Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wildflowers of the Black Hills

One of our regular visitors to the birdbath 

Being stationary for so long with so many ongoing projects there is a fine balance between working too much and getting out and exploring the hills. With only two weeks left before we head to Ontario and all of our visitors gone we found ourselves in “all work and no play” mode.
Beautiful Rainbow after a rainstorm
What have we been doing? The two biggest were getting the underground plumbing done and building an outdoor fire pit area. Along with that we have been working on fencing over at Kevin’s and working on prairie dogs over at our neighbors.  
Having never done plumbing before I was a little perplexed on exactly where to start. Luckily, our neighbor to the west is a licensed plumber and was nice enough to come over and help me lay it out as well as inspect it before I covered it up. Richard and I had gotten a third to a half of it done while he was here so I just whittled away at the remaining over the last week and soon I was done!

While I was working on that Barb has been working on a project of her own. Farmer Bob was nice enough to bring us a tractor rim for a fire pit so Barb has been busy creating a patio so we can sit around it. 
I will take another picture when it is all done. 
It is very time consuming as she has to wander around and find the perfect flat rocks and then bring them back and piece them together like a big jigsaw puzzle. She is about ½ way done and it is really looking great!
With all this work to do we have to remind ourselves to stop, look around and “smell the roses”. That thought inspired me to walk through the property and take pictures of all the different wild flowers and other flowering plants that we run across on our daily excursions.

I have no idea what most of them are. Farmer Bob told me a few but I am afraid my retention is not very good so if you recognize any of them, let us know what they are. I have numbers each of them to make it easier. 
#1. I am told these are Echinacea 

#2. No idea what this yellow flower is
#3. Wild Sunflower

#4. No idea

#5. Some kind of thistle 
#6. Looks like a dandelion but the size of a baseball

#7. Wild Rose with some other flower next to it
#8. No idea what this purple flower is...

#9. Yucca blooms

#10. Prickly Pear bloom
#11. Once again, no idea, it is about the size of a dime
All of these flower pictures were taken on our property so as you can see there is quite the variety. We found two other things over the past week as well. About 1/3 of the prairie dog holes in the area have black widows guarding them which makes it a little precarious when treating them. The other even more disturbing creature found this week was a rattle snake. Barb is now looking into what we need to do to get the dogs a preventative shot in case they ever run across one. 

Speaking of the dogs, I have gotten a couple of comments that they are not in the blog enough so here they are. They have two new favorite places to hid from the heat. Under the rig and in their pool....

We did have a couple of get-togethers; one at the Bumpin Buffalo with Harry and Vicky as well as Jim and Brenda and another when Quartzsite friends Les and Sue stopped by for a visit. They are working at Crazy Horse for the summer so we hope to get together with them again sometime soon!
The gang at Bumpin Buffalo

Jim and Brenda along with Sue and Les
Oh! We also had a visitor the other day! This guy came right up to us while the Jordan's were over. As a matter of fact, he walked within a foot of Jim Jordan!
Our new friend
We leave for Ontario in less than two weeks, I am guessing the work is not going to slow down as there is a lot we want to get done before we head north for a month!

Friday, June 22, 2018


Big Foot, Yeti, Wendigo, Skunk Ape, Yowie, Almas..... These are just a few of the names sasquatch are known as across the world. Some say they are mythical creatures that wander the large expanses of forest in Pacific Northwest. The Yowie is said to be an ape like hominid that wanders the outback of Australia and the Skunk Ape is said to be a scary, huge creature with a horrible stench that resides in the swamplands of Florida. Thousands have searched high and low trying to secure factual evidence that they do indeed exist. What is a little known fact is that there have been reported sightings right here in the Black Hills and we have the long awaited photographic evidence! I am not sure exactly which species we captured this image of but based on the lingering stench we think it must be a Skunk Ape that migrated north from Florida for the summer,

We put up several trail cameras throughout the property to see what kind of creatures are roaming the area. So far we have gotten pictures of deer, turkey, squirrels, birds, a badger, coyote, antelope and even a bob cat but never in a million years would I have guessed that we would capture this rare image. Luckily we had set our cameras to take night shots as these elusive creatures are known to be mainly nocturnal and very hard to photograph. As a matter of fact, as far as I know it is the first sighting in South Dakota!  Well, where is the picture you ask? You will have to wait until the end of this post to find out.....
In the meantime we had more visitors this week! With the departure of Bob and Deanne we had just hours to prepare for our next guests. Dino and Lisa had made the trek from Fergus Falls Minnesota to spend a few days with us. We also received a message that fellow fulltime RV’er and friend Richard was going to be in the area for a few days so he too joined us filling the J Bar B to capacity.

