South Dakota Adventuring, Part Two

After two wonderful days in the Badlands, we awoke to a beautiful morning… and bison in the campground. I fully confess that I am pretty unreasonably freaked out by large wild animals. Logically I know a bison in the campground isn’t going to bother me or my family unless provoked, but I still worry. They are SO BIG! As we broke camp and packed the car for the next leg of our journey, I habitually checked the big fellow on the outside of camp to keep track of where he was and what his mannerisms were. He seemed totally fine, just munching grass, and ignoring the half dozen or so campers who quietly came in closer for photos.

About 20minutes before our departure, I did my routine check of our behemoth friend and I stopped in my tracks, stunned. No more than 15feet from the bison was a man with a giant handful of grass clearly inching closer and closer to the big guy, attempting to feed him by hand. Roughly 10feet beyond him was a lady poised with her camera. I could not believe my eyes — the bison was clearly getting agitated. I checked to see that my children were sitting quietly, but I was otherwise frozen in shock. Was this really happening?! Thankfully it was at this moment that a Forest Service employee who was there with a college geology expedition deftly made his way to the man and quickly explained that what he was doing was dangerous and, well, stupid. We departed shortly after, but not before thanking the man who diffused the situation grateful to not have to explain to our children why that man was just gored by a bison. I may be unreasonable in how unsettled I am by wild animals, but at least I give them the respect and space they deserve.  Yeesh.

With that bit of excitement behind us, we set out for our next destination: Custer State Park by way of Rapid City. We were in a bit of a rush as we knew there was a chance of weather that evening (the night before our next campsite saw golfball sized hail), but my husband insisted we stop off in Rapid City. The plan was that he, the kids & the pup would hit Dinosaur ParkI will not lie, this park is totally weird. Cartoony, vaguely accurate depictions of dinosaurs situated on top of a hill overlooking Rapid City. It was a Depression Era project created  by the city and the Works Progress Administration. Interesting history and scientific unreliability aside…

dinosaur park… the kids love it. And really that’s what counts.

And this little detour afforded me the chance to go here:

20130624-095540.jpgC R Yarn, the local yarn & fiber shop in downtown Rapid City. You never really know what you’ll find in a new yarn shop especially one so far from home, but I was really pleasantly surprised with this one. This shop had a nice, basic variety of good quality commercial yarns. Overall though, it actually appeared to stock more spinning fiber than yarn — a true rarity in my experience. My favourite portion of the shop by far was the Crafted in Rapid area — a consignment area for independent vendors. From bison fiber blends, to hand-dyed fibers & yarns, to handspun yarns, to handmade soaps & jewelry, there was a lot to choose from! I will admit it was hard to restrain myself — there was an indigo-dyed Portugese merino from Fuzzbee Yarns that was calling my name as well as about 10 other braids. In the end, I selected two to adopt.

20130625-110847.jpgThis is a merino/silk blend from Castle Fibers. I thought this woodsy colorway would make a fab yarn for fall.

20130625-110856.jpgThis colorway is called Blacklight. It’s a merino/tussah silk blend from Yarnsanity. Yes, the colors are amazing and no, I can’t wait to spin it up!

What a great stop this was. If you happen to find yourself in the Rapid City area, definitely take the time to pop into C R Yarn. It is easy to find as it is located in the very quaint & picturesque downtown. Especially if you spin, you won’t be disappointed!

Having acquired souvenir fiber and being slightly terrified that I wouldn’t be able to resist turning back and buying more, we headed out of the city and on to Custer State Park. This park is unique in that the southern portion is foothills and grasslands while the northern portion is pretty mountainous. We planned to spend the first 2 nights in the southern portion at the State Game Lodge campground. This campsite was largely chosen as a treat for our kids as it was situated on a creek and the campground has a playground. Turns out that both the creek and playground were a hit, but that wasn’t all. The spot was ripe with bird life & we got to watch not one, not two, but three Red-Naped Sapsuckers vehemently chase & chatter at each other for the duration of our visit. Mountain Bluebirds fluttered around snatching caterpillars from trees. Western Tanagers and Black-Headed Grosbeaks serenaded us from time to time. A pair of Cedar Waxwings were also ever present, feasting on bugs from the space over the creek — it was pretty magical for this family of bird watchers!

20130624-095234.jpgWe spent a lot of time like this — me with my husband birdwatching as I knit, cruising to the end of my Capitol Square Market Bag, the kids with net in hand seeking minnows & crayfish in the river. They got pretty good at finding & catching…

crayfishAnd those dollar store nature viewing kits were worth every penny…

minnowsCatching the minnows was my son’s favourite part of this vacation, bar none. It was awesome to watch him gain confidence in his skills and how much he loved just studying these creatures up close.

Aside from the campground, Custer State Park has a pretty fantastic wildlife loop. We were clearly a bit early for the baby antelope — we saw a ton last July, but only young bucks this year. We did see a lot of baby deer and bison. We even got to watch a bison actually in the throws of delivering her calf. We watched for probably 45minutes or an hour as she labored and were touched by how members of the herd checked on her in a steady stream. We stayed until the herd helped her to some privacy behind a fold in the landscape. We didn’t get to view the final result, but what we did see was pretty incredible (I am omitting photos of this because they are a little gory). A photo of the herd though is in order though, for sure, so here you go.

bison busterI love bison at this distance.

On our second and last day staying at the State Game Lodge campground,  we went for a short hike into the French Creek Natural Area.20130624-095225.jpg

My husband loves to get off the beaten path. I, of course, cannot stop thinking about being pounced on my a mountain lion, running into an irritated bison at close range, or having one of the kids wander onto an unsuspecting rattlesnake. Seriously, in the wild I feel like I had a giant target painted on my back just for angry wildlife. Around every corner lurks a bloodthirsty, crazed animal waiting to attack. At least that what’s going on in my head —  it’s so wrong & awful!  In any case, I wrestled aside my irrational fears and enjoyed this little hike immensely.

20130624-095450.jpgI hope to make it a little farther next year. I will be storing up courage for the next 12months.

On our final night thunder and lightning roared and flashed through the campground — there was some rain, but the worst of the storms seemed to skirt us and we saw nothing too major. We awoke early to the sound of 2 or 3 owls chatting, enjoyed a quick cup of coffee, broke camp, & headed on to the third and final leg of our adventure.

Many thanks to my husband for taking so many of these beautiful photos & for letting me use them here!

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