Category Archives: family

Black Hills Trip Report: Day Four

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Time to head home.  We planned a route that would take us back through Custer State Park since our pass was still valid.  One last trip over the Wildlife Loop.

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We met up with the pronghorn again, and I was able to get even closer this time.  What a cool animal.  I have always called them pronghorn antelope, but after doing a little research I discovered they are NOT antelope.  Go figure.  It is the only surviving species of a family that included 12 different varieties, and is the fastest land animal in the western hemisphere.

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The African cheetah is the fastest over short distances, but the pronghorn can flat-out haul all kinds of ass over any significant distance.  According to Wikipedia, they can sustain 42 mph for a whole mile!  With a 35 mph rating over 4 miles, I’d calculate that they could finish your local 5k race in around five minutes and fifteen seconds.  Wow.

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Pronghorn are very poor jumpers, though.  Fences have a large impact on their range, and they often go under them if possible.  If you see a 3-4 strand barbed wire fence and the bottom wire is barbless, now you know why.  That is a newer standard being adopted to facilitate pronghorn passage.

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They have also been observed to have a maximum stride length of 24 feet.  That is covering some serious ground!

Things got interesting when we spotted the wild burros (LJ thought we were going to check out some wild ‘burrows’…).  They are notorious beggars, and emerged from the woods like a herd of zombie animals with a serious case of the munchies.

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From a USA Today article (Ethan Schowalter-Hay, Demand Media):

The Custer State Park burros are feral. They were introduced into the area by humans and have reverted to a wild or semi-wild state. Specifically, the park’s donkey squad descends from pack animals once used for treks to the Harney Peak summit. Now naturalized, they often pander for food from park tourists in places like the Wildlife Loop Road, sometimes causing traffic jams. Such is their boldness that they are often referred to as the “begging burros.”

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The variety of colors and patterns was super cool.

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They are not shy.

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Once they got a taste of the road salt on our van it was game over.  They licked it top to bottom and left the windows so smudged we could hardly see through them.  I wish I would have thought to shoot video, everyone was freaking out and squealing. It was a better show inside the van than outside!

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The aftermath…

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What a great way to wrap up a memorable trip. It was an unexpected journey to a place we’d never been, and I would go back in a heartbeat.

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Black Hills Trip Report: Day Three

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Today we headed a little over an hour east of Rapid City to visit Badlands National Park.

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You know how there are times when you watch a what is most likely a fairly mediocre movie, and because you are in just the right mood at the time you love it?  That’s how I felt when visiting BNP.  I have been to much more spectacular places, but I loved the subtle beauty of the Badlands.  I was there with my family, camera gear dangling off me, with a whole day to explore a cool new place.  It really doesn’t get any better than that.

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Taken by Jessica, age 9 –

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While the landscapes were amazing and I had fun looking for good photo opportunities, I also took some impromptu portraits of my family that I’m very happy with.

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Except maybe for this one…

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And this one…

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We visited the famous Wall Drug on the way back to the hotel, but they were closing for the day so our stop was cut a little short.  If you are anywhere within 100 miles of that place, count on seeing a sign about every 10 feet.  They are all nicely done and well kept, though.

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Natalie stole my cap, glasses, and camera, then walked around doing her best impression of me.

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A swim at the hotel and a bunch of pizza capped off a great day.

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Black Hills Trip Report: Day Two

Saturday morning we decided to drive the scenic Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park, then loop over to Mount Rushmore via the Iron Mountain road.

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The Wildlife Loop was great.  It started out very empty and still, I thought it was going to turn out to be a huge flop.  Then we came up on two different groups of Bison and got to watch them from a close distance.

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Including the biggest one I have ever seen.

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That was cool, but then we rounded a corner and spotted a herd of pronghorn.  WAY cool.  I have never been so close to them before.  Usually all you see are a few white butts way out in the sagebrush.  These guys let me watch them for a good 30 minutes and I loved every second of it.

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We also spotted the infamous pack of wild burros up on a hillside.  We’d get a much closer look at them on Monday…

Thanks to my pronghorn-watching we were now a little behind schedule and stepped up the pace a bit.  While we were driving over to Iron Mountain, we spotted 7-8 turkeys crossing the road.  Good timing!  My wife said it was good she had urged us to hurry up or we would have missed them.  I said it was good I had taken so long with the pronghorn or we would have gone through before they crossed.  So it goes…  Anyway, it was great to see them and there wasn’t any traffic so I was able to stop and take a quick snap.  I haven’t ever seen colors like these guys displayed.

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We started up the Iron Mountain road and spotted some bounding whitetail.  I love seeing the wildlife! The road was built in the 1930’s and gets very narrow in spots.  There are 3 small tunnels as well.  Two of the tunnels were engineered to line up perfectly with Mount Rushmore off in the distance, that was neat!

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Perfect blue sky and clean air made for an incredible visit to Mount Rushmore.  We had never been there and enjoyed having the whole afternoon to soak it all in.  Pictures just can’t do it justice, seeing it firsthand was impressive to say the least.  It was fascinating to learn all about how the monument was created, and I found it very interesting to learn why each of the presidents were selected.

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Posing like the presidents –

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Cool shot taken by LJ –

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It was well worth the trip!

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