Rain and High Water

High water for us means that Battle Creek is actually flowing across the southern end of our property, and when it does, we’ve had a lot of rain! God blessed us with more than 3 inches of moisture in the last couple of weeks, which sure gave every growing thing a needed boost! There is a favorite spot along Battle Creek, fondly referenced by a small cave we found which we dubbed “the Mountain Lion Cave,” where the creekbed winds its way through a ravine, with high canyon sides bordering the creek from one side or the other, and clear green meadows opposite, scattered with oak trees and adorned with dame’s rocket. Even when the creek is dry in that stretch, it is a favorite place to explore and rock hound and scramble, but with water running the fun level goes up drastically. We took the dogs down there so they could run and play in the water. I love watching delight play out on an animal’s face. Those two goofy dogs loved the water! Sarah did, too, and went wading in the creek with the crazy canines. I don’t think our pups wanted to leave! Poor Trixie is such a snow dog, the summer heat really gets to her. She becomes a water dog out of necessity!
IMG_7172eIMG_7195eIMG_7180eRain – what a blessing.

Advertisements

A Million Invisible Choristers

I love the sweet sounds of springtime. Especially the sounds prompted by a good, wet rain. Over the past week, we’ve been blessed with more than 3 inches of rainfall, and a chorus has burst into song out in our stock dam. We hear them at at night, singing heartily with the insects, and even during the day their song is tireless. It is amazing how beautiful the ruckus is when a million frogs start singing.
IMG_7254eBut as beautiful and joyful as the song is from a short distance, up close it is stunningly deafening! I was amazed and delighted. I poked around along the banks of the giant mud puddle searching the tufts of grass and smooth brown water for any sign of the little creatures. Not a one was to be seen. Not the smallest plop or telltale rippling of the warm water. I tossed a pebble or two, trying to disturb one enough to make him hop, but they kept right on singing and paid absolutely no attention to me. I could hear them, mere feet away from me, but I couldn’t catch even a glimpse of them. It baffled me, that creatures so tiny and so invisible could be so utterly deafening.
IMG_7251eOne of my favorite springtime sounds.

God’s Garden

Wildflower hunting was one of the stated intentions of this hike. Nevertheless, I was overwhelmed by the number of little gems that we saw and had never expected to see this many. It seemed as if my whole field guide was spread out and blooming. Flowers I’d never seen before, except in my field guide, were in full bloom, and others that I did know grew in quantities I’d never seen! It was truly stunning. There was absolutely no shortage of wildflowers in the burn area of the Legion Lake Fire. Rather, they were particularly abundant and spectacular. Prickly pear and barrel cacti were also quite abundant, which was some cause for concern: I’ve been accused of “crawling around on the ground” to take pictures of wildflowers. But one encounter with spines today was enough to make me much more cautious, so after that I was careful to look before kneeling down.

IMG_6433eWhite crazyweed – Oxytropis sericea

IMG_6415eTufted milkvetch – Astragalus spatulatus

IMG_6394eDesert biscuitroot – Lomatium foeniculaceum

IMG_6384eNarrowleaf gromwell – Lithospermum incisum

IMG_6380eMeadow deathcamas – Zigadenum venenosus

IMG_6377eMissouri pincushion – Coryphantha missouriensis

IMG_6354eLow larkspur – Delphinium bicolor

IMG_6323eDarkthroat shootingstar – Dodecatheon pulchellum

IMG_6315eHood’s phlox – Phlox hoodii

IMG_6314eDowny paintbrush – Castilleja sessiliflora

IMG_6304ePrairie smoke – Geum triflorum

IMG_6299eSmall-leaf pussytoes – Antennaria parvifolia

IMG_6293eeMountain blue-eyed grass – Sisyrinchium montanum

IMG_6283eWestern wallflower – Erysimum asperum

IMG_6278eNuttall’s violet – Viola nuttallii

Other flowers not shown here were the star lily, leafy phlox, prairie golden pea, various milkvetches and legumes, including the groundplum milkvetch (a favorite of mine, with an edible bean), yellow salsify, and a number of others. A beautiful afternoon to stroll in God’s Garden.

 

Breathtaken by Aspens

Just behind our cabin and against an old gate grows a stand of slender aspen trees. No one knows why Grandpa planted them against the gate, but that’s where he planted them, and that’s where they’re flourishing. They’re placed just so, so that when seen from the cabin in the morning hours in the summer, the leaves glow and flicker and glint like little green flames. And in the spring when their catkins are blooming, when the morning sunlight catches in the little hairs in just the right way, the aspens and their grey and pink catkins become a pale cloud of silvery, shimmering lights. The effect is breathtaking, startling, and a slightest change in the light breaks the spell.
IMG_4908eHow often that is the case! Something of exquisite beauty cuts us to the soul, and fades as quickly as it appeared. I think that is part of God’s goodness, to show us glimpses of breathtaking beauty, but then, as if to remind us that we aren’t meant for this world, He leaves us with the only memory of it and a desire for more. Perhaps that is one reason I love photography – I can try to capture that memory and hold it dear a little longer, a little nearer, and remember it a little clearer. What delight!

Crabapple Blossoms

A faint but heady perfume from the crabapple tree drifted in the moonlit air as I was taking laundry off the clothesline. The summerlike heat of the day had melted away into the clearest, freshest evening cool, and the cloudless blue of the day had darkened into velvety, diamond-studded black of night. The tree stood silent and ghostly next to the Miner’s Cabin, bathed in moonlight, but earlier today it was singing with hundreds of bees, the busy little pollinators.

