Friday, May 29, 2015

May is almost done and over with and boy, it has been one for the books so far!
Checking back on the calender I found that we arrived here 3 weeks ago, on the 3d of May, when it was actually still beautiful weather. 
It started raining somewhere later that week, than we had snow between the 8th and the 11th, as I blogged about a while ago, and than again on the 20-21st if you can believe it (!), 

Merlin almost couldn't .....

.."what? Not again!"..

.... and yes, we did have a handful (if at all) of dry days, but the rest of the time it pretty much rained the whole time!
                                              Like this .....

Today started pretty much the same, but at the time that I'm typing this (4.30 pm) the skies are starting to clear and according to 'weather underground' it is going to be nice over the weekend!

Look at next week though! Thunderstorms every day and rather rainy, again, from Wednesday on!
Oh well ... we're going to take advantage of tomorrow's sunny day to go and see the presidents (the mountain sculptures) at Keystone, so hopefully these predictions will hold!

In the meantime I'll show some pictures of the few nice days we had. Everything looks so much nicer with a little sunshine ....

Although my azaleas have gotten a little bit of a beating from the weather, they are hanging in there!

I really love the area we're at. There are trails all around us and I've been checking out several of them on some of my morning walks.

Lots of pine trees. It reminds me of Lake Arrowhead! We're actually at the same altitude here, around 6000'.

Although the temperatures have been way to low for the time of the year, I've discovered a few wildflowers brave enough to make an appearance:

And in between the rains the birds are trying to make the most of this wet Spring, looking for food, singing for mates and preparing their nests.
There's a lot of woodpeckers here!

Downy Woodpecker (I think)

Red-naped Sapsuckers ...

... and Northern Flickers.

Occasionally I come across some of these cute little critters. They're tiny and hard to spot amidst the dead branches:

Least Chipmunk
Well, that's it for now. Let's hope for the weather to improve soon, we both have a cold and could do with some warming up!
The almanac predicts a dry summer ...... it just doesn't say where ...

Thursday, May 28, 2015


I'm already wayyyy behind in my blogging again! Reason being: it was Memorial weekend.
And because the resort was pretty much fully booked, parking became a little difficult, especially since the crowd that comes back to this place year after year is a ATV-crowd, and arrives with all sorts of trailers and toys.
What that has to do with blogging? Well, between us and the lobby where the Internet connection is located, somebody parked a large aluminum trailer that completely blocked the signal!

Oh well, they're all gone now, so I'll try to get something going while I have some sort of a signal.

The previous weekend (I know, it's old news again) we decided to drive down to Keystone, about 50 miles, and from there drive over to  the Custer State Park, all before the tourists will start to arrive in full, around the middle of June.

(From Keystone we actually drove the famous scenic byway called the Iron Mountain Road but since this post is going to be humongous as it is, I'll leave it out for now and will talk about that in the next one.)

We'd picked a beautiful day, the only one for a while if we have to believe the weather forecast, and we also picked what turned out to be the 'Open House Weekend' of 2015.
It celebrates the start of the season with activities and festivities all through the park. Also, admission is free on this day!

As you can see, nature was only just recuperating from winter (and of last weeks freak snow storm!), everything still looked quite grey and even the spring flowers were not making any appearance yet.

But luckily these guys did. Make an appearance, I mean.

Since 'Dances of Wolves', everybody of course knows their Indian name, Tatanka, which is the Lakota name for bison, more commonly known as buffalo.
There are as many as 1,450 of them in the park and although I'd hoped for seeing some babies, we only came across a few small groups of bulls.

They're totally not disturbed by cars pulling up and people leaning out to make pictures, even our truck didn't impress them at all. 
I guess if you're build like a tank (6' and more than 2,000 pounds), you don't have much to fear ....

We'd entered the park somewhere on the North-east side and were driving the Wildlife Loop Road that takes you all around the park, until we got dazed and confused and took a cut-off where we shouldn't have. But we basically 'did' the whole loop after all ....

