Mirror Lakes – Spearfish, South Dakota

I stumbled upon Mirror Lakes near Spearfish, South Dakota quite by accident when exploring the area for those perfect scenic backdrops. Having just finished working the night shift, I rushed to the hotel to pick-up Thade. When I arrived at the hotel, he was waiting impatiently and we jumped into the car and started riding.

img_0042I had turned off the main highway onto the gravel/rock roads that seem normal around here if you’re going up the mountains. I turned a few times from one road to another and then noticed a side road. The side road was the same gravelly type road, though much narrower than the one I previously was on.

Coming upon a concrete barricade, I pulled off the road and parked. Getting out, I noticed the sign prohibiting vehicles but open to foot traffic. I leashed Thade and we went through the barricade to find ourselves on a wooden bridge, a stream running underneath at a rapid pace.

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From there, I cannot begin to describe all we saw. There were hawks, turkeys, deer, a number of other types of birds, and miles of one-lane gravel road that is slowly being taken over by nature and small pathways.

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The dewdrops glistened on the plants and grass in the morning sun, prettier than even the most expensive diamonds.

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We followed the pathway for a bit before rounding the corner to look upon one of the lakes.

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Making our way to the water’s edge, we admired the crystal clearness of the water that allowed us to see the plants and fish; as well as the reflection.

img_0023-cr2 img_0022After a bit of relaxing, we once again went along the path only to hit a dead-end where the hill jutted toward the blue sky. I looked across to the other side and thought instead of going back, surely we could make it to the other side if we went ON the hill.

So, off we went, trudging along till we were walking the rim of the red hill wall. Finally, we chose a gully, washed out by rain and snow to go down and safely land on the other walkway. Thade looked at me as if I was a mad woman for making him hike up a hill and then down again. img_0210But he soon got over it when we came upon the other lake and enjoyed the view and the breeze of the morning air for a while.

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After two hours of walking and hiking, Thade and I decided it was time to return to the hotel for a meal and a nap. Since finding the lakes, I have been twice more. While there, I have not seen another human. It is very serene and a great place to meditate while watching the rising sun.

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Bear Butte – A Sacred Place

IMG_0068Heading out on a Sunday morning to a place I had only heard about from a friend, I didn’t know what to expect or what I may encounter when I finally got to Bear Butte. I saw the mountain off in the distance and knew it was Bear Butte even before I arrived. It stood majestically above the ground, buffalo were grazing around the base and near the entrance. I had to stop the car a moment to catch my breath at the beauty of it all.

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Parking the car, I entered the visitor’s center and walked around a bit, reading pamphlets and admiring the various articles on display. I still was not prepared for what I would see when I decided I would take the chance and do the 2-mile hike that ascends 1000 feet to the summit of Bear Butte.

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After my short lesson in the visitor’s center, I returned to my car to grab my camera, walking stick, and change into my hiking boots. Taking a deep breath, or as deep as I could since I was sick, I gazed up the trail lined with prayer ties and allowed myself to peer into the bright sunlight at the mountain summit some 4,426 foot above.

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The pathway was a bit treacherous in some areas and there were times when I thought I needed to turn back, especially after the last little “hut” that allowed shade and a place to sit and rest. There was one point about half-way up when I was questioning my decision to hike a mountain when I came upon a tree with a low hanging branch lined with various colored prayer ties.

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I dropped to the path, sweat beading on my face, breaths coming out short, and allowed the prayer ties to shade me from the sweltering sun. Closing my eyes, I kept repeating to myself that I could make this climb…2 miles wasn’t that far…and I really felt like I needed to reach the top for some reason. Before all these thoughts could tumble through my mind, a slight breeze began to blow….cool, soothing, and indeed a relief.IMG_0052IMG_0049IMG_0051After sitting a few minutes and allowing the breeze to bathe me, I decided to continue my journey. Along the way, I thought about all the prayer ties I saw. It truly was a beautiful site and out of respect for the people who left them and what they symbolize, I refrained from photographing them.

I heard various bugs, a few snakes warning rattle, and birds on my upward trek. The breeze sang through the ties that hung among the mountainside. The path became more treacherous closer to the summit, but I finally reached the top.

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Words cannot describe what I felt once I was there. I fell to my knees and cried for what seemed an eternity. I don’t even know why I cried, maybe it was from exhaustion, maybe it was from being sick, maybe it was that I had actually made it, maybe it was the thought of all those who had been before me and those that will come after me, maybe it was the mountain’s power flowing through me…or the Great Spirit’s, maybe it was all of those things. Whatever the reason, I laid back, staring at the cloudless blue above me, and let it flow.

IMG_00591 IMG_0058 IMG_0059 IMG_0047I stayed up on top a while, exploring and just feeling what was around me. I admired the view and tried to make a few photographs of the area without getting the prayer ties in them.

The trip down wasn’t nearly as difficult as the trip up and I had a difficult time leaving. I really wanted to stay atop that mountain for a day or two, or longer.

I am so thankful this mountain is protected and I can certainly understand why Bear Butte is considered a sacred place, a gift from the Creator. I cannot say what all happened during my hike on this mountain. That’s between me and the Creator, but I can say I definitely will go back again before I leave this area.

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Tatanka: Story of the Bison

IMG_0009Last Saturday, I was going to go explore Deadwood again. Unbeknownst to me, there was a car rally going on. While I’m a fan of cars, especially antique cars, I did not come all the way to South Dakota for a car show. I can see those anywhere.

