Saturday, September 25, 2010

Devil's Tower, Revisited.

Devil's Tower NM, WY 9.25.10
Today with our visiting family we tackled Devil's Tower. It's about 80 miles NE from Deadwood, just on the eastern side of the Wyoming Black Hills. The weather was amazing; 75°, blue skies and little wind. We made it there around 11:30 this morning. It's Public Lands Day and so there was no entrance fee. Ten dollars saved and everything keeps getting better!

First things first, we went into the Visitors Center and stamped out National Parks passports. We are slightly obsessed with collecting these cancellations. They're usually very pretty stamps and I like that the date you visited is usually included.

The Family! Devil's Tower NM, 9.25.10
Roughlock Falls, 9.25.10
Then the majority of the group took off on the loop that circles the base of the tower. It's just over a mile long, tarred and incredibly peaceful. The rocks that have fallen from the tower are called talus and the path follows just along the edge of the pile. On the other side is open forest with little underbrush and a few fallen trees. We walked taking a few photos along the way. We saw about 10 climbers. More than on any of our previous visits.  Over the course of the trail we spread out quite a bit. The youngest was the first all the way around and Josh and I nearly brought up the rear. It was just what I needed. Then we hit up the free cookies and water and headed back.

As a detour we went through Spearfish Canyon. The leaves here are in their peak colors and it was spectacular. Greens, yellows and oranges popped along the canyon. There was a lot of traffic but that didn't seem to take from the scenery. 26 miles of changing leaves, exposed peaks, occasional caves and a perfect stream to follow.

We stopped into Roughlock Falls where our wedding ceremony was going to take place. It was busting with people. So many people. The water was clear and the air was warm. It's a very beautiful place.We enjoyed every waterfall, each little bridge and overlook. There wasn't one overlook that wasn't already occupied but we managed alright. Some beautiful photos were taken. Everyone seemed to enjoy it despite the amount of people. So many Leaf Peepers.

Roughlock Falls, 9.25.10
We eventually made it home. The fresh mountain air is exhausting. It was great day and we are so happy that our family was here to enjoy it with us. And to see why we've been hanging out in South Dakota for so long!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Badlands NP, SD

Today was the beginning of a week long adventure! Josh's family flew up from Oklahoma and Texas for a few days exploring. When we postponed our wedding some of our families plans couldn't be changed so instead of the wasting plane tickets and a cabin they've up for a visit and mini-vacation. Since we don't live close to either of our families it's great to have this chance to get to know them better. Our visitors include;  his parents, both grandmothers, two aunts, one uncle and a cousin. To top it off- two friends from Oklahoma are also visiting. And I don't think that we'll be bored for one second this week.

Sage Creek Road, Badlands NP 9.23.10
We woke up this morning to rain. The sky was dreary and overcast and didn't look like it was likely to get better. As the day went on it began to slowly dry. The clouds didn't seem to clear but instead to divide and provide us with sunshine and blue skies. After picking up Josh's Uncle's family from the airport in Rapid City we headed east to Badlands National Park.

The Badlands at any point of the day are beautiful but today we saw them at sunset. We went into the park by dirt road from the south. It was 25 miles through grazing land. Buffalo and cattle dotted the fields. We drove up on a coyote. He was hunting a prairie dog town and didn't seem to be having much luck.

at Fossil Walk, Badlands NP 9.23.10
Just over an hour from Rapid we were seeing the formations. The badland formations have colorful stratigraphy that glows in the light. After a rain the reds, yellows and grays pop and having you wondering if you're even on earth. Tonight, the light gray soils reflected the colors of the sunset. Beautiful oranges and golds. Shadows moved every minute.  There were so many places where we got out of the car and took it all in. Everyone who had a camera was taking photos. It was awesome and more than a little windy.

After a few hours cruising we got to the end of the Badlands Loop Road just as the sun was setting. It was perfect timing. As we drove home it was complete darkness. It made all the colors that we had just seen even more spectacular. Maybe soon we can make it there for sunrise....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Southern Black Hills Tour

Mt. Rushmore National Memorial 9.16.10
This morning we hopped in the car and headed south on 385. It was a relaxing ride with our windows down with a warm breeze blowing around us.

We were on course for Custer State Park when we realized that we had taken a turn for Mt. Rushmore. The road winds, climbs and drops its way through the southern hills until you come up to Mount Rushmore. It was a perfect day for the faces. They glowed against the blue sky. From every perspective they are spectacular. Carved so precisely into the hills.

A burrow foal, Custer State Park 9.16.10
Custer is usually a hotspot for antelopes, bighorn sheep, elk, buffalos and burros but today we had little luck. The antelope were out in force. We saw several groupings of bulls, cows and calfs. The racks on the bulls are beautiful. Black and rigid. This past spring we saw two young bulls play fighting with their racks. It was awesome. There were a few calfs- each one cuter than the last.
Not one buffalo was seen. This was the first time that this has ever happened. We did the whole Wildlife Loop Road and a few offshoots but still didn't see anything. Both Josh and myself were incredibly disappointed but are still hopeful that we can make it there for the Annual Buffalo Round-up on the 27th of September (also Josh's Birthday)!

Heddy Draw Lookout Point, Custer State Park 9.16.10
Though there was a distinct shortage of buffalo we encountered plenty of burros. Fairly aggressive burros at that. There were three burro "encampments" that we had to travel through and in each one both of us had to guard ourselves. They stuck their heads in the windows and poked around for food. Sniffing everything with great intent and lipping most of the surfaces. We were able to scratch there faces and love on them a bit but they were nothing short of demanding.

I was hoping to see a mountain goat or elk but even though it didn't happen it felt incredible just to be on another adventure with Josh.