We climbed the pass up to Mount Coolidge and stretched our legs while taking a peek at the overlook at the top (6023') . 
Pine trees in the sun ... I just love that 'pitchy' smell, if you know what I mean ....

Driving down the hill, through the pine forest, and following a wild-flowing stream called French Creek, we came upon some White-tailed Deer ....

.... and in the meadows down below .....

...... we arrived at 'Prairie Dog Town' ....

These rodents live in large social groups, called towns, and get their name from their bark-like call. (as does the one above ...)

They were fun to watch as they were basking in the sun, and the young ones playing and rough-housing with each other ...

While we were watching them this next little guy all of a sudden popped out of the high grass. He's not a prairie dog, but a Thirteen-lined (but who's counting?) Ground Squirrel.
They like the same kind of environment, dry, upland prairie, but their burrow and tunnels don't show a mound, just a small hole in the ground.

We stopped for lunch at the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center, which was a very good call in hind-side, since, as part of the days festivities, we ran into a dutch oven demonstration by the 'Black Hills Dutchers'.
Sampling encouraged!

 Ha, you don't have to tell that twice, to a Hess !

There were probably about 10 to 15 different dishes to taste, and they were all just about ready.
Some were hearty like breakfast egg and sausage (yumm!), bean stews, and potato dishes, and others were sweet like several different cobblers and other deserts.
Most of them were delicious, and we both must have walked the line about twice!  I was stuffed!

When we continued the loop through the valley we came across some less 'wild' inhabitants of the park.

These cute, but very obnoxious, burros are not native to the Black Hills but are descendants from the herd that once hauled visitors to the top of Harney Peak.
When the rides were discontinued years ago, the burros were released in the park and have become a popular visitor attraction.

The ears on this baby didn't want to stay 'up' yet, so cute ...

We encountered some more 'tatankas':

..... and a small herd of Pronghorns, again, all bucks:

Commonly referred to as antelopes, due to their similar appearance, these are the fastest land animal in North America.
It's obvious were they get their name from ....

After leaving the park, we drove to, and through, Custer and started to make our way back up North.

Custer's Main Street
Since we drove right by it, and since because of the 'Open House' weekend there was also no admission for the day (normally $12/pp), we decided to stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial just north of Custer, and check out it's grounds and museum.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction on privately held land. 
It depicts Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski. 
After Ziolkowski died in 1982, his widow, Ruth Ziolkowski, took charge of the sculpture, overseeing work on the project from the 1980s to the 2010s. It is operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a private non-profit organization.

The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain on land considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota.

It has been in progress since 1948 and is far from completion, so far only the head is done. If completed, it may become the world's largest sculpture.

Besides the mountain carving (monument), the memorial consists of the Indian Museum of North America, and the Native American Cultural Center.

We really liked the museum which contains thousands of beautiful native artifacts in spacious, bright rooms and enjoyed the very informative video about the history of the project.

This white replica shows how it's going to look like in the end. In the background the real sculpture is just visible.

The sculpture's final dimensions are planned to be 641 feet (195 m) wide and 563 feet (172 m) high. The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet (27 m) high; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet (18 m) high!

There is some controversy about the project, concerns about the commercializing of the site, it being 'holy' ground for some tribes, and concerns about the extremely slow process despite lots of money coming in.
Despite that, we thought it is all very nicely done, it's a huge undertaking and probably needs a tremendous amount of organizing and effort behind the scenes each year, that is not immediately visible to the general public.

With his left hand thrown out pointing in answer to the derisive question asked by a white man, "where are your lands now?" 
 Crazy Horse replied: "My lands are where my dead lie buried".

As I said, we'd picked a beautiful day to do all this, and we really did beat the crowds since we barely came across any people. 
But when we arrived 'home' in Lead, dark clouds started to roll in again, and it has been raining since!
Which was basically the whole week long, including Memorial Day, and according to the weather forecast it is going to take at least another one. Yikes!