Solar Eclipse
Custer State Park
Wind Cave National Park
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Badlands National Park

Storms Over the Plains

As I was driving from the Rapid City area up to North Dakota, a storm was coming through. I was lucky in that I only went through a little bit of rain. I was also lucky because I had decided to take entirely back roads. (Of course in truth, almost all roads in the area I was in was a back road.) There was almost no one else on the road, so I could occasionally stop and take photos of the storms. I also lucked out because there were numerous sunflower farms, which made for very nice foregrounds. Anyway, here are a few of the photos.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Delta-09

Previously I visited the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Delta-01 which was the launch control center as well as where the crew lived. Yesterday, I visited the Delta-09 site, which was where an actual missile was. The missile with the nuclear warhead has been removed, but there is an unarmed missile in it now, so visitors can see what it looked like. You can walk around the surface, which is a fairly small area, but you can see some of the support infrastructure like an antenna and manholes.

Missile in silo

Missile in silo with basket for a person to do maintenance

Antenna

Tracks to move cover

Missile silo is under glass room. Manholes for maintenance are on right.

Utility pole

In the photo above, you can see lines of vegetation. The entire area was mainly devoid of vegetation, but the vegetation it did have followed neat lines. I can’t figure out why, and I presume it has nothing to do with the site. I considered if the site had water pipes, perhaps if they were leaking, then vegetation might follow along the pipes, but I am fairly sure there are no water pipes. I know some plants develop root runners, but I have never seen any that are that linear. If anyone knows why plants would do this, I would love it if they would leave me a comment.

Don’t feed the wildlife

Mostly I use this blog to share my photos. Sometimes I use it to explain something. Right now I need to rant perhaps a little about something I saw at Custer State Park. There is a lot of wildlife there, which of course is one of the reasons that people visit it. When you enter the park, there are signs warning you that buffalo are dangerous and don’t approach them. I know I saw at least one sign that said don’t feed the wildlife. On the park’s website, it says don’t feed the wildlife. Yesterday, close to sunset, I was driving on the wildlife loop and saw donkeys eating in the grasslands. I pulled over to park, and there was a family out of their car feeding a donkey right next to their car. The donkey was clearly friendly and used to humans, but it was not in a harness, and it was a park. I knew it was wrong to feed the donkey as sweet as it appeared to be. The man was letting his young daughter feed the donkey, and the donkey was practically eating out of her hand. I was worried, perhaps overly so, that the girl might accidentally get bitten. [It doesn’t matter how sweet the animal, even with horses and dogs, there is a right way and wrong way to give an animal food from your hand to make sure you are not accidentally bitten.] I finally said something to the man. I said you are not supposed to feed the wildlife. He said I know. I said this is a state park. He said I know. He clearly didn’t care. They left soon after, and others came to park and see the donkeys. A women in another car brought them carrots and celery. The donkeys came up to the car windows. The women got out to feed them. Two other donkeys approached seeing how this one donkey was being fed from two different sets of people. The woman who brought the carrots and celery finally threw the vegetables at the donkeys and ran away because the donkeys kept trying to eat from her hand. Then the donkeys went car to car trying to get food. I initially had been outside my car taking photos of the donkeys in the field. I had to retreat to car after the donkeys kept going to everyone. I wasn’t afraid of the donkeys, but I was not going to give them anything, and I didn’t think I should be interacting with them at all.

Basic rule of thumb is don’t feed the wildlife. Unless there is a park ranger standing near you stating you can feed whichever particular wildlife and here is what to feed them, then don’t feed the wildlife. I don’t know why there are donkeys in a state park. I don’t even know if they are truly wild or maybe just feral or really domestic and somehow ended up in the park. I do know the park information says don’t feed the wildlife and no exclusion is stated for the donkeys. Animals that are fed start to depend on humans for food and don’t forage properly. You may not be feeding them proper food either. It may not be good for them. It may not have the proper nutrients, and then because they don’t forage, they don’t get proper nutrients. It is like people feeding bread to ducks. Bread is not actually all that nutritious for ducks. You could get accidentally hurt. The animal could get hurt. Think of those donkeys going right up to the cars. You think they are more likely to get hit by a car because they think cars mean food? Diseases can be spread to or from the animal.

It is really simple. Don’t feed the animals.

A friendly donkey at my car window thinking I might give it food because others have

Custer State Park Bison

I saw and photographed quite a few bison while at Custer State Park, so I wanted to share some more photos in a separate blog post of just them. The first four photographs are of the same bison, who rather enjoys rolling around in the dirt.

