On this very special day I feel that it is time to remember just what the day means and how we came to have the time. With the long weekend we tend to think of extra days off, family gatherings, outdoor fun, food, drink and all sorts of special activities. Even with the fireworks shows that some of us attend and others set off for themselves, I think that we seldom really pause to grasp exactly what we have and how we attained it. I often find myself a bit nostalgic when I have time alone on days such as this and as a student of history my mind wanders back to imagine what it must have been like for those who truly changed the course of our nation by defending her, by exploring new frontiers, and in so many other ways. I also think back to my own military experience in the cold war years when we went out to patrol the seas and keep the Russian bear at bay. Being young, bold and daring, we never really gave much thought to any risks we might have taken but were a cocky bunch who knew that we would win any confrontation with one of their ships or even the entire Russian fleet if need be. I now realize the reason that we don't send old men to war as we think far too much!
I take great pride in my Navy service and sometimes even long for those days at sea and the comradery that they brought and the bravado that all of us so strongly felt and believed. We didn't think that we are the best, we knew that we were! Later in life I discovered that it is much easier to go into harm's way than it is to watch your son do so. I am very proud to say that all three of my sons served in the US Army and fortunate as well since the Army also paid for each of them to get a college degree leading to the careers that they now have. Our youngest gave me the most gray or missing hair as he spent some 24 years as a medic with the Army and has two combat tours and a Combat Medic award to show for his experience. Most of all, I am proud that they have been a part of our family tradition of military service and of patriotic support of our country, even to political involvement in setting the course of our country's future.
Let us never forget that voting and political activity is not a right in this country but it is a responsibility of citizenship!
We spent yesterday assisting the park intern in getting the park ready for the big weekend and most of today chasing water. We have more than 100 new trees here and while most of them are in rows with drip irrigation systems, we have others scattered among the campsites that require the use of either sprinklers or hauling it with a tank. Being one who prefers to sit and watch a sprinkler work, I have been dragging hoses and moving sprinklers. That is between jobs of holding down my chair and watching the grass grow! It is a beautiful day here today with the temperature in mid-70's and almost no clouds at all. Just a few wisps on the horizon. A very light breeze from the southwest so that usually means warm, dry weather, which is the forecast for the next several days. It should be a good weekend for our visitors.
For anyone who happens to choose to visit our summer home, I thought that I'd add a few facts and pictures. The main park is Angostura Recreation Area and while we are a part of it, we are located a bit more than a mile away if you come by boat, but some 26 miles should you want to bring your RV. We are directly across the lake from the main park and as such we kind of stand alone with our own little staff and the management visits us about once a week to see if we need anything. We are each supplied with a radio to contact the park or staff members as well as office and cell phone numbers for everyone. This makes for a great situation for people like ourselves, who prefer the small team situation. In addition to us as campground hosts there is one summer college intern named Nathan and a part time seasonal worker named Dawn. The four of us just work out how we will get the things needing attention cared for and pretty much do our own thing. We are supported by the maintenance staff as needed and the two LE rangers also patrol over here regularly and we have ready access to the sherriff's office if assistance should be needed.
We have 22 campsites here, three with full hook-ups and 19 with electric only. The three full hook-up sites were built for two sets of campground hosts and the intern, but until the campground is expanded there is only one host site in use, so the remaining full hook-up site is available to campers but you must call the park office to reserve it as it is not available through the parks internet or 800 phone reservation system. We also have a potable water supply for filling RVs and a dump station for the campers use. Next to the camp is a double boat ramp with parking which we also service. In addition, the park property extends another three miles down the lake where there are 11 more campsites for horse-campers and each one has a corral. We do some support for those sites also and we are provided with vehicles for our use. The view from our site is very good and we frequently see deer stroll past in morning or evenings.
As you reach the turnoff for the Shep's Canyon Road from Hot Springs there is a sign that clearly marks the turn. That exit is 7 miles south of town on SD71. Shep's Canyon Rd. is a graveled road in good condition, but it can be dusty or if wet it will put a nice coating of red mud on whatever passes over it. As country roads go it is in pretty good condition and well maintained. The road is not difficult to travel but is scenic and interesting. As you pass through the canyon you do need to be aware of the possibility of cattle on the road as fences seem to be in poor repair and stock on the road is not unusual here. There are mostly ranch properties along the road in, but there are a few other homes and a rock quary. The trip is mostly scenic and there are no excessively steep or crooked parts but with gravel you are probably wise to keep your speed down. Most of us find that we start to travel the road at higher speeds with more familiarity. There is some traffic on the road but it is always lite and most drivers are reasonably cautious.
In morning and evening it is also possible to have wildlife using the roads with deer quite common. Even if the road happens to be wet or it is raining the road is easily passable and solid so there is no need to be concerned with getting stuck or other problems, other than those that a good carwash can correct. We do not have well or city water here but large tanks which are kept full by a service for potable water, but we also have an irrigation system for the trees which has connections that we can use to wash our cars and such, and that is greatly needed this spring with it having been so wet and rainy,
As you near the lake there are also some private developments as well as a mobile home park and a commercial RV park with monthly sites, located just outside of the park. There are probably about 20 sites in each of the two neighboring parks and only a handful of homes built on the lots nearby. Weekends are pretty busy here with much traffic to and from the boat ramp but the camp is mostly families and pretty peaceful. We have enjoyed the summer so far and have been able to visit many of the attractions of the Black Hills. We love to have visitors from our RV friends or most anyone else so please do consider stopping by if come this way. We have already had one Escapee's RV Club member stop and spend some time where so we look forward to more.
