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Member since: Thu Apr 29, 2010, 03:31 PM
Number of posts: 52,083

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How I spent My 81 Day Time Out - Part 2: Wild Asses Licked My Car

The southwest corner of South Dakota is a cornucopia of natural wonders. Badlands National Park, as I chronicled in Part 1: The South Dakota Badlands In Winter is absolutely amazing. After leaving there, Crystal Dancer and I drove to Keystone, SD in the Black Hills where we stayed only minutes from Mount Rushmore. One of the nice things about this winter trip (late January) was the fact that very few other visitors were out and about. We saw only two other vehicles all day in Badlands National Park and were the only guest at our hotel one of our two nights in Keystone; there was one other couple there the second night.

Similarly, there was literally only one other couple at Mount Rushmore when we visited...

Crazy Horse is another "must see" destination in the Black Hills. It's very cool, even if it won't be completed in my lifetime ...

After leaving the Crazy Horse Memorial, we visited Wind Cave National Park. While all the photos I took in the cave are worthless, it is an incredible place to visit, and well worth the $5 fee for a tour. Learn more at http://www.nps.gov/wica/index.htm Again, travelling in winter proved advantageous - only one other couple (with two toddlers) were on our tour. The guide said that summer tours typically had 45 people along.

One note about the tour: While describing the cave the tour guide mentioned that some of the rare "boxwork" formations were created "a very, very long time ago." I asked what a "very, very long time" meant and she indicated it meant some 30 million years. Later, when I was able to speak to her privately I asked if her choice of words was in deference to the sensitivities of fundamentalists. She answered in the affirmative before I even finished the question. Shame on the National Park Service for this pandering.

After leaving Wind Cave, we travelled a bit farther south to Custer State Park and drove the Wildlife Loop Road. This 18 mile stretch of blacktop winds through the 71,000 acre park and is certainly well named. The $20 fee is worth every penny.

This prairie dog town was right alongside the road. Locals warned us to not pet the prairie dogs as they carried bubonic plague. I'm not much of one for petting rodents anyway, and the threat of Black Death was plenty to keeep me away. Still, the little guys are cute ...

But what I really wanted to see were bison. Lots of bison scat was apparent but we drove several miles before seeing one, and that one was on a far hillside and I only confirmed it was actually a bison by using binoculars. Still, I saw one! WooHoo!!!

Then we rounded the next curve. No rollerskating here!

Here's a big one ...

Mama and calf ...

Red rocks in the Black Hills ...

Cresting the next hill, we saw something we didn't expect at all ...

The "begging burros" of Custer State Park are feral donkeys that have taken to begging for food from visitors. They also have keen noses ...

... and smelled the salt that had accumulated on my vehicle over the 1,000 miles we had travelled from Wisconsin. They made a beeline for the car ...

These bison ignored us as I weaved my car slowly past them on the road ...

Rounding the next hill there was one more incredible sight for us - a herd of elk crossing the road ...

When our car approached, the herd split up but this big boy re-crossed the road, rounded up the rest of his herd and moved them across the road with the others. Then he turned and kept an eye on us ...

Worth noting that we saw only one other vehicle the entire time we were in the park. Winter touring can be hit-or-miss with the weather (we were lucky) but certainly gives one a chance to see the sights while avoiding the crowds. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Oh yeah, I had donkey slobber on my car until I found a carwash ...

Stay tuned for Part 3 - Getting High In The Rockies

How I Spent My 81 Day Time Out – Part 1: South Dakota Badlands in Winter

Last December 29th I laid my 50,000th post on DU - http://www.democraticunderground.com/10027482411 - noting, in part, that the primary battles that were dividing DU were an indicator of healthy debate. Little did I know that within two weeks I would rack up four new hides, leaving me out in the cold DU-wise. What to do? Time for a vacation!

So, as the coldest air of the winter moved into northeast Wisconsin, Crystal Dancer and I headed West. First stop: The South Dakota Badlands.

We left home at 5:00 a.m. with the temperature mark at minus 16F. Twelve hours later, we turned off I-90 and onto Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway (SD 240), a 31-mile loop through the National Park. We had just enough daylight left to get a feel for the place. The cold air was now east of us and we were enjoying balmy temps in the upper 30’s.

The next morning, we ate breakfast early and returned to the park. Temps were again in the 30’s and the fog was so dense we couldn’t see more than a few yards.

We went back into Wall, killed a couple hours and then tried it again. While there was still plenty of fog, it only made the scenery more magnificent. Additionally, hoar frost covered everything making the entire park into ice-art.

Nearly immediately, we spotted the first of many mule deer. This group was quite close to the road …

These bighorns were a bit farther away. Glad I had my binoculars …

The fog gave the badlands an eerie and magnificant look, beyond the incredible sights they normally provide …

By mid-day, the fog was clearing, blue skies were appearing and the stark contrasts of the badlands were enough to take my breath away.

We covered the Scenic Loop three times, stopping at the park office to acquire our lifetime National Park passes (a mere $10 for seniors), stopping to do some hiking and stopping many, many times to take photos. We had snowshoes along, but there wasn’t enough snow to need them.

By late afternoon, the fog was creeping back in, settling in the valleys. While we were stopped to take pictures some locals appeared with tripods and long lenses, saying they had never seen the badlands like this. A rare and treasured moment.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Wild Asses Licked My Car

Democratic Socialism is bad for business. Right?


Burger King Worker

Maybe it's time ...

Asshats vs Hats

$108,000,000 to privatize public education

The Bradley's are every bit as evil as the Kochs, but manage to keep a much lower profile.


A major new report from the progressive One Wisconsin Institute finds that the right-wing Bradley Foundation spent more than $108 million, working with 130 partner groups, to privatize public schools in Wisconsin between 2005 and 2014. During the same period, the state’s public schools experienced dramatic budget cuts.


An analysis of IRS Form 990 records and Bradley Foundation reports reveals over 130 organizations supportive of their education privatization agenda and working to advance their cause have received over $108 million from 2005 through 2014;

Bradley’s tactics have continued to evolve, now featuring litigation to advance their privatization agenda and intimidate opponents. Leading the effort is the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty which since its inception in 2011 has been larded with over $2 million from Bradley;

According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the voucher program will cost Wisconsin taxpayers over $1.1 billion from 2011 through the end of the 2015–17 budget
cycle. Meanwhile, a new report found that Wisconsin schools have suffered the 4th biggest cuts in in the nation through 2014.

There were some Cool Cats at the game

The Status Quo

Do we really want four or eight more years of this?
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