Posts Tagged ‘prairie dog’

The Wild Life Part 2: The Badlands

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

The Black Hills once again showed off by wowing us with dazzling landscapes and very opportune wildlife appearances. When we arrive at the first overlook of Badlands National Park early in the morning my mom and I were both stunned by the surreal beauty of this unusual park.

As I scrambled down into a good position for my landscape shots, I nonchalantly declared that “The only thing that would make this view better would be if a bighorn sheep was right front in center.” As I checked in my view finder to line up my show I was astonished to see that I had been lucky enough to find right in front of me a bighorn sheep slowly making his way up the side of the mountain right toward me.

As I stammered out excited exclamations to draw my mom’s attention and gesticulated wildly in the bighorn sheep’s direction, he only continued to calmly move even closer.

I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. I already felt insanely spoiled by my mountain goat sighting and here was another beautiful animal standing right before me.

The wild beauty held in the square caramel pupil of the bighorn sheep once again shocked me into total astonishment. How can a quiet majesty like this exist in a world full of so much noise?

The National Parks are so incredibly important to this country and sadly so many people will never get to experience the wonder preserved within the boundaries of these parks. These special places are not a manufactured space for the amusement of tourists, but rather they represent the remnants of a world left undisturbed by modernization and the greedy outstretched hand of man.

The Badlands in many ways epitomize the strange glory of the national park system. You drive into what appears to be nothing more than endless grasslands when suddenly you find yourself standing on the precipice of a natural wonder shaped by a millennia of natural forces. These spires and rocky edifices were carved by the hand of Mother Nature meticulously to cradle the unique characteristics of the world.

Even the wild animals embody a special feeling of otherworldliness. I was lucky enough to witness an entire family of bighorn sheep including several small babies. The fresh eyes of new born life shone brightly in their dark gaze. Locking eyes with these graceful creatures brings an exhilarating rush of understanding that stems from some unknown place inside of me. I don’t know exactly what it is that feels so understood in those moments, but I know that I will carry it with me always.

The Badlands really display the beauty of barrenness. Last time I explored the Badlands everything appeared to be dust, but this time around I was lucky enough to see the ground coated in green and a sparse, yet beautiful collection of wildflowers sprinkled throughout the park. The deep desert hues of the mountains contrasted so brilliantly with the green grass of the plains. 

The life here can seem so fleeting and in many ways that is what makes it so extraordinary. The continual struggle for survival, for a single foothold in life in a place as extreme as the Badlands, really illuminates the resilience of nature and the determination to continue on despite seasons of barrenness.

The best way to experience this for yourself is definitely to lace up your hiking boots and head deep into the rocky crags and spires of the park. Behind the looming towers of layered rock exists a microcosm of clay riverbeds, veins of blue grey pumice, and secret caverns of water carved rock.

My favorite hike in the park has to be the Notch Trail near the eastern visitor center. When you leave behind the boardwalks leading across the rocks and weave your way through the rocky towers, there lies a log ladder snaking up the mountainside.

This deceptively tall ladder while visually stunning creates quite the bottleneck of hiker traffic so definitely arrive early to dodge the crowds and enjoy the peaceful canyon trail! 

After climbing to the top of the notch and hiking a great deal around the park we took a fun break from the serious beauty of the Badlands by visiting a prairie dog town just outside of the park.

As I said before, I’m a sucker for these little guys. Especially when they come in groups of two!

We were sad to leave, but let’s be real, when would I ever be happy to leave a National Park.

On to Madison and then the western side of lower Michigan!

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The Wild Life

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

The last two days have been long but filled with inexplicable beauty. We left the Grand Tetons as the sun rose, casting the impressive mountain range in golden light. It was hard to leave this extraordinary national park but we were drawn forward in our journey with the promise of even more great national parks to come. Our next adventure destination: the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Our first stop in the Black Hills was the Wind Caves National Park where sprawling grasslands spotted with wildlife hides miles of intricate crystalline caves just below the surface. Sadly we didn’t have time to go into the caves but that just means one more reason we have to come back!

As we left the Wind Caves we wove our way through rolling prairies on our way to our next stop, Custer State Park. Generally state parks are overshadowed by the grandeur of national parks, but one thing road tripping across the country has taught me is to never underestimate a state park. Custer State Park is a prime example of this. This preserve for wildlife and gorgeous grasslands never fails to awe me.

Our first wildlife encounter began with a prairie dog town that stretched far across the grassy landscape. These frisky little ground mammals are often heard before they are seen since their barking warning sounds echo from burrow to burrow whenever you draw near.

I personally love these little guys. They have so much character and always make me laugh. I had a great time photographing them as they ran from hole to hole, whisking their tails, and arching their backs as they called out to their neighbors.

There is literally wildlife all over this state park. Everywhere you turn there is some beautiful animal waiting to be discovered. As a wildlife photographer, spotting and photographing wild animals brings me so much life and excitement. I felt so in my element with my camera in hand and eyes keenly surveying every inch of the park. I can’t express how much I enjoy this place.

Custer is known for what their “Begging Burrows” or a group of donkeys that have learned to beg for food from tourists driving through the park. While I disapprove of feeding wildlife it does make for some fun experiences when a donkey walks straight up to your window and sticks its head right in looking for food.

