Monday, September 21, 2009

Black Hills, SD

I spent last week in Custer State park.  I toured the park and spent some time in the surrounding area, visiting Mt. Rushmore and a couple of caves. 

Custer State park is known for their wildlife, especially their bison.  I saw lots of them.  Since Yellowstone, I have been trying to get a good picture of a bison head.  I didn’t quite get what I wanted, (I wanted a picture of the side of their face, with them looking out of the picture), but I like this one.

csp bison headshot I also got a chance to watch a bison calf.

csp bison calf

There was also big horn sheep, more pronghorns and prairie dogs.  Custer State Park has several herds of wild burros.  Unfortunately people feed these burros, so while on a drive around Wildlife Drive I stopped to take some pictures and the burros walked right up to my car. 

csp burro car

csp big horn sheep csp big horn sheep1 csp prairie dogcsp pronghorn

Custer is not only known for their wildlife, but also the beautiful scenery.  The area pictured below is called Cathedral Spires.

csp cathedral spires 2csp lakeThere was a trail around this lake, but the best part was scrambling among the rocks. 

To me, the best part about Mt. Rushmore was the drive there.  I took the Norbeck scenic byway.  There are some interesting parts to this drive.  There are several one-lane tunnels.  Two of these tunnels have a surprising view as you get to the end of the tunnel. 

csp mt rushmore tunnel Yep, as you are in the tunnel you can see Mt. Rushmore.  Also, this road is famous for their pig tail bridges.  I didn’t think too much when I heard that because they have at least one of those in the Smokies.  A pig tail bridge is where the road crosses over itself.  But one of the bridges was cool --

csp pigtail bridge In this one, you come out of a one lane tunnel and onto a bridge.  Then you circle around and go under the bridge you just went over. 

csp mt rushmore There are several caves in the area, I went to Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park.  Jewel is like many other caves that I had seen, but Wind Cave was a bit different.  One, it didn’t have the typical roomy walkways.  Also it didn’t have the typical formations.  It is known for boxwork formations. 

csp windcave tight walkways csp windcave boxwork

This area is a great place, lots to see, places to hike…  I’ll be back someday.  I stayed at Game Lodge Campground in Custer State park.  From the campground, I saw deer and burros.  They had to put a fence up to keep the bison out. 

Great place, I loved it!

Yellowstone – part 2

For part 2 of my Yellowstone trip, I stayed a couple of days in the park and then the rest of the time at a private campground in Gardiner, MT – just outside of the West Yellowstone entrance.  This side of Yellowstone is very different than where I was last week.  More animals, less geysers. 

When I checked into the private campground they warned me that a grizzly had been seen the last couple of days in the campground, along with some elk.  Well, I never saw the grizzly but I did see the elk.  For the most part they stayed next door on the Mormon church property. 

ys2 cmpgrnd elk

I saw lots of bison and got in several bison jams.  Just after I took the picture below, they started running towards me and it was a bit frightening until just before my car they veered off to the right going within feet of my car. 

ys2 buffalo jam

One day I decided was going to be my wildlife day.  I woke up very early as dawn is one of the best times to see wildlife.  It was a bit foggy, but that burned off quickly   That day, I saw a coyote, 2 wolves (thru a spotting scope), elk, bison, pronghorns and big horn sheep.  I had never seen pronghorn before this trip, they are an interesting animal. 

ys2 lamar valley early morning fog

ys2 pronghorn

I did visit some geysers and hot springs.  I love the colors of the hot springs.  Most of the colors are different types of bacteria. 

ys2 spring colors 2ys2 springs and boardwalkI hiked one trail that was not in Yellowstone National Park.  I hiked in the Tom Miner Basin which is in the Gallatin Petrified forest.  This particular hike is among volcanic cliffs and caves.  In one of the caves, there is a petrified tree in the ceiling.   This is a view of the valley, the trail  and the volcanic cliffs. 

ys2 tom miner basin hike The Mammoth terraces were interesting and quite different from the other things  in the park.   In several places they look like snow and ice. 

ys2 terraces

ys2 terraces2

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Yellowstone – part 1

I spent last week in Island Park, Idaho which is just outside of West Yellowstone.  Most of the week I spent my days in ys old faithfulYellowstone Park.  They have closed one road so what would normally be a 1-2 hour drive from one part of the park to another is almost a day trip.  So I decided to spend most of my time on this side of the park and then next week I’ll go to the north and east side of Yellowstone.  I think I have the names right on the geysers and the springs, if you think I have one wrong let me know.  This one is Old Faithful.  By the way, I have a self portrait of myself at the end of this blog!  But you have to read the whole blog before you see what I look like.

I actually waited a couple of hours to see Grand Geyser erupt ys great fountain(There is a prediction window of 4 hours for this geyser).  During  that time, I meet some interesting people and the 2 hours went by very quickly.   I only waited about an hour to see Great Fountain (pictured here).  By that time I had learned ways to read some of the geysers, or more importantly who to talk to about a closer time for the eruption – not necessarily the park rangers.


In addition to the geysers, I enjoyed the colors of the springs.  Actually most of the color is bacteria and other organisms that grow in and around the springs.  Morning Glory is one of the more well known colorful springs.

ys morning glory spring

One of the boardwalk trails went by Grand Prismatic Spring.  It’s a huge colorful spring, but difficult to see from the boardwalk because it is so large.  One of the days I was there even the steam was blue (I am guessing it’s just reflecting the water in the spring).

ys grand prismatic blue steam While there, I learned that the best view of this spring was from the hill behind the spring.  So I went to that trail and scrambled up the hill for a better view.  I think it was one of the best views in the park.  You can enlarge this picture to get a better idea of the size (there are people on the boardwalk).

ys grand prismatic from hill

I also went on some hikes in the national forest around Indian Park.  One of them was around Mesa falls.  ys mesa falls

Back to Yellowstone, I was intrigued by the boiling mud.  I’m wondering if I would be as impressed if I put some mud in a pot and boiled it.  I have to admit that I took about 50 pictures (thank goodness for digital cameras) so that I could get pictures of the bubbles breaking and flying mud. 

ys boiling mud ys boiling mud 2

Another small geyser by a river -

ys river geyser

And now for my picture.  For those who know me, you may know that I don’t like to have my pictures taken.  They say the camera adds 10 pounds and I sure don’t need any additional pounds!  Actually I am posting 2 photos--

ys self portrait

Ok, it’s my shadow in the steam from a spring.  When I saw it, I thought it looked like I had a halo around my head!

I almost didn’t post this next one because of the way my backpack is it adds much more than 10 pounds, but I liked the picture anyway.  The formation that the spring had made was very interesting.

ys me

Now that everyone knows what I look like, I’ll sign off until next time!!!!