Or rig to the left, Dino and Lisa in the center with Richard's rig in the back
We had 4 days of visiting intermixed with work and adventures such as the hike mentioned in our last post. Since Dino and Lisa do not have solar, we were the ever accommodating hosts and moved our rig so they could plug in. We moved our rig onto our house pad and were happy to find that it will indeed fit into the area we had marked out for the garage. Richard found a somewhat level spot along the west fence line.
We got out to dinner at the Hitchrail in Pringle with the entire group as well as the Jordans.
The gang out for dinner!
And checked another brewery off our Black Hills Brewery Tour. We now have 4 down and 6 to go. The Highway 79 Brewery is located about 5 miles outside of Hot Springs and boasts that they have 31 taps (18 were active). They also have a pretty extensive food menu so you could plan a meal with your visit. With the bank thermometer in town reading 104, we were more interested in the beer! 
Barb, Lisa and I each got a flight while Dino opted for a pint of the Lemon Squeezie. Since it was so hot we pretty much tried their lighter, more refreshing varieties. My favorite was the Blood Orange Cider and the Highway 79 Beachball. 
Working on another goal, Barb talked Dino and Lisa into a bike ride along the Mickelson trail. Barb’s long term goal is to bike the entire 109 miles of the trail from Deadwood to Edgemont. Certainly not all in one day and preferably in a manner that is all downhill. So I dropped them off at the White Elephant Trailhead a few miles north of Pringle and they biked the 12 or so miles home. They returned an hour and a half later, Barb and Dino were whooped while Lisa looked like she was ready to go another 12 miles. 
Ready to bike the Michelson!

Barb and Lisa headed down the trail
Meanwhile Richard and I spent several hours working on the plumbing on our build site. It was nice to have some help getting a good chunk of it done. We would have gotten more done but the 3+”’s of rain we received the past few days really put a damper on the progress.
Richard and I doing some plumbing!
I know many of you are wondering if I got my spotting scope last weekend for Father's Day. I ran to the mailbox each day and anxiously watched for the UPS truck all week to see if it would be delivered and finally a package came but it was way too small to be a spotting scope. I could not imagine what she bought me! Barb promptly took the camera from my hands and said "oh cool, my new camera is here". It was then I came to realize that it must be "opposite year" as Barb ordered me a new camera for Mother's Day and she ordered herself  one for Father's Day. She got herself a SonyHX80. It is small and compact which is the key criteria she was looking for. So the wait continues for the spotting scope. Perhaps a Go Fund Me page is in order?????

 Kevin drove back out with 4 friends to try and get his concrete pad in. The plan was to do the final grade, get the foam laid and put in the in-floor heat then pour ½ of the pad the first day and then pour the second ½ the next day. Everything was going great, we were on schedule for a 2:00 pour Tuesday afternoon when it started raining and we were done for the day. The rain continued for two days while they were here but we managed to dodge the storms and get everything in and were just waiting for the rain to stop long enough to get the pour in.
Foam down, in-floor heat down, ready for concrete!

They had to stay an extra day but it finally stopped raining Thursday morning and the four trucks started rolling in about 10:00. 2 1/2 fast and furious hours later the concrete was down and the final  touches were being up on.

Truck #3 pour while truck #4 is waiting in the background
All done!
Thursday night we went out with Phil and Rudee who had a couple extra passes for a play at the Black Hills Playhouse located in Custer State Park, The play was called "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and was hilarious! We ran into Vicki and Harry there as well who were taking advantage of the free passes as a perk from their job as well.

