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When someone goes down to Canal Park to watch a ship come in and two ships come in and/or go out it is called a twofer. On this particular day the Michipicoten was coming in.

The Walter J. McCarthy, Jr. was on its way out of the harbor.

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Our original plan had been to drive to Rocky Mountain National Park from Custer but we noted storm warnings and heavy snow in the forecast so we decided to head back home. We stopped in Wall, South Dakota for a bite to eat then picked up I-90 heading east. We had gone just a short distance when we noticed I-90 was closed for some reason. We decided to backtrack to Wall and drive through the Badlands. Not much that we hadn’t seen before but we did find a large group of Bighorn Sheep. We found the Rams and a little further down the road the ewes and kids. The Rams work is done for the year.

 

After lunch at Mount Rushmore we decided to drive over to Sylvan Lake and then take the Needles Highway to check on the fall color. We were not disappointed the color was outstanding.

Last weekend we drove through Crex Meadows. We were hoping to see Sandhill Cranes but we didn’t see a single crane. The flowages were frozen so most of the waterfall were gone. We did see quite a few birds of prey in the meadows.  Bald Eagles were perched near Phantom Lake and we saw more out in the flowages.

We also saw quite a few Rough-legged Hawks hunting. These are some of the best pictures I’ve gotten of Rough-legged Hawks.

As we drove past one of the lakes we noticed bear tracks going out on to the lake. I measured them and they were 4 X 6 inches.

We found one lone Trumpeter Swan hanging out on a small area of open water by one of the flowage dams.

As we drove toward home we did notice Sandhill Cranes in some of the fields. There was snow on the ground and it looked like most of the crops had not been harvested from the fields so there could have been many more cranes in the fields.

After participating in the Crazy Horse Volksmarch we decided to drive over to Mount Rushmore. We made an earlier visit about a month ago and our pass was still good so we decided to take advantage of it. We were also thinking of trying some of Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream.

On the drive over we noticed some great fall color so on the drive back toward Sylvan Lake we stopped a few places to get some photos.

One of our goals for the Black Hills trip was to participate in the Crazy Horse Memorial Fall Volksmarch. We had made the Volksmarch on a number of other occasions. I think this was our fourth time.

More photos from the Crazy Horse Memorial can be found on my website.

When we arrived in the parking area there was already a large crowd gathering. The march had not started so we walked over to the registration area and paid our fees.

The first part of the March was through the woods. We walked for quite a while with a young man from Washington State who was working in Wyoming for a few weeks and decided to drive over to the Custer area.

After leaving the woods the trail heads up the road to the back side of the Memorial.

It had been a beautiful fall day but by the time we reached the Memorial it had clouded up. Everyone says that they can’t see any progress on the Memorial but we did the Volksmarch two years ago and we could definitely see a lot of progress. On previous visits I had to use my wide angle lens to capture the full face but on this visit they had made more progress on the arm and hand and there was a lot more room at the top so it was easy to get a full shot of the head.

From Crazy Horse’s arm we could see the parking lot and the rest of the complex. We thought for sure we were going to get wet given the clouds we could see off to the west.

Since it looked like rain we didn’t stay on the arm long. This is a shot from the back side of the arm taken on the way down.

Of course, on the way down the sun came out and the fall colors were beautiful. I suggested that we walk back up to the top but couldn’t convince my wife. These are shots from the construction road.

These are some shots of the original buildings that were used when construction started as well as some of the old and new construction equipment.

 

 

 

 

After driving around the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park we continued on down to Wind Cave National Park. We decided to hike the East Bison Flats Trail. It is not all that difficult and is one of my favorite hiking trails in the Black Hills. In the spring it is covered with wildflowers and we always seem to find some animal bones along the trail. On this trip the bones were still on the Buffalo. A little while later we did find a collection of bones close to the trail.

More photos from Wind Cave National Park can be found on my website.

We found this large anthill along the trail.

The East Bison Flats Trail used to be marked by flimsy brown trail markers. In recent years the Park Service has replaced them with posts. Since the Buffalo love to rub against the posts they are buried deep in the ground. You can see the Buffalo tracks around this one.

There are some great views of the prairie from the trail.

 

 

The day following the Buffalo Roundup we planned on doing some hiking out of Badger Hole. There is a nice hike over the mountains to a horse camp that I made about fifteen years ago and we were going to try it. We had a couple of false starts before getting off on the wrong trail. We finally decided it was way too hot to hike. I thought I had lost one of my camera cases at the roundup the day before so we decided to drive the wildlife loop and stop at the parking lot to see if it fell out of the car. It was also a beautiful fall day so we thought we would get some nice fall photos.

More photos from Custer State Park can be found on my website.

When we reached the Buffalo pens there were quite a few folk taking photos of the Buffalo that had been rounded up the day before. The fall colors by the pens were near peak making for some great photos.

We didn’t see the Begging Burros at their normal place and were wondering where they were. A little while later we found them wandering down the road. It took us about a half an hour to get past them. For some reason they kept wanting to walk down the middle of the road.

Just past the burrows we noticed some outstanding fall color on the hills. I had to shoot fast because the burros were coming up the road and we didn’t want to get stuck behind them again.