Buffalo who likes to roll in dirt

Buffalo who likes to roll in dirt

Buffalo who likes to roll in dirt

Buffalo who likes to roll in dirt

Buffalo

Buffalo creating traffic jam in Custer State Park

Herd of buffalo

Custer State Park

I am probably prone to superlatives on my blog, but Custer State Park is, in fact, stunningly gorgeous. It has lovely grasslands where you can find bison, prairie dogs, and donkeys and probably others. Those are the ones I saw. I have to also admit that I am a little sketchy on wild donkeys being in a park, but I digress. The park also has the granite peaks and spires that make the Black Hills so famous. There is a manmade lake called Sylvan Lake that has the granite spires lining it and popping out of it. There is Needles Highway, which is an engineering feat of wonder, where you drive around the granite spires and in two cases drive through them in the most ridiculous small, just cut out the exact space needed for a car, tunnels. There is the Wildlife Loop where you can see the wildlife and just take in the gorgeous grasslands. My photos probably don’t do it justice, but if you are ever in the area, make time and go to this park.

Custer State Park grasslands

Buffalo on the grasslands

Donkeys (or burros) on the grasslands

Buffalo on the grasslands

Custer State Park

Needles Highway tunnel

Needles Highway

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

Black Hills Train Ride

I took a ride today on the 1880 Train, whose route goes back and forth between Hill City and Keystone SD. It uses an old mining and mill railroad for its track. The round trip takes two hours, and it is a nice, relaxing ride through some beautiful countryside.

The 1880 Train engine

The 1880 Train on a curve

An old mine entrance

Views of the Black Hills

Views of the Black Hills

The 1880 Train having a blowdown

Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore

This afternoon was spent in the Black Hills. I first visited the Crazy Horse memorial being built. The scale of it is amazing. I spotted it from the road, and I was in awe. They are carving a sculpture out of an entire hill of rock. Only the face is complete thus far, but the work is impressive, and it is interesting to watch it being carved.

Crazy Horse and the model from which the hill is being carved

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse

Next I visited Mount Rushmore National Memorial. I have to say, after visiting Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore was slightly underwhelming. The carving is really impressive, especially considering when it was all done without some of our modern day tools. However compared to Crazy Horse, it is kind of small. Calling Mt. Rushmore small is ridiculous, but in comparison, it is.

Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore and the plaza walk to it

Mt. Rushmore, profile of George Washington can be seen from road

Wind Cave National Park

This morning I visited Wind Cave National Park. On the surface, the park looks like much of same lovely grassland as the surrounding area. Underground, however, lies a huge cave system filled with gorgeous formations. The cave is famous for its boxwork formations and has most of the known boxwork in the world. You can take tours of a small portion of the cave, enough to get a glimpse of the gorgeous boxwork.

Wind Cave National Park, grasslands above ground

Boxwork in Wind Cave

Boxwork in Wind Cave

Crystals in Wind Cave

Crystals in Wind Cave

Wind Cave

Boxwork in Wind Cave

Boxwork in Wind Cave

Deadwood

After visiting Devil’s Tower, I decided to visit Deadwood just because. I took the scenic route through Spearfish Canyon. If you ever in the area, I highly recommend this scenic drive. It is lovely. I then arrived in Deadwood and had only been there for a short time before a gun fight broke out. No worries, it was on schedule. They have a gun fight several times a day, every day, although this may only be in the summer. There is a fight over a card game, and then a dual on the street. Of course all I was thinking was wondering if these actors wore ear protection because that’s the type of person I am. In any event, many of buildings in Deadwood have been restored to their original design. The buildings are kind of neat. The old train station is now the visitor’s center. Much of downtown though is casinos and tourist shops, so if you are not into those activities, and I am not, Deadwood only needs to be a short visit. Unless you just like watching fake gun fights.

Deadwood train station that is now the visitor’s center

Franklin Hotel in Deadwood where a gun fight constantly breaks out

downtown Deadwood

downtown Deadwood

downtown Deadwood

Spearfish Canyon scenic drive, worth the drive

Devil’s Tower

For my trip out west, I wanted to visit many sites that were kind of in the middle of nowhere. Devil’s Tower fits in that category. I don’t think photos can do it justice. As I was driving to it, the road I was on curved, and then Devil’s Tower just appeared. That is what is so amazing about it. The area around it is pretty rolling countryside with some of the black hills, but then this columnar rock tower just appears. The trail to walk around it is a little over a mile, and even while walking that trail, I still was amazed by its size and how much it stuck out of the surrounding countryside. There are exhibits on the trail that give good visuals to describe how it formed. Still I find it awesome.

Devil’s Tower

Devil’s Tower

Devil’s Tower

Devil’s Tower

Devil’s Tower

Devil’s Tower, close up of columns

Devil’s Tower, close up of columns