It wasn’t until today that I fully noticed the crabapple tree. I had seen the blossoms coming out over the last week or so, and hoped that the snows we had last week wouldn’t blight the buds, but today it was blooming in radiant glory, more abundant than I’ve seen in the three springtimes we have been here. The tree doesn’t at this point receive any kind of pruning, so I am guessing this year is its year of plenty. Hopefully it will mean a stunning harvest of crabapples later this summer!
IMG_6979eIMG_6976eIMG_6957eSpring is a time of delightful surprises – Flowers blooming in the snow, finding volunteer poppy plants, new birds, new flowers, new life of all sorts…and the heady perfume of springtime, hanging around the moonlit crabapple tree.

Ghost towns

After our short trek to the unnamed ghost town or homestead site on Sunday, and having our visit shortened by rain, we knew we wanted to spend some more time looking around there. We picked Tuesday as the day of choice, little knowing that we would end up enjoying all the variety of Black Hills weather in one day! Not that that would have deterred us, of course! Living in the Hills, one really does get used to very rapid changes in weather, sometimes rapid changes in one area, other times rapid changes due to, for instance, driving over the mountains. IMG_5178Sarah and I took Playhouse Road into Custer, partly for the scenery, partly because it actually is quicker than going over Mt. Rushmore, and the higher the elevation, the snowier it got. Boy, were the trees lovely to see! We met up with a friend in Custer, and drove down towards Pringle, seemingly leaving the snow behind. We poked around in the ruins for an hour or so, turning up pieces of a child’s skate, the top deal of a hand-cranked ice cream maker, the lid of a pressure canner, and lots of blue glass insulators. As much as I would have loved to “collect” them, we dutifully left them behind. I love blue insulators. But a $20,000 fine is a pretty good deterrent. However, it is too bad that cows and elk and weather don’t leave the artifacts alone, evidenced by the shards of glass everywhere. In another ten years of cows, elk, and weather, the artifacts will be all but gone.IMG_5261eWe examined the root cellar more closely, and realized that glass jars and bottles were built into the walls. Some of the bottles were identical to ones I found in our junk piles. Not sure the purpose of building bottles into the walls, but that is something we want to learn about. IMG_5239eWhen rummaging in the remnants of long-gone ghost towns and homes, it can be easy to compartmentalize those locations as being purely “historical.” As if the historical artifacts just planted themselves there, and weren’t put there by a living person. It is so easy to forget that these were places that were bubbling with life. These were homes, busy homes, built by people who knew the meaning of the word “work.” Whether dating to the first gold rush or the homestead and mining years of the early to mid 1900s, these people were true pioneers and adventurers, in ways we can’t even comprehend now.
IMG_5213eWe stayed for about an hour, findings other odds and ends, guessing what the structures might have been, marveling at a giant spreading aspen, so wizened that the bark on the lower trunk looked like an oak or cottonwood. I wonder how much smaller that tree was, when the homestead was being lived on.  The trees down the valley turned grey with approaching snow, and the squall blew in. Rain on Sunday, snow on Tuesday.
IMG_5280eIMG_5282eAs we drove down to our family property south of Pringle, near Argyle, it was still snowing in quite a winterly fashion, but cleared up when we headed west to the property. How variable the weather can be, from place to place and hour to hour! The following two pictures were taken the same afternoon, the first on our hike in to the Box Canyon, and the second on the hike back out, just a couple hours apart.
IMG_5313eIMG_5552eWe enjoyed the scenery, the history, the warm sun, the pasque flowers (well, I did, anyway), and Jake flew his drone over the Box Canyon and Spring-on-Hills Stage Stop. The stage stop dates back to the gold rush days, and was only in use for 2-3 years. IMG_5434eIMG_5336eThis stop would have fallen out of use as a regular stage stop when the entire route was re-routed west of Custer, due to dangerous conditions in this area. It probably continued to be used by immigrants and adventurers who chose to pass this way, but the stage itself was routed further west. All that is left are some foundations and a caving-in dugout. I remember the dugout being intact when I was a kid, but the heavy rain we had a couple of summers ago in particular brought the roof down. There are still old jars inside – Perhaps someone at sometime lived in the dugout, or maybe it was only ever used as a cellar. Who knows.
IMG_5334eThe clouds cleared off and the wind picked up a bit as well, making the drone flying some tricky business. On our hike back out, we saw a herd of antelope in the distance, which for me is always fun, since we don’t have antelope in the Hills. There was also a crazy coyote running around, and lots of bluebirds. I was also fortunate enough to find a patch of Easter daisies, one of the flowers I was hoping to see, since now is their time of year!
IMG_5518eIMG_5573eWe made one last stop on our way back to Custer, to explore some old cabins near the side of the road. We hit the valley right as the sun was getting low in the sky. Furniture and shoes still mouldered in the houses, and swallows had taken up residence. The pump still pumped water. Coat hooks still hung on the walls. A bedframe gleamed in the light from a window. How the past lingers, even as time marches on.
IMG_5595eIMG_5619eIt is rare that we are able to slate a whole day for hiking and exploration. Time marches on. But sometimes you just have to take a whole day to enjoy it.