A little while later my wife noticed this Coyote come out of the woods and walk through a Prairie Dog town. We quickly pull off the road and started taking photos. For some reason the last few times we have been in the Black Hills we have seen Coyotes. I’ve probably hike in the Black Hills fifteen times and had never seen a Coyote until recently. This one walked up to the road and stopped. It looked both ways then crossed the road. It seemed to have more sense that most people. It stopped on the other side of the road so we could get some more photos. Notice in the second photo there is a Prairie Dog at the very top of the photo watching the Coyote.

Having taken in the Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park several times I’m beginning to question my sanity. This time we were up at 3:30am to make the drive into the park. We didn’t notice many other cars on the road and when we arrived it turned out we were 10th in line. Sunrise was around 6:50am so we had plenty of time to take a nap in the car. Generally they let the cars in just after sunrise but they let us in early and it was dark when we arrived in the parking lot. It was so dark we couldn’t find the spot we planned to put our chairs. We finally just plunked them down by the fence where we knew we would have a good view of the Buffalo. We didn’t have to wait long before the sun came up. It was generally overcast but clear on the horizon so we were able to capture a sunrise.

More photos from Custer State Park can be found on my website.

I have problems sitting or standing in one place so I wandered off to take photos and my wife grabbed a cup of coffee and headed off for her lawn chair. She was able to capture this cowboy just after sunrise.

There weren’t many cars in the parking lot as the sun hit the top of the hills.

By 7:30 the parking lot was starting to fill up.

I continued to wander around and look for photos. Smokey the Bear was in attendance. It look like he was the favorite of the adults as opposed to the kids.

 

There were long lines at the important places. They provided a nice pancake feed but we brought our own breakfast so we just had coffee. According to my wife the porta potties were not all that clean even early in the morning.

We both thought the Custer Ambulance was appropriately decorated.

We arrived at the parking lot at 6:30am and the “roundup” was not supposed to start until 9:30am. As I mentioned I can’t sit around so I continued to wander around. My wife, on the other hand, patiently sat in her chair and about the only thing she had to watch was a couple of riders go past.

The viewing area was filling up. The first shot is a rider with the north viewing area in the background. I could hear this little girl screaming from quite a ways away and went over to see what was going on. Turned out to be a temper tantrum. I can see why given the time and the lack of anything to do.

After the buffalo have been driven to the pens I like to walk over to the little knoll in the background to photograph the final drive to the pens. This year it was blocked off. Anytime someone tried to walk over there a horse rider would head them off. It took a while to figure out what was going on. As soon as I saw the line of cars driving to the area I knew that the Governor and his cronies were using the area and they didn’t want to be bothered by the riffraff attending the event. Nothing ticks me off more than government officials thinking they and their friends are better than the voters. I was heartened when I saw a couple of photographers make a break for the knoll and make it before the guards could catch them. Apparently the guards didn’t want make a scene in front of the Governor and his cronies as they dragged people away from the knoll so they let them stay. To add salt on the wound the start of the roundup was delayed 30 minutes to allow the Governor and his cronies to get in place.

They usually drive the buffalo through the area where the Begging Burros spend their time. I could see the burros standing on a hill watching events unfold. When the borrows saw what was happening they mad a dash for higher ground.

Once the drive was underway a bunch of Buffalo started to make a break for it and the riders had to try and head them off. They finally got everyone going the same direction. It was a bit dusty as 1400 Buffalo were driven past. I do have to wonder about my sanity. It was 7 hours since we headed out this morning and we watched a Buffalo Roundup that took, at best, 20 minutes if you had a good viewing point.

As the drive started I was watching this bull who was right in the way of the drive and was busy taking a dust bath. The herd was driven right past him and he didn’t pay much attention to what was going on. Apparently they don’t make much of an attempt to roundup the bulls since they can be a little on the mean side. At this time of year the rut has already taken place and most of the bulls have gone off by themselves.

As the dust settled I noticed the Begging Burrows  at the top of a ridge looking down on all of the activity.

After the Buffalo were in their pens everyone headed down to the pens where a lunch was prepared.

In the afternoon the public can watch as the park brings the Buffalo into an area and checks them and gives them shots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a beautiful morning and on the cool side so we decided to hike up Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak). It was renamed in 2016 to honor of Nicholas Black Elk and recognized the significance of the summit to Native Americans. Nicholas Black Elk was a famous medicine man and holy man of the Oakota Sioux. I suppose the child in the white house will want to change the name back to Harney Peak since it was renamed when Obama was president.

The fall colors were outstanding. This is the first time I’ve hiked the trail from Sylvan Lake to the top when the fall colors have been this good. It was mid week and there were not a lot of hikers on the trail. We did meet a woman who had three dogs with her. Two of them were hers and the third was a rescue dog she was training to walk trail.

More photos from Custer State Park can be found on my website.

This was the only wildlife we saw along the trail.

There were some great views from the top of the peak. We walked through the fire tower and then down to the peak where we found a stone structure.

On our way back we met a couple of hikers in cowboy gear (hats, boots and chaps). They left their horses down lower and walk the last part of the trail. It was a good decision because  the trail near the top has deteriorated a bit and the steps were quite high. We found their horses tied to trees down below.

On the way back we took a different trail that took us over to the Needles and Little Devil’s Tower before winding back to Sylvan Lake. This portion of the trail was even more colorful.