Saturday, October 14, 2017

Already the end of September, where does time go?

The Sturgis motorcycle rally seemed quieter this year.  Al and Don did traffic control in the tunnel at the Needles Eye on the needles scenic drive.  It was not quite so crazy but still busy.  The campground we host at had been full every night with the exception of the two weeks around the rally.  Most people avoid the park due to the heavy motorcycle does get noisy.  The we slacked off again after Labor Day.  The campground crowd this year was awesome!  One of the more interesting days was when some teenage boys found a prairie rattlesnake in the rocks just a short walk from their camper.  Luckily Mom was a cop and very cool.  Al kept track of this critter with a little help from our campers until law enforcement could come and take it away.  It was a healthy one!

Our camper neighbor Don leaves the middle of August every year.  This is our first sign of the season coming to a close.  Just seems to go so fast.  Shortly after Don left....we had a new neighbor move in...a big bull!  We joked with Oliver that we traded one old bull for another....hehehe...The neighbors named this guy Cletus.  He often lays down right next to our camper...often he seems to appear from nowhere and we have to make a quick dash into the camper or truck.  He has not caused any trouble but as you can see he is taller than most cars.....

On one of our outings we came across an Osprey nest.  We were lucky enough to catch the parent feeding 3 babies.  Look at those big eyes!

Of course we love to drive the wildlife loop quite often....ahem...we love to see the animals in the park.  The buffalo are always a source of entertainment for us.  It is fun to watch people in their cars as the buffalo herd completely circles them.  They are so excited!   We did not see much for bull fights this year.... Oh well we have Cletus!

The park held some special events before the eclipse and also the day of.  Our area was in the 96% area.  There were lots of campers traveling further west for the 100% experience, and they stopped here before and after.  We were a bit disappointed as it really did not get very dark here.  Amazing what a difference 4% is!  One of the neat things we saw was in the shadows the leaves cast during the eclipse.  It's not double vision or trick photography, this is how the shadows looked.

See how you can see the 1/2 moon eclipse in the shadow cast by the leaves.

As I said in our last update, it has been a hot year here.  We have been on high fire alert for most of the season.  The smoke from the Montana fires was causing some visibility issues and then Wind Cave had two fires adding to the smoke.  There was one 1 acre fire in the park but it was under control within hours.  For the last two weeks we have had cool weather and rain.  Welcome rain!  So the smoky skies have settled down and we are at moderate alert now. 

We had lots of company from Blue Earth in September.  Got some 4 wheeling done and lots of eating.  My brother and sister in law are here now, hopefully they can stay for the roundup.

This Friday is our Buffalo Roundup, the park is expecting around 22,000 people.  Our training for roundup duties starts on Monday, we will be worn out by next Sunday.  So for now will leave you with some fall photos.

Monday, July 10, 2017

It has been a warmer summer here so far!  Last few weeks have been in the high 80's to mid 90's,  Sure we get those temps every summer but the heat is hanging on a bit too long! In fact some of our swimming beaches in the other campgrounds have been closed due to the water quality for swimming.  They keep a close eye on everything!  Luckily the nights cool down to the 60's.  We do get a rain shower every week if not a bit more, but due to the low humidity in this area, it dries out fast.  So we are in a high fire alert.   The park has been very busy and the motorcycle rally has not even started yet.  All 9 campgrounds have been filling up every night since the middle of June.  Craziness!

We have been spending our days off roaming the park, going out to eat, and checking out some of the area sights with our coworkers and friends here at the park. 
 We road the 1880 train from Hill  City to Keystone.  Fun to hear the old steam engine chugging as it climbs the hills...I think I can....I think I can.....We ran into a couple from Blue Earth standing in line.  Never know!

Every year we visit the Mammoth Site.  There is always something new being uncovered.  At one time this was a spring where the Mammoth would come to drink the water or eat the grasses that grew along the edge.  The mammoth would get into the spring but never get back out.  For that reason the Mammoth Site is one of the best in the world for Mammoth remains.  On the day we were there they were busy wrapping uncovered bones in a plaster cast so they could remove the bones.  Why...tests have revealed that there is a large skeleton underneath.

We ran across this family of Burrowing Owls on our way back from Hot Springs and the Mammoth Site. .  I count 6 chicks!
Of course we had to go back the next day to get a better picture.  We did not see all the chicks that time but Mom and Dad posed pretty nice for us. 

 Note he had the grasshopper in his mouth...then he gave it to her.  She was busy watching the chicks, so he was bringing home supper!
 They almost look mad!  How dare we disturb them....The Burrowing Owl lives in old Prairie Dog holes.  They are a very small owl.
 Crazy Horse monument is another area attraction that we have to check out every year.  Progress is slow but we can see quite a change in the area where his arm will be outstretched.
On display are the beads the Dutch traded the Indians for Manhatten Island.  To me the American Indian artifact display is as impressive as the carving of Crazy Horse.  The weekend we went there were local artists selling there handy work.