This morning is beautiful and almost no rain in the past 24 hours! Looking forward to a great week for Independence Day this week. Forecast says nice weather up thrpugh the weekend, with some chance of showers this Tuesday. Now all we need is for it to really be that way!
This past week we returned to Wind Cave NP and did a cave tour to pretty much complete our investigation of that park Wind Cave NP is actually quite large with significant wildlife populations. You see a lot of buffalo, although not the large heards of Custer State Park. They are scattered or in small groups but are very common. For some reason they seem to be mostly males with very few cow/calf pairs. They do appear to be in a more natural setting since they are not handled regularly as the ones in Custer park are.
Another animal that is frequently seen if you watch closely is the pronghorn antelope. They are quite scattered at this time of the year as they only tend to heard up in fall and winter and fawns are fairly common. Both does & bucks have horns but those of the buck are much more impressive and have a branch that the does do not have. Early morning or late evening are the best times to see wildlife and particularly the pronghorn. In addition it is very common to see prairiedogs and coyotes are not unusual if you watch at a distance. There are also elk in the park but not nearly so many as other animals and so they are not often seen.
Of course the main attraction of this park is the cave tours. There are four different tous available and the challenging one is all day and you wear a helmet and headlamp as well as knee pads. It is not for the faint of heart, nor for us either! The tour that we did take lasted about 1 1/2 hours and was entry and exit by the elevator. Not far from the visitor center is the natural entrance and you can & should see it. It is hard to imagine that the first explorers crawled in through that hole which is only about 10" by 18" and you can't see much of anything inside. The reason for the name of the cave is that with air pressure changes due to weather, air goes into or out of the cave and with a very large cave and a small entrance, it blows through that hole at rates between 10 & 35 mph. It is said that the discovery came because the wind from the cave blew the hat off of the fellow and when he returned later to show a friend it had reversed and sucked his hat into the cave and out of sight!
Like most caves, this one has many interesting and beautiful formations but the one most uniqueto this particular cave is a formation called boxwork. This is the only place that I can recall ever having seen this type of thing. It is found in numerous places through the cave and all tours will see it. There is also an area where there is a lot of graffit from the early years of the cave visitation. It is interesting in it's historic nature, but of course is no longer allowed to be done. The visitor center has some very good displays of the history of the cave and of the local area as well as about those who found and explored it. Wind Cave was the first national park developed in order to protect a cave and make it available to the public. For some years it had commercial tours and was under private ownership. The cave has more than 196 miles of known passageways and nearly all of those are under about 1 square mile of surface area.
We have been having a beautiful run of weather, but this afternoon it did it's thing once more. We have a thrunder storm watch until 9 pm tonight and have had a few angry clouds around this afternoon but only a few drops of rain, so far! We will hope that is stays nice as we have a full campground and even a couple in the overflow area at horse camp. Hate to see folks have the weekend ruined when the come out to stay with us. None the less most eveyone seems to be having a good time so we hope that things continue for them.
Last Thursday we visited a refuge for wild or feral horsed that was started to allow some of them to once more roam the Black Hills which once had some fairly significant heards of them. It is a large ranch of about 13,000 acers which was once owned by two local ranchers who wanted see the free roaming mustangs return and so began a foundation that operates the refuge today and they also donated the land for them. Horses that live on it are decendants of those brought here by the founders as well as some additional ones that are rescued from those rounded up on BKM lands farther west which are not considered to be adoptable. A few come from other sources but all are allowed to range pretty much as they would in the wild. An interesting sidelight is that these mares are on birth control, via treated grain that is left out for them and which proves to be about 80% effective. Some of the excess colts are sold when buyers can be found and the remainder live out their lives on the refuge. When visiting the refuge, it is about 16 miles to the south of Hot Springs, SD on SD71 and then 3 miles of gravel roads to the west. There is no cost to visit the ranch house area, but they also have a two hour guided tour that does cost. We took the guided tour and it was really a great one well worth the time spent. If you are in the area I suggest that you consider a visit to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary.
In the tour you will not only get to see heards of horses that are organized into natural bands, much as happens in the wild, but there are also mares with foal, as birth control is not 100%, there are numerous wild trukeys that seem to be unafrain of the passing tours, and there are cliffs with petroglyphs as well as several historic sites and the locations of settings for several movies. The petroglyphs have been dated to be more than 1000 years old and there is even a carved alligator in one of the caves.There are also initials and dates from as early as 1800 to as recently as 1978. Since the founding ranchers bought the land in the early 80's the cliffs have been protected as much as possible from vandals.
We had another thunderstorm last night but once more dodged the main part with only a few minutes of very heavy rain. Just a few miles away there was a major hail storm with heavy rain. I guess we must be living right but we are sure ready for some dry weather. We did open up the shop building in case a visitor wished to take shelter but none did so, not even the people who had a tent & a pop-up!
Today we are off to Rapid City once more to do our tourist thing. I'll post some pictures from Custer State Park for now. I should have some new ones for the next entry.
Today is just a lazy day as we have done almost nothing! I took Pam out to dinneer last evening for her birthday. She is just a few years past the age to vote!
At present we have checked out one camper from yesterday and one in today. That seems to be about our limit today. It is the warmest day so far that we have experienced with temperatures in the mid 80's. Tomorrow we are back on the road to do more tourist things!
Yesterday was a beautiful day but toward evening we had a really nasty looking storm roll in. Most of it went to our north and lots of hail in Hot Springs but we had only a few minutes of hard rain, with a very few, pea sized hail. Later, about 9 pm it rained very hard giving us another inch or more of rain in less than 2 hours. It was also a bit touchy as we had a full campground. today is cool but very pretty and few clouds. Weather forecast is for improving weather so we are hopeful!