This donkey even head butted my camera as he tried to stick his head into the car. I loved watching them meander down the roads and then venture out into the mustard grass hills of the park.

After our time with the begging burrows we were on the hunt for bison and found ourselves sadly lacking in opportunities to spy these giant iconic animals. We did discover quite a few beautiful roads while we pursued the illusive bison.

We actually only found bison once we left Custer State Park but boy was I excited to finally find them!

I did almost get charged by an angry male bison, but aside from that, I loved watching these lumbering creatures graze slowly across the grasslands.

After the bison, our Black Hills exploration led us to SD- 87, which is popularly known as Needles Highway.

This extraordinary stretch of highway weaves up the Black Hills through narrow rock tunnels and towering needle-like spires of rock.

We loved the drive but found ourselves suddenly stopped before one of the major tunnels in a traffic jam. When I left the car to investigate the reason for the sudden halt in traffic I discovered a mountain goat casually blocking traffic in the tunnel as he continually licked the wall.

When a barking dog in one of the cars finally startled the mountain goat out of the tunnel and back to his natural mountainous habitat, I was lucky enough to have front row seats from which to photograph him.

He was really quite the model and gave me every angle of his handsome face. I may have taken approximately 1,000 pictures of him as he climbed around the rocks and showed off his good looks.

I could not believe how lucky we were. Being blessed enough to experience moments like this makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. It still shocks me how much I have experienced becase of amazing trips such as this one.

I feel so humbled staring into the face of wild beauty. Driving across the country provides me with the opportunity to glimpse behind the curtain of natural wonders. I live for moments like this and wouldn’t exchange my memories of moments such as this for anything.

The shock of experiencing this natural beauty still had not worn off by the time we reached our final destination in the Black Hills for the day: Mount Rushmore.

This man made marvel offered a provocative juxtaposition to the wild beauty we had just encountered.

It wouldn’t be fair to choose one experience over the other, but it shows just how quickly vastly different experiences occur when adventuring on the road. This country has (almost) too much to discover. It feels both overwhelming in its sheer quantity and also exhilarating knowing there will never be an end to the adventure this life has to offer.

 

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Travel Update: Silver Gate

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

I couldn’t post last night because we were staying in Silver Gate Montana just one mile outside of the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

We started our day with the Enchanted Highway whihc is almost to the border of North Dakota and Montana. It is a thirty two mile long road that is peppered with statues ranging from ones like this to huge pheasant statues and fisherman. It i really interesting but we only saw the very begining and had to move onward to Roosevelt National Park.

Truthfully there isn’t a whole lot of stuff in Roosevelt National Park but I can guarantee one thing if you go there: great prairie dog shots. There are tons of prairie dog towns along the side of the road and they are quite funny to watch. The funniest thing they would do is squeak and stand up on their hind legs while whipping their arms in the air. It was quite the sight.

By the way none of these are cropped so you can tell just how close I got to these guys. I love their feet and hands, they are surprisingly creepy for such an adorable creature. This has got to be one of my favorite photo of a prairie dog; I caught this one in mid-yawn and it makes him look positively evil.

After that we headed into Montana, the Big Sky state.

We headed down Beartooth Pass which took us to our place of lodging, Silver Gate. Coming over the pass was a little scary because there was a storm and the mountain was cloaked in fog and mist. At some points you couldn’t see anything. It did clear up finally in the end leaving a beautiful day.

After the pass in Silver Gate we checked into our cabins which were these really quaint cabins right outside of the park. Before we even have time to settle I hear my mom yell to me as I am in the bathroom, There’s a coyote right outside!

So naturally I flip out and rip out of the house looking frantically for my camera before he runs off. The neighbors thought I was a mad woman they way I ran out of the cabin. As I snagged my camera and run up the hill behind our cabin I saw him. It wasn’t a coyote, but a red tailed fox with a kill. So I prayed for him not to move so I could get just one shot and I did. I got one shot of him before he took off behind a cabin.

He was one of the most beautiful animals I have seen in a while with his angled face, long neck and color markings. Of course naturally I ran up the hill and into a small ravine looking for him but he had vanished. We hadn’t even been there for five minutes and already I had a wild life shot.

We decided to head into the park with the few hours of day that remained to see if we could spot anything at dusk. We found a big kill out far in a creek bed that had five grizzlies on it. The crowd surrounding the area was enormous even though you could barely discern the grizzlies from the surroundings. It was really interesting to see. I had never seen a grizzly before.

We moved on through the park and found some buffalo that we running around and across the road. We were still a little wary about buffaloes from our trip to Custard where we got charged. So I stayed in the car, standing up through the sunroof to get photos.

We then watched the sun set on Lamar Valley and the rivers. It was so beautiful.

Lamar Valley coated in the fading light of sunset was really a treat. To watch the light change the entire way the valley looked, literally night to day. It was so different and so gorgeous.

The next day was a full morning of Yellowstsone. Stay tuned for me catching up on our trip. There is even better wildlife to come
😀

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Prairie Dog Love

Monday, September 21st, 2009

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While Downtown the other day with a friend I saw a postcard of two prarie dogs kissing. I then picked it up, showed it to my friend and said:

I have seen them do that.

She didn’t believe me, here is my proof of prairie dogs kissing. The second picture just cracks me up because I caught it sticking his tongue out. Very funny.

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