The stage before the show
Last but certainly not least, Dino must have taken offense to my last post detailing our Sunday Gulch hike and posted his own alternative version of the facts on his view of the hike and his visit here. I think the heat must have gotten to him as he certainly seems delusional…. You be the judge…..
Well, here it is. We check our trail cameras once a week to see what is on them and imagine our surprise when we found the first verified picture of a mating pair of Skunk Apes in South Dakota, I am just glad we did not catch them in the act!
The female even has Mickey Mouse on her shirt, evidence they are from Florida

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Hike..... a.k.a Dino's Death March

The sun hit the calm water acting like a mirror as it reflected the image of the granite pillars emerging from the depths of the lake. The laughter of children echoed as they played at the water’s edge.  This was the scene at the trailhead of our first hike in the Black Hills this season. We were with good friends Dino and Lisa who made the 9 hour trek from northwest Minnesota to visit our little oasis. 
Our plan was to hike the 2.8 mile Sunday Gulch Trail touted as one of the best hikes in the hills. Rated as “Strenuous” due to the vast elevation change it was the perfect trail for our inaugural hike. Does it get any better? Depends on who you ask……
If Dino were to write the opening to this post it would go something like this…..
Day 2 of our so called “vacation”. All I have done so far is work! “Hey Dino, want to drive the skidsteer and level some prairie dog mounds?” Two hours of bouncing around later my arthritic hands and calcified arches are killing me! And what does Jim give me when I return? A warm beer! Now they want me to go on this 2.8 mile death march with screaming kids everywhere! Imagine what kind of bacteria there is in that water with all those screamers running around.

But off we go dodging crying kids, bickering spouses and dogs that won’t shut up. Did I mention my calcified arches are killing me? I am not complaining, I am just saying… Down and down we go getting our feet soaked in these muddy patches of water. Don’t these people know what goes down must come up? How far down does this damn trail go? Jim is in the lead and keeps passing logs and stumps that are perfect for resting areas my feet. Did I mention they hurt? I have a medical condition, I am not complaining just thought you should know. 
We finally get to the bottom of the death march, now it is all up hill, but wait it looks like Jim and the girls are taking a break on the log ahead! Finally! As I catch up they stand up and start hiking again! What about my arches? They need to rest! Ugh, onward we go, one foot in front of the other… It will be fun they said, best hike in the hills they said…. What’s that up ahead? Stairs and handrails? You have got to be freaking kidding me, how are my arthritic hands supposed to grip those?!?!
Well, that is how I envision Dino’s opening to this posts. I better stop with his interpretation before I lose too many readers. It seems like more of the hikers we saw were doing the trail counterclockwise but several of the reviews we read said to do it clockwise and we did not regret it. The trail was not too crowded and with most of the people going the other way, we only ran into ½ dozen people going our direction. The occasional tour helicopter would fly over as it took tourists on the area sights.

The trail started out at Sylvan Lake whose large rock formations will just leave you in awe. We climbed and wound through several of these formations then started a 1.5 mile downward trek which provided great views of the surrounding countryside.
Beautiful Scenery!
Everyone was all smiles at the trailhead!

Once at the bottom there is a hairpin turn which leads you back up the gulch. There are several stream crossings requiring you to cross on rocks or logs but if you are careful you can do it without getting your feet wet.

Here comes the stairs!

One of several log crossings
We were all having a good time, Dino was quieter than usual and mentioned something about calcification but I was looking at the scenery and did not really catch what he was saying. The downside of going clockwise is that the last mile is at a pretty good uphill grade. But up we went like 4 little ants in a row. 
More stairs!

And more.....

Up and up we go!
Everyone once in a while we would stop and wait for Dino to catch up as I was sure he did not want to hike alone. When he would catch up, off we would go again…. At one point I thought I heard Dino say something about a Death March but I am not sure. At another point, he must have seen someone he knew in one of the passing helicopters as he took off his shirt and was waving it yelling “I am over here!” Dino can be so silly sometimes.
Break time!

Another stream crossing
Back to the lake
Soon we came to a series of rock and concrete stairs with handrails. How cool is that? The stream ran down beside many of the stairs and we were able to see some trout in the deeper pools. Up and up we went breathing in the fresh air and working our calves and looking at all the cool formations. Dino mentioned something about arches but I did not see any. Maybe he was talking about an arch he saw last year in Moab.
Last uphill stretch!
Overall, it took us a little less than three hours and was a great hike. I would highly recommend for anyone in the area. What’s up for tomorrow? I see Dino and Lisa brought their bikes, maybe we will go for a bike ride!