Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wild South Dakota

Wow and wow!
I was totally unprepared for the intimacy of viewing the wildlife in South Dakota.  You feel like you are literally driving in a zoo.  We stayed two nights in the Badlands, enjoying sunsets and sunrises but what was probably the most amazing to me, despite the majesty of the heavily eroded land (now mountains; formerly a sea bed) which draws you to the "bad" lands, but what I was most awed by was the wildlife.  As you slowly drive along the park roads, watching (in fact I have a stiff neck from turning my head to the right to constantly look out my window!) for movement, you are always rewarded by a field of prairie dogs (actually they are burrowing rodents not dogs at all) with their raised-burrow entrances to their homes/tunnels under the plains, or a family of pronghorn sheep (the male is marvelous with a black stripe down his face and that black rack he proudly sports out the top of his head.....they can run 53 miles per hour!).  The day we drove all over the Badlands we came back into the park and I told the park attendant I had seen buffalo, prairie dogs, pronghorn sheep, and mountain bluebirds.  She laughed and told us, "You should buy a lottery ticket today!"  

Giant bison bull making sure there was no "off roading"
Yes, fortunate we do feel.  We are staying 3 nights in Custer State Park and yesterday (thank you, husband, for some time in one spot!) we did the wildlife "loop" which took just under 2 hours.  We saw herds of buffalo vs. the bison duo in the Badlands (a bull at about 2,000 pounds...see photo above... and a female-looking cow at maybe 1,000 pounds who was licking her lips and staring us down) who we surprised as we rolled up to the top of a gentle hill.  That was a little alarming to say the least, being so close to those two giants (and, of course, I am remembering the florescent pink sign we received as we entered the park, "View buffalo from a safe distance!").  And when we first came upon those two beautiful beasts I though they were fake, and that they were hard-to-miss massive statues making the point to not drive off road, as the sign that this big boy was scratching up against, indicates.

But in Custer State Park we saw actual bison herds with babies, big daddy bulls, and lots of juvenile and females (cows), all grazing along the river, right by the road.  We also saw a mule begging for carrots right in the middle of the road and lots of mule poop so I am guessing this wasn't a solitary or unique experience for him and his buddies.  I don't get this feeding of the giant, wild animals in a national or state park.  You constantly pass by signs or read warnings indicating, "If an animal changes his/her behavior you are too close (remember the female bison licking her lips staring at us???)" and, "View from a distance," and advice such as, "Put your thumb at arms length.  If you completely obscure the animal, you are at a safe distance."  Bison can run 35 mph and pivot quickly.  Yet, yesterday we saw foolish people getting out of their cars, camera in hand, snapping away photographs of buffalo.  In fact, reading up on this a bit, there are articles about "bison selfies" and what a bad idea those are (really?).

Begging Mules!

As we tour the national and state parks I am so grateful to all the people who had the foresight to designate this land and then develop it just enough for people to visit.  I just had new clue how beautiful it would all be.  On our agenda tomorrow is to drive through 2 mountain passes, see Mount Rushmore and pass through Spear Fish and Bounder canyons!  Today we are resting, doing laundry, reading, and catching up with bills....and reflecting on how lucky we are to be here, now, enjoying our lives, spending nights in these beautiful park campgrounds and trying to take in all the beauty of it all.

Can't wait to see what the next weeks hold as we move onto Grand Teton National park (bears!) but first we are staying over at a raspberry farm in the middle of Wyoming click here to see this interesting place where we will be overnighting  Wyoming Raspberry deLight Farm.  Rusty doesn't even like raspberries (news to me), "Those little seeds get in my teeth."  Well, more raspberry jam for me and I think he may change his mind when he sees the Raspberry Chipotle sauce :)

Loving it all....Mini's crappy battery (buried in battery land), my bruised ribs (healing reminders to move mindfully), Olivia's cut foot (reminding her to wait until the people descend the stairs), Ken's burned finger (gotta find a poking stick...)....notwithstanding! 

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