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Category Archives: South Dakota

We have visited Sioux Falls S.D. a number of times but never visited the Sertoma Butterfly House. I had it on my list for this trip. It was a great place to spent a couple of hours photographing butterflies.

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They also have some Button Quail running around. You had to watch your step because they were always underfoot. It turns out they have an important role to play. Apparently they eat the ants who prey on the butterflies.

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There are a fair number of Bighorn Sheep in the Badlands. We were very fortunate to see them when we were driving west and again on our return trip. On the way out we saw them late in the evening running around one of the rock formations. They were silhouetted against the sky but it was too dark to get a shot of them. The next morning we drove out into the same area. They tend to hang out around the east end of the main road at the first pull off. I captured a couple of shots of a lamb running around alongside of the road.

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We came back through a couple of weeks later. When we drove out to photograph the sunset we found several rams along the road.

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The next morning I decided that there would not be a great sunrise because there were not going to be any clouds. As a result we arrived at the first pull off after sunrise. We were fortunate to find a small herd of ewes and lambs along the road.

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We spent the morning driving through the park before having lunch at Cedar Pass. After lunch we exited the park but not before capturing a group of rams near the eastern trailheads.

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Begging Burros

One of the things we do every time we are in Custer, S.D. is to hike to the top of Harney Peak. I’m getting a little long in the tooth to be doing it but we met a fellow who was hiking to the top who was 90 years old and hikes to the top every year on his birthday.

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This is a sacred place to the Native Americans so you will see offerings near at the top of the peak.

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Several times when we have been at the top we have encountered Mountain Goats.

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A stone fire lookout tower is located at the top of the peak.

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After hiking to the Crazy Horse Memorial we drove back to Custer for lunch before driving out to Wind Cave National Park. I had hike the East Bison Flats Trail several times in the past and found it an easy trail with buffalo bones along the trail.

The trail starts on a road east of the Wind Cave Visitors Center before heading into the grasslands.

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It looked like the area had recently been burned and the grass was short and very green. There a large number of wildflowers out and the bees were on almost every flower.

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The Scarlet Globe Mallow seemed to be a favorite of the Prairie dogs.

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We were having a great time on the hike but as we looked back we could hear lightning and see rain clouds so we reluctantly turned around. My wife is standing by one of the new trail markers. It the past they used a flimsy trail marker that was frequently missing. Now they have posts in the ground that should stand up and are easy to see. From the looks of it the Buffalo use it as a scratching post.

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As I mentioned it looked like a fire had gone through the area not too long ago. A lot of the trees had turned brown. When we returned to the visitors center we found out that the Park Service had a controlled burn in the west flats but the fire had jumped the road and also burned the east flats. They were able to control it to the park. After the burn the wildflowers and grass came back quickly. The buffalo were having a great time feeding on the new grass.

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The genesis for our western trip was our desire to participate in the 2015 Crazy Horse Volksmarch. The rest of our western trip was filler around this event.

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Given the weather we weren’t sure if we would be able to make the volksmarch. It had rained and stormed the evening before but things looked good the next morning so we decided to give it a try. There were already quite a few people at the starting line when we arrived.

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The sun was out and it was a little too warm for my liking but it was a beautiful morning. The hike was supposed to 10 kilometers although it didn’t feel that long. The trail headed off through the woods in the opposite direction from the Memorial. As we found out later there is a nice road to the top and it would be a relatively short walk.

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It wasn’t long before we were heading back toward the memorial and could see it through the trees.

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We finally came out of the trees and walked the rest of the way on a road. By this time the sun was beating down on the road and it was getting warm. Folks were starting to look for a shady place to stop. At this point we started to encounter the fast hikers returning from the top.

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At the top I took a few photos of the memorial from the arm of Crazy Horse. The last time we made the hike was about 16 years ago. It’s difficult to see what progress has been made although regardless of whether or not is completed it brings in a lot of money. I took a photo of the studio and visitors center which also shows the road back on the left.

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The walk back to the visitors center was much easier and much shorter. It was the access road to the Memorial. All along the route there was equipment that was or is currently being used on the mountain.

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More photos can be found on my website.

We spent the night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The next morning was dreary but we decided to drive down to Falls Park to get some photos of the waterfalls. It was dark enough that the lights were still on in the park.

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After spending the night in Rapid City we drove east to the Badlands National Park. It was a beautiful day so we decided to spend some time in the park hiking after a long day of driving the previous day.

