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.
The 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. Standing 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. There 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!
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.
I 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.
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:
What a delight, to live so close to places like Custer State Park. I still pinch myself, to make sure it is real!
The first day of my week off was spent almost entirely outside – The way I like it! Gardening, yard work, and other activities this morning, mowing until dark this evening, and a hike this afternoon to see if any water was still running in Battle Creek. Boy, was it! It roared pleasantly through the canyon and the deep-cut creekbed, a chocolatey, muddy brown. Wildflowers are blooming even more now, and the brush and forest were alive with bird life. My cellphone battery died on my hike, so I walked very carefully on the way home. I’ve never seen a rattlesnake on the Hole-in-the-Wall trail, but I didn’t want to find my first one and not have cell access in case of an emergency!
What a wonderful day to be spent outside, enjoying the quiet and serenity of the Black Hills, the wind in the pines and the tall grasses, the vivid sunlight, the flashes of wildflower color, the shimmering green of the aspens. No place I’d rather be.