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

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The Swimming Hole

Just as we were all starting to wonder when we’d get some summer weather, a heat wave roared in and plunged the region into temperatures in the upper 80s and 90s. And yes, that is considered hot here! We’ve hardly had any rain in the last couple of weeks and the moisture is quickly drying up. It is almost as uncomfortable to walk barefoot across the lawn as to walk barefoot across our gravel driveway.
CuriosityYesterday, a bunch of us went over to Little Falls to cool off – Well, the kids were going to cool off. I prefer to watch from the shade. I take forever to get used to water temperatures so generally I just opt out of swimming, although the water yesterday would have been perfect, if I’d been dressed for swimming.
IMG_4548Little Falls used to be only a local haunt, but news of it has spread far and wide, and it is rare to drive past the turn off and see the parking lot empty. But we got down there and had the whole swimming hole to ourselves. The kids splashed and swam, caught fish in buckets, did cannonballs off the rocks, and had a ruckus of a good time.
IMG_4585A passel of butterflies was flittering around the little cove, and finally obliged by posing for a picture. They weren’t bothered by the heat! What color and life in such a tiny creature. Tiger SwallowtailsWe’d been there an hour when the sky clouded over a bit and the temperatures cooled – It looked like a storm was brewing, but other than a small rumble of thunder, nothing materialized.

What a great way to beat the heat – With a little bit of country fun.

Laura Elizabeth

 

Hiking | The Prairie Trail

The cool weather was perfect for hiking the 3-mile Prairie Trail loop in Custer State Park. I knew immediately that I wouldn’t want to hike it on a day with temperatures in the 90s! Although there is some tree cover, it is mostly prairie and open sky, with a couple of steep ups and downs to warrant a “moderate” rating. The trail is a loop, so it can be hiked two directions. Taking the left hand fork is preferable, since it allows the steepest slope to be climbed down, instead of up.
SpiderwortThe wildflowers were blooming plentifully, and the spiderwort in particular caught my eye. I’ll have to hike this loop again later in the summer, to see what other wildflowers are gracing the trail. Some wonderful open views looked down on the Wildlife Loop Road and part of the buffalo herd along one of the fence lines. This trail is open to the buffalo, so be aware of that. We didn’t come across any on this hike, but according to Hannah the buffalo tend to congregate in the area of the trail in the fall. IMG_3999Standing partway up a good long slope, breathing hard and sweating, Hannah and I extolled the benefits of hiking. I’ve never been a runner, she has never been a runner, and unless there is some weird drive a person has to go running, why run? A good hike is just as good exercise, without ending up needing knee replacements at the age of 60. Painted LadyThere are a couple of creek crossings, and plenty of poison ivy, so long pants (or caution) are recommended. Sunscreen also recommended, because of how exposed the trail is! Pack water and a picnic lunch – There is a beautiful picnicking spot at about the halfway point, under a small stand of trees, shortly after a steep downward slope and just before the trail emerges again onto the open prairie. A good place for a picnic.  This is a great hike if you’re not wanting to spend all day hiking – I believe this took us about an hour and a half.

It is so good to be able to get away from the distractions of everyday life, and into God’s glorious Creation!

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