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Monthly Archives: October 2017

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.

When we visit Custer, South Dakota one of the things we always do is walk around town and photograph the Buffalo Statues. Apparently they put up some new statues every year and various artists paint them. The statues are auctioned off at the end of the year.

We drove up to Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park to start our hike to Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak). When we arrived there was almost no wind and the lake was just like a mirror. Before starting our hike we walked over to the lake to get some stunning photos. More photos from Custer State Park can be found on my website.

 

We had driven out to Custer State Park to see the fall Buffalo roundup. A couple of days before the roundup we drove around the wildlife loop looking for buffalo. We were not optimistic because the Buffalo are usually rounded up before the “roundup” and moved into a staging area where they can be driven into the pens before the roaring crowd. We stopped at the Wildlife Loop Ranger Station to see where they were. The ranger indicated that the day before there had been over a thousand of them around the station so the park decided to move them into the nearby staging area. More photos from Custer State Park can be found on my website.

As we drove out into the wildlife loop we noticed that the fall colors were nearing their peak.

Before driving out to find the buffalo we decided to check out the Prairie Dogs. While looking at the Prairie Dogs we also noticed a rabbit sitting next to a Prairie Dog hole.

As we neared the Buffalo Pens we stopped to take a photo of the fall colors. In a couple of days this area would be filled with running Buffalo.

 

We drove over to the pens to look at the Buffalo. The park service usually brings in a few Buffalo before the roundup so then can calm down. They use these Buffalo to demonstrate the sorting and vaccination process. They don’t want to use the Buffalo that come in during the roundup because they would be too stressed out.

We then headed out looking for Buffalo. The first thing we found were the Begging Burrows. They were in the foreground while the Buffalo were quite a ways away. There was a photographer out among the burrows trying to get photos.

No close views of the Buffalo on this visit.

 

After leaving Scenic we drove on to Hermosa. The fall colors were very good as we approached Hermosa but due to road construction we were not able to get any photos. From Hermosa to the park the colors were also very good. More photos from Custer State Park can be found on my website.

When we arrived in the park we stopped at the new visitors center. They have an IMAX theatre at the center and the film depicting the park is well worth watching. They also have some butterfly gardens and they were attracting lots of butterflies. I believe these are American Ladies.

The leaves at the visitors center were not quite at their peak.

While my wife was filling up the water bottles I walked over to the Game Lodge Campground and took a few photos.

 

After photographing early in the morning we headed back to Wall and had an early breakfast at Wall Drug. First place I’ve ever encountered that refused to make sunny side up eggs. While at breakfast we check the map and decided to drive back out to the park and drive the Sage Creek Rim Road. We have been driving through the badlands for years but have never driven the Sage Creek Rim Road  other that the first few hundred yards.  According to the map we would eventually end up in Hermosa which was our destination.

It was a beautiful early fall day and the color was nearing its peak.

We saw all kinds of wildlife on the drive. We hadn’t gone far before we encountered this Bighorn Sheep ram resting at the side of the road. He wasn’t about to move so we had to drive around him.

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

As small herd of Pronghorn Antelope crossed the road in front of us.

Pronghorn Antelope

Of course there were the ever present Prairie Dogs. It seems like there are more and more of them.

Prairie Dogs

There are Buffalo in the park but they are rarely seen on the Badlands Loop Road. We see them fairly frequently on the Sage Creek Rim Road. At one point we found a large number of them in a pen. Apparently there had been a roundup but the bulls still seemed to be roaming the park.

Buffalo

We had gotten out of the car to take some landscape photos and noticed this Coyote walking along. I went back to get my long lens and, of course, he dissapeared. I went back and got my landscape lens and sure enough he reappeared in full view but he was too far away for a shot.

Coyote

While we were watching the Prairie Dogs we notice a large bird sitting out in the Prairie Dog town. It looked to be the size of an eagle but we knew it wasn’t an eagle. Later we found out it was a Ferruginous Hawk. Apparently Prairie Dogs are one of its favorite meals. They frequently sit by an active hole and wait for the Prairie Dog to emerge. We later encountered several of them flying.

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

After exiting the Sage Creek Rim Road we ended up in Scenic, South Dakota.

We then drove through the Stronghold Unit of the Badlands. This place had been used as a bombing range. When we pulled over to take this photo I also took a photo of the warning sign.

We were hoping for a great sunrise but that didn’t happen. However the blue hour was spectacular.

We had some nice light for early morning photography.

Many of the same animals were around early in the morning.

Bighorn Sheep

Mule Deer

We drove out to the Badlands hoping for a beautiful sunset. That didn’t happen but there was still some nice evening light for photography.

There were plenty of wildlife to be seen as evening approached. We saw many Bighorn Sheep and Mule Deer.

 

My wife and I were watching the news when the weather forecaster mentioned the sunset. We looked out the window and it was indeed spectacular so we both grabbed our cameras and went out to get a few photos. It would be great if the sunsets would last a little longer.