Monday, September 21, 2015

Back Custer

We have been here in Custer for a little over three weeks, and have enjoyed every minute.  The weather has been good, with only a couple of light showers overnight.  Custer’s Gulch RV Park and Campground will be our home until the end of September.  We have stayed here for the past four years, so it seems like home!  The dogs are happy when we put on their packs and head out on familiar trails.

Custer has an easy familiarity.  On almost every corner are bison, painted in a number of styles by local artists.  We took a walk downtown several days ago.  Kota and Colt stayed at home to nap, but Rue was up for an adventure...until she saw the bison.  

To Rue, they looked a lot like very big cows!  Even when I tried to show her that they were just statues, she still wasn't convinced.  Sheep are one thing, this was something entirely different!

Making us feel even more at home are good friends from last year who are also in Custer.  We arrived just in time to spend a couple of days visiting with Pat and Mike McFall and Mark and Dale Bruss.  By September 1, Pat and Mike were on their way to their winter home in Arizona, and the Brusses were headed to Indiana for some work on their fifth wheel.  We miss them but were glad to have a short visit before they left.

In camp with us have been Rick and Linda Lorenz.  They were our neighbors last year, and this year are work camping here.  Here are the four of us having a beer in Deadwood.  

We just said goodbye to Jay and Anita Hanawalt, also friends from last year, who will spend some time in Montana before moving on to the Timber Valley Escapees RV Park in Sutherlin, Oregon.  They joined us and Rick and Linda for lunch at Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant in Spearfish.

Then the six of us drove down to Lead, SD, to visit the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center.  The visitor center is perched on the rim of the 1000-foot-deep Open Cut, where the Homestake Gold Mine once operated.

The gold mining operation closed in 2003, and in 2006 the Homestake Company donated the property to South Dakota for use as an underground laboratory.  The space deep underground where gold was previously mined provides the ideal environment for sensitive physics experiments to be performed, shielded from cosmic radiation.  Though underground tours are not available, the visitor center provides information about some of the experiments currently ongoing, including research into the origin of matter, the nature of dark matter and the properties of neutrinos.  We enjoyed our visit, even if we don’t have a clue as to what dark matter and neutrinos are.  We do know they are significant, though, and are very glad that the former Homestake Mine has been repurposed!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Devils Tower Revisited

We said a reluctant goodbye to Sheridan and soon after lunch were excited to see Devils Tower looming large and blue on the smokey horizon. 

Shortly after, we were camped at the KOA just outside Devils Tower National Monument.  The park is a nice one, with plenty of room to walk around and good views of the Tower. 

We took a short walk on Tuesday morning, during which all three dogs wound up in the Belle Fourche River.  They were very surprised.  They thought they were just wading into a shallow stream, only to find the river deep and cold, with a swift current.  

One dip was enough, they stayed away from the edge after that.

Last year, we saw the Tower only in the afternoon.  This year, we were excited to have a morning perspective.  The best views were just at sunrise when the cliffs of the Spearfish formation glowed a deep red.

John and I also took a morning hike around the base of the mountain.  Devils Tower is sacred to several Indian tribes that inhabited the area, some of whom have reservations nearby.  

Many of he trees surrounding the base of the Tower bear prayer bundles or prayer cloths, placed there by the native peoples.  We were careful not to disturb them.

We also saw several climbers working their way up the face of Devils Tower.  

Usually there were at least two, one climbing and the other belaying (holding the free end of the rope to ensure that the climber cannot fall very far if he slips).

These fellows were hoisting up bundles of what looked like camping equipment.  Perhaps they were planning to spend the night on top.  In the first image, they look like they have reached the summit.  However, in the second you can see (I hope) that they are only part-way up and still have some serious climbing before they reach the top.  

We were told that the top of the tower is a little larger than a football field, and gently rounded, so it is possible to camp there.  In 1941, a man parachuted onto the top of the Tower, and stayed there for several days before a climbing party could reach him and help him to descend.  

The views down from the base of the tower are almost as spectacular as those looking up.

Back in camp, we visited with several women who were on their way to a gathering of Sisters on the Fly.  This small trailer was decorated inside and out.