Of course there is plenty to do right at our campsite.    The other day we had 3 big horn ewes romping around on the hill behind the camper.  We got an over the shoulder look......

Over on the cabin beside us is a nesting Cordilleran flycatcher.  We have been watching her nest to see the fledglings.  Nothing so far....

A large buffalo herd has been hanging out in one area of the park.  So of course we have to keep checking them out.  We have seen a couple of the large bulls easily walk over the cattle guards.  But today we saw Mama and her baby jump over the cattle guard.  Al says that is a 8-10 foot cattle guard they cleared, with very little effort. 
Mom shows baby how to do it...then wee!

Last Friday we toured the Journey Museum in Rapid City plus a few other stops of course....Tonight we are going out to eat at a place called Fort Hays which is near the reptile gardens.  A group of about 12 or so campground hosts and attendants are going together.  Should be a great time.  As volunteers we get great discounts to all the area attractions.  In years past we had been to almost all the places before and never really used our discount card too much.  This year we plan to revisit as many areas as we have time and maybe a few we have never stopped at.  So 'til next time....take care!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ahhhh...back at Custer!

Feels good to be back again.  Love this area!  Our trip to South Dakota was a little bit eventful.  We stopped for gas at Mitchel, SD...paid the bill...turned the ignition key...hmmm turned it again.....hmmm cussed a bit.....tried again.  Nope nothing not even lights or fans would come on....crap....also its 96 degrees....crap.  So we made some calls and a mobile mechanic is on the way.  Its hot, we are blocking the lanes stuck at the diesel pump....lets try the key one more started...but we need a mechanic yet, there he is..   well a few hundred dollars later we pull into a campground for the night.  It is now dark out and still hot!  Next morning we take off again.   At Rapid City, just 30 minutes from our summer campsite, we decide to fill up with diesel.  Filled up, paid the bill, turned the key...hmmmm we have lights and fans but it will not start!  Made a few calls again....blocked the diesel pumps and lane...remember we are 60' long cuz we have a 2nd trailer behind with our 4 wheeler on it....about 4 hours later the tow trucks arrive.  The truck with me in it is towed to a Ford dealership and the camper is towed to a campground.....made a few more hold of our friends and coworkers Oliver and Don and we made plans for the rescue mission.  Long story short...Oliver and Don towed us with Oliver's truck the next morning to Custer State Park...our truck was in the shop for a week......the Ford dealer was an easy fix and pretty inexpensive...We are here!  Other than our stress our cat Millie had the worst time.  We had her shut in the bathroom, thinking I had jammed the sliding door shut
and propped...but the tow truck hauling the camper was a bit of a rock and roll, poor Millie has no idea what is happening to her home, she gets out the door and stays under our couch until 9:30 that night, coming out only for cat treats and immediately crawling back under the couch.  Poor Millie!  She was fine the next day and yep I think she remembers the park.  Ahh all is good again!

This is the start of our 5th year full timing!  No regrets, well we do miss our friends back home, but still very happy with our chosen lifestyle.  One thing that stands out is the awesome people we meet on a daily basis no matter where we are...the best part...the awesome new friends we meet and keep.  We are back at our normal campsite.  Immediately we put out our bird feeders and we also got immediate results.  Ah the birds, the deer, the buffalo, the scenery...ahh....yep we love it!

 We have gotten some hiking in too...some hikes a bit more strenuous than others....Waterfalls along Sunday Gulch hike....

We work 3 days a week and have 4 days off.  On our off days we have been going out to eat with friends , explore the area, and eat some more. 

My favorite thing to do, other than harassing the to drive the wildlife loop and watch the animals.  Al is busy taking pictures...and more pictures....and more pictures!  The buffalo rut has started and the bulls are fighting.  Impressive thing to see a 2000 pound animal in an all out fight!  This bull was wallowing...a way to loosen old fur but also it is a sign of aggression.  He was aggressive and snorting!


A group of us were driving around the other night on some of the old back roads going to Rockerville when we came across this sign.....We had seen this on TV a couple of years ago.  So if you are following your GPS and it takes you to a Methodist Church it is not the Mount Rushmore National Monument. 
The weather coming out here was in the 90's, so nice to have the 70's and low 80's here, with cool nights.  Come on'd love it too!  But don't trust your GPS!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Back North

Well we left Arizona the middle of April and started our journey home.  Luckily we were able to avoid any weather issues.  Most of the states we traveled through had snow storms the two weeks after we left.  So whew!  We did not do much exploring but we did get to visit with family.  Our one and only Great Niece and a Great Nephew balancing a balloon on a stick ....and below is our newest Great Nephew!