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Just after entering the park we encountered a small group of Bighorn Sheep. The herd consisted of the females and the their young.

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Driving a little further we drove past the Prairie Dog town and couldn’t resist stopping to watch them for a while.

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One fellow was doing some remodeling work on his dwelling.

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As we drove along we noticed a couple stopped along the road looking up into the rocks. There were two Bighorn Sheep rams watching the cars go by.

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As we continued down the road we started to notice some very interesting cloud formations.

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Last spring we had hiked many of the trails in the Badlands. This trip we decided to take a short trail that we had missed on our first trip. It had rained several days earlier but most of the water had dried up creating some interesting patterns on the trail.

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One thing I learned is you don’t want to be hiking in the badlands when the trail is wet. The soil, called gumbo, by the locals sticks to your shoes and just keeps building up like cement. The tracks on the bridge show that someone had been out hiking when it was wet.

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I was attracted to this colorful plant along the trail. It looked like it had flowers on it not long ago.

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After waking up at 3:30am so we could make an early start to the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup we spent the rest of the day at the roundup and arts and crafts fair. As evening approached we decided on an early dinner and a evening visit to Sylvan Lake. We thought it might be a good spot to get some evening photos.

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It was still warm, after reaching 90 degrees earlier in the day, when we arrived at Sylvan Lake. W found a wedding party setup and photographing along the lake. We took a walk around the lake while waiting for things to clear out.

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As night approached I thought it would be a good idea to try some star trail photography. My wife went along with it so we walked back to the car to get our gear and some warm clothes. We spent the early evening taking photos from the south end of the lake.

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After taking about 30 photos I decided to call it quits. With the wedding party at the lodge there were a lot of cars driving around and I thought it would distract from the star trails. There were also quite a few planes flying through the background. The fact that we had been up for over 17 hours also played a part in the decision. This is as far as I got in my start trail attempt.

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I keep thinking of it as a vacation but my wife keeps pointing out that retired people can’t take a vacation so it’s a road trip. The plan was to head out to the Badlands, Custer State Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park starting the latter part of September.Buffalo-14-9-_3035

The trip got off to an inauspicious start. The day before we were to leave my wife came back from town and said that a warning light appeared on the dash – something about a battery. She immediately called the dealer and they set up an appointment for early afternoon.

When she returned home she was driving a different van. Apparently the problem was an alternator, something that never goes wrong with a Toyota. The dealer was having problems finding a replacement. My wife talked them into letting her drive a van home so we could pack all of our gear and then make the transfer at the dealer and head out west without returning home.

The next morning the dealer called and said they would have the new alternator at 10am and would have it ready by noon. We called and canceled our reservation for the first night because there was no way we would make Murdo, S.D .given our late start.

When we arrived to pick up our van I started transferring our gear to our car while my wife paid the bill. When I reached for my tripod something didn’t feel right. Sure enough it was my old tripod. I really needed the new one. So, back home we drove to get the new tripod.

Once back on the road we headed to Wabasha, Wis. to catch the highway south to I-90. As we drove through town I took my normal shortcut. When we reached highway 61 I turned right. At that point my wife asked me where I was going. I said to catch the freeway. Unfortunately I had been so used to heading to Redwing, Minnesota to watch the eagles last winter that I was heading north rather than south.

Back on the road , in the right direction, we were within spitting distance of I-90 only to encounter a 20 mile detour. At that point we reassess our progress and decided to stop at Mitchell, SD. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a hotel we liked so we decided to continue on to Sioux Falls, SD.

Early the next morning we resumed our western road trip. We planned to stop in the Badlands but decided to skip that side trip and continued on to Custer State Park. The goal was to photograph the Custer Buffalo Roundup the next day so we wanted to scout the area.

So for the past month we have been driving around the western U.S. and the upper Midwest chasing the fall leaves. They are just about gone now so I should have time to starting going through the many photos I’ve taken and writing my blog on a daily basis.

In the meantime I’ve started processing some of my most recent photos and interspersing blogs from the western trip with those of the Midwestern leaf peeping trips.

We drove through the Wildlife Loop a number of times during our stay in Custer State Park. We frequently saw Mountain Bluebirds as we drove past the park airport. Unfortunately it was usually the wrong time of day to photograph them. On our last morning in the park we decided to drive out to the airport so we could photograph them in the early morning light.Mountain-bluebird-14-5-_4068

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