The next day, we saw over 100 of the Sisters camped just south of Deadwood and apparently having a wonderful time.

We stayed a couple of nights at Wild Bill’s RV Park.   Nice spot as long is the campground isn’t crowded…sites are quite narrow.  The dogs loved the nice, grassy area along the creek, but John and I were disappointed to have no AT&T coverage and no Internet.  

We pulled into Custer on August 28, and found that the smoke had followed us south. We hope that the fires will soon be extinguished and that our lovely Black Hills, as well as Washington and Montana are smoke- and fire-free.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Remembering Feathers

Five years ago tonight we lost our beautiful Feathers.  After a long and courageous battle, she succumbed to the complications of Canine Meningitis, leaving us empty and wondering why things like this happen to good dogs.  There is no answer to that question, and there will always be an empty spot in my heart that only memories of Feathers can fill.  I always sense her presence when we are here in South Dakota, because this is where we said goodbye to her on a quiet September evening, just at sunset.  It is also a place she loved, and her spirit is here with us.  

I’m confident the Spirit of Feathers had something to do with Kota entering our lives.  In fact, a friend once suggested that Kota might be channeling Feathers. I don’t know about such things, but I do know that we see glimpses of Feathers in our Kota…her absolute devotion, her joie de vivre, her unconditional love, her mischievous nature.  Our lives were immeasurably enriched by Feathers’  presence for those four short years.  She and Nickie gave new life to Lucky Dog and made our family complete.  

Feathers was always happy, even when she was in pain or had trouble walking.  She was always overjoyed when we came home, even if we had been gone only a short time.  Her exuberance was contagious, and her joy at being with us made any problems or worries we had seem trivial.  

I will always miss you, my Feathers with the beautiful golden eyes, and I will always treasure the time God gave us with you.  Rest in Peace, my sweet friend.  I trust you will be waiting for me by the Rainbow Bridge.

Sheridan, WY

Before we move on to other places, I would like to tell you a bit more about Sheridan, Wyoming. Among other things, we enjoyed its numerous hike/bike trails, and John found a local meat market, Legerski’s, that makes terrific sausage.  

If you’re overnighting in an RV, we highly recommend Peter D’s RV Park.  It is located just off IH 90 at exit 23.  It’s a small, family-owned park…nothing fancy, but the bathhouse and laundry are spotless and the power is good.  The owners, Peter and Barbara, are very helpful and friendly.  Barbara has a lovely vegetable garden in the middle of the park and she invites park guests to share the veggies she has picked.  

The park is dog-friendly, with a nice fenced dog park and a couple of large areas beyond where dogs can run and play ball.  And, Peter came by almost every day with dog biscuits for all his four-legged guests, so he was very popular with the Bagley Pack!

Sheridan is only a half-hour or so from the Bighorn Mountains.  We took a day trip north and west of town and enjoyed the rugged beauty of the peaks and valleys.

There had been recent fire activity south and west of town, and several roads leading into the mountains were closed.  We decided to explore that area another time.

Downtown Sheridan has a number of nice shops and restaurants.  We especially liked King’s Saddlery and Don King’s Western Museum.  The saddlery carries almost every kind of tack imaginable.  The walls are hung with bits, spurs, bridles and other horse paraphernalia, and there are plenty of gift items, as well.

Out back across the alleyway is the museum.  Don King, who died several years ago, was a renowned saddle maker and leather worker.  He was also a master collector of all things western.  The museum is filled with saddles, including this one made by Mr. King. 

There are also scores of beautiful saddle and bridle sets heavily decorated with intricate silver work.

And then, there are the mounted “critters,” including bears and other predators, as well as heads and horns of all kinds.  One of the most unusual is this “unicorn” cow skull.

The walls are also filled with photographs of cowboys, famous rodeo bucking stock, dignitaries, and other items Mr. King collected.  Not an inch of space is wasted!

The tradition of fine leatherwork started by Mr. King continues.  We saw at least half a dozen leather workers busy on different projects.  This one, James F. Jackson, said he had been doing leatherwork for 43 years.  He said he had enough items on order to keep him busy for the next 8 months.

If you’re in the area, take a look around Sheridan.  For a town of 17,000 it has a lot to offer.