early Morning in Custer State Park

Yesterday, I took an early morning drive through the Park – The girls and I had driven through it Sunday afternoon, on our way home from church, and were amazed at the numbers of tourists. I thought it would be better for picture taking to drive through before the tourists woke up. I had a portion of the bison herd to myself for a good ten minutes, maybe twenty minutes, free to take pictures to my heart’s content! The burros were charming, as usual, and everything had babies. Here are my favorites:
Mama and babyBison herdBuffaloBurro mama and babyBuffalo babyWhat a delight, to live so close to places like Custer State Park. I still pinch myself, to make sure it is real!

Laura Elizabeth

Killdeer Chicks

Over lunch break today, I and the other scribe at the clinic went for a walk over by Rapid Creek. We wound up back at Canyon Lake, near where I got pictures of the killdeer nest a few weeks ago. I had gone over there recently to check up on the nest, but there were enough slightly ruffled goose parents and their fluffy yellow chicks, I didn’t want to risk getting flown at. But today, once again I heard the killdeer before I saw it, and even then I could barely see it in the grass near the shore. The bird was almost in the throes its wounded bird imitation, so I knew that either there was another nest and we were close to it, or it had chicks.
KilldeerWe hunted around for a few minutes, and could see a second killdeer a little ways away. They called to each other, hunkered down in the grass, flew this way and that, and almost had me convinced to come back later. But then there was a little flurry of tiny movement, and not one, not two, but three baby killdeer were scampering around on the shore.
Killdeer ChickWe watched them for probably ten minutes, laughing at their antics and trying not to terrify the parents too much. The babies were almost fearless, but I knew if I got too close, I would have an angry parent flying at my face. The babies’ movements were comical, so perfect and coordinated that they looked almost awkward, their little feathers still downy and short, in spite of their grown-up coloring.
Killdeer ChickHard to believe that something that tiny and helpless will be flying and protecting its own nest before too long!

Laura Elizabeth