One thing about leaving around the middle of April....there are more campgrounds open!  We like to stay at state parks when we can, but at this time of might be the only camper in the park.   Photo of the view at a state park in Colorado

We have spent the last month getting all our doctoring done.  Other than being older and a bit chubbier than we would like, all is good!  Woo Hoo!

Having been in the desert for the last 3 winters, it always takes awhile to take in all of the GREEN.   One of the things I miss is all of the flowers I used to have around the house, well this year we got into some flower planting and even helped a little with planting a vegetable garden.  
 Man this has been a windy year!  We had winds in Arizona where we volunteered and now we have been getting winds like crazy up here in MN.  Just will not settle down.  We even got in on a Tornado Warning while in MN.  We were at a doctor visit and went to Walgreens to pick up a prescription when the warnings went off.  So they herded all of us into a back room.  Fun times!

Picture of one of our friends barns
Time to start our trek to the Black Hills of South Dakota and start our volunteer job there.  We will be campground hosts in Custer State Park again.  Since we got our medical visits done earlier, we will start a bit earlier at the park.  So soon you will be seeing those buffalo and animal pictures again.

Well we are off to the hills.....

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Desert Wildflowers and Migratory Birds

The time is flying by.  We are down to our last 2 weeks working as volunteers here in Arizona.  March was a very very busy month.  Wore this old lady out!  We had some days in the 90's which brought out the locals by the hundreds well maybe a bit less but .....the last couple of weeks it has been in the 70's and 80's during the day but pretty darn windy.  March winds right...Currently we are down to just 3 volunteers in the park, two of us in the office and just Al doing maintenance.  Our new friends Mark and Paulette left this weekend.  We miss them.  Mark and Al usually worked maintenance together and aside from looking like twins, they had a great time working together and got lots done!  They would confuse the campers thinking they had just talked to one of them only to find out it was the other.   


This the small cactus rock garden by our trailer.  We had fun making
rock cairns in it.  The cactus do not really like the soil by the lake so they do not grow too fast.  Al started watering them when we arrived so they are doing a lot better and a few might even have a blossom this summer...but not while we are here to see them.

A picture of Al and Mark working.  Notice how they would even dress they did not plan just happened.  Al called them my other "my other brother Darryl"  Mark would say they are the Roper Lake Mint Twins....remember the Doublemint gum add.....

There is a huge salt cedar tree/bush beside the trailer and behind us.  Right now they are blooming, a pretty purple flower that attracts lots of birds coming to eat the insects in the blossoms. 
 waiting line

All day long you hear the Yellow Headed Blackbirds, there are hundreds here.

The Hooded Orioles arrived about a week ago.  There are several at our campsite in the trees just chasing each other around.  The hummingbirds are moving back north now too.  We had at least 3 all winter but now we have lots more and more than one species.  So with the Orioles and Hummers flying around chasing each other, it keeps you busy trying to watch them.  Then the Gambel's Quail come marching through with their odd little dignified strut....

This is a Rufus Hummingbird....brown tones, we also have the Anna's and Broadtail Hummingbirds, should have lots more coming in the next week...we will find out!

Al and Mark saw this pair of white faced ibis while working the other day.  They stopped for a break before heading North they most likely wintered in Mexico..

Along with the heat it has been windy and gusty here .... and lots of cloudy days in between the sunshine.  The clouds were reflecting the sunset over the lake, so I had to stop making supper and snap a few shots.  Love the sunset colors in Arizona. 
Different night but awesome moon

 We had noticed a large hole dug into the rock along our trailer and were wondering just what it was.  The one day we saw these two little faces looking at us.  The bunnies had been hopping all around, but we have not seen them lately....people have been seeing snakes and some scorpions in the park since the warm weather arrived.  We have not seen any snakes...thank goodness....but have seen some scorpions.  But Al did find a large crab spider on the patio in back.  Yuck!!!!
So cute...the bunnies...not the spider

  I still find it hard to believe that the desert can be so beautiful and how animals and birds survive here.  Last week we went on some drives, out in the desert to find wildflowers, and we found them..

When we leave here we plan to spend a few days in the Benson area before heading North.  We want to go to the Saguaro National Monument, there should be some good cactus blooms happening there!  The above was one of the few in bloom here now.   If we have time, I still want to see the Hummingbird banding event either at Sierra Vista or Patagonia State Park too.  Time will tell...last year they were not catching very many at the time we were here.

So till next time.....we are on the countdown for our travel North!