So, ditching Deadwood, I decided to go to Tatanka. Having passed the entrance to it several times when I first got to the area, I had been wanting to see what it was all about anyway. Saturday with the beautiful weather made a perfect day for it.

Arriving at the center. I entered and was greeted by a young woman collecting the entrance fee of $7.50. I browsed the gift shop to a great extinct and explored the interpretative center. I kept wandering back to a pair of buffalo hide moccasin boots and finally ended up getting them. They are remarkably comfortable and I wore them for the rest of the day.

I felt safer knowing Tatanka has its own fire department. Though small, I could see how wondrously efficient it would be.

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I then went outside to see the bronze sculpture. It consists of 14 bison being pursued by three Native Americans riding horseback, amazing in detail and it causes you to reflect on the dangers warriors faced when hunting these massive creatures.

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While the sculpture is an incredible piece of art, my eyes kept drifting to the surrounding area. The view was incredible. There was a slight breeze in the air and a feeling of well-being came over me as I gazed around.

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Even the warning of rattlesnakes could not keep me from enjoying the area. And I did stay on the pathway, albeit it wasn’t the concrete pathway the sign probably referred to.

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Going around the sculpture led to a dwelling. I loved the set-up and sat a little while just thinking about the smell of the campfire, how many bison hides it would take to make a tipi, how the hide would be soaked in the bison brain to lubricate it, and a number of other things you can read about by going to Tatanka: Story of the Bison’s website.

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After enjoying the scenery and sculpture, I found myself back inside the center where I enjoyed my first buffalo burger with chips.

I’m glad I ditched Deadwood for the day and decided to check out Tatanka. Not only was the visit informative, but the food was great, and the people were very pleasant.

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Country’s Center

IMG_0031Although sick this weekend, I decided to get out and see some stuff especially since it has been my only weekend off since starting this nursing assignment in South Dakota. Plus once the weekend was over, I have a seven day work stretch ahead of me and knew that I had to take the time when it was presented…sick or not.

My hotel room hadn’t been serviced since I got here because I took care of just washing the sheets and all when I did my personal laundry. So, I felt like the room needed it and requested service while I was out yesterday.

I took Thade to see the Center of the Country while the cleaning was done. Belle Fourche has this particular site set up nicely. There’s a Tri-State Museum located on grounds, but being a Sunday it was closed. I did, however, get to read this little tidbit of information on Belle Fourche.

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Regardless, there is also a little log cabin built in 1876 on grounds and it was pretty neat.

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Descending the steps to the marker, you’re surrounded by different flora and it is very pretty and well maintained.

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The marker itself is amazing and I love the directional pieces of it. The pathway is bordered by different flags from around the country. Thade was more impressed with the trees he could pee on than anything else.

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And yes, I stood on the little marker for a minute or two…just to say I was dead geo center of the country.

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A well-maintained pathway leads off to the riverwalk, which we walked on for a bit before returning to the car. I plan to walk the full riverwalk before leaving the area, time permitting of course.

I especially liked this piece of art.  The only thing that may make it better is to have a fountain around it and have water running down the “river” and falling into a pool below. Lord knows we need all the peace we can get in this country right now.

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It was pretty interesting to see the center of the country and Thade was able to get a bit of exercise before we returned to the room, where I had to leave him before heading out on my hike up Bear Butte.

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Not Just Bears

Regal, Proud. Out of all the pics I made from Bear Country USA trip, this one remains my favorite.
Regal, Proud. Out of all the pics I made from Bear Country USA trip, this one remains my favorite.

Recently I was able to enjoy a tour of the infamous Bear County USA located in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Opened in the 70’s it started out as a small park by a man and his wife to 1 black bear, one cougar, one wolf, three buffalo and one large bull elk and has expanded to what it is today.

After paying admission at the gate and hearing the warning to “keep your windows up at all times”, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The park is one you drive through, at your leisure, or take the tour bus offered. If you’re interested in taking pictures, I suggest either having someone drive for you or taking the tour bus so you’re free to photograph as much as you want.

The animals seemed to be well fed, taken care of, and generally “at home”. However, I cannot help but feel a bit saddened by the fact that there are still fences, etc. that keep them confined….even if the areas look wide open to us. I even had the nagging feeling of a Jurassic Park feel to it as we followed the paved pathway around the park.

Regardless, I was greeted to some of the most beautiful animals I have seen in a long time. There were many bears there, but there were also other animals basking in the warm sun or enjoying shade in the nearby wooded areas.

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I really was impressed with the man-made dens for the animals. There are many of these various structures throughout the park.IMG_0035And I guess we know where the reindeer vacation now.IMG_0012 IMG_0011 IMG_0009

 

 

 

 

This bear reminded me of how I feel about going to work after having a day or two off. He inspired me to make a collage for the week. You can check it out at the end of this blog.

IMG_0028At the end of the tour, you come to a gift shop, but I did not see anything there I could not live without or that could not be found on any number of online sites. However, there also is the baby section of the park which boasts even more animals to capture your heart.

IMG_0069 IMG_0068 IMG_0067 IMG_0065 IMG_0062 IMG_0060 IMG_0059 All in all, I think this is a good place to go see some animals you may not otherwise get a chance to see. Children would especially enjoy it.

So, if you’re in the area and have a couple of hours to kill…go visit the animals. Try to keep your windows up at all times. I failed miserably at that rule.

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