Tag Archive | pronghorn

West 2016: Custer State Park

Day 5: August 9, 2016

Both before and after we went to Wind Cave, we made our way through Custer State Park. Custer State Park was basically right on the way, since you have to drive through the park in order to get to Wind Cave. So, just for the sake of full-disclosure, this post covers multiple times that we were in the park; early morning, mid-day and evening too.  It doesn’t matter for the sake of the post, but just know that you are more likely to see some of these animals if you go early, or at the end of the day.

Me – Sign Posing

Custer State Park is a huge park, with lots to offer. It has camping, lakes, scenic drives, and when we headed to Wind Cave, we took a little time before to check out part of the Wildlife Loop since it was early morning, and we hoped to see wildlife! We weren’t disappointed!

Right after entering the Wildlife Loop, we saw pronghorn! A small herd of them! They were just hanging out, and there were young ones along with the herd. I loved seeing them. We took some photos – even one with a peeing pronghorn! I can’t help it – animals doing more than just standing there is fascinating to me – yep, that’s me…  I am weird.  Historic toilets – peeing animals…

Pronghorn

 

Even better – peeing pronghorn!

After watching the pronghorn, we found a prairie dog town. They were quite active then, scampering around and eating grass. They were darker in color than some of the other prairie dogs – I liked seeing the color variation.

Custer State Park’s prairie dogs had darker fur. I am becoming quite the prairie dog connoisseur.

We saw wild turkeys too! There were about a half dozen turkeys roaming around in a few different places in the park.

Wild Turkeys!

As we continued on the way to Wind Cave, we saw a couple of deer, more pronghorn, and then we saw a coyote too! Even though I see coyotes at home from time to time, even in my own neighborhood, it was a treat to see one out in the wild.

An early morning coyote sighting

After Wind Cave, which I posted about here, we headed back out into Custer State Park, and decided to do one of the scenic drives – the Needles Highway. The highway is a crazy, windy road, with a ton of switchbacks and several one lane tunnels. They had people who directed traffic through the tunnels, allowing travel in one direction and then the other. The whole highway made my mom nervous, but I enjoyed it! I would have like to stop at some of the viewpoints, but there were so many Sturgis bikers on the road that it would have been difficult to pull over easily.

One of the tiny tunnels on the Needles Highway

Later in the day, we headed back into the park and traveled on the part of the Wildlife Loop that we hadn’t seen before. We found bison, lots and lots of bison. Custer State Park has about 1,500 bison at the peak each year; they manage the herd through round ups and sales. We watched them for a while; I never got tired of them.

 

A bit further on, we found the other famous animals of the park – feral donkeys! There was a group of them hanging out right in the parking lot, begging for carrots from the tourists, despite all the signs that say you shouldn’t feed them. Apparently they are known as the Begging Burros, and there are about 50 donkeys in the park.  There was another group of donkeys that kept their distance, and it was fun to watch them playing out in the field and being more wild.  I think the donkeys were my favorite of the animals we saw in the park – well, if you don’t count the peeing pronghorn…  Nope – I’m still going with the donkeys as the favorites…

 

 

 

We didn’t do any of the other recreational activities that Custer State Park has to offer, but it would certainly be a great place to camp, and spend some time. It was a worthwhile park!

A bison just hanging on the road in the evening.

West 2016: Badlands NP Wildlife

Day 4: August 8, 2016

Do you have any idea how long I have been trying to get a decent photo of Bighorn Sheep?  I was thwarted in Colorado at Colorado National Monument, got the faintest glimpse of them at dusk on the drive to Great Sand Dunes National Park, got blurry pics of them at Pikes Peak, and then missed them again at Joshua Tree

But Badlands National Park did not disappoint!  We saw Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep for the first time that day at the Burns Basin Overlook.  There were three of them.  Two were resting on the rocks, and one was walking unhurriedly.  My mom didn’t get out of the car at first, so I had to go back and drag her out to make sure she got to see them too.  Of course, I did make sure to get some photos first.  I was so excited!

Bighorn Sheep at Burns Basin Overlook

I spotted some pretty little songbirds, but couldn’t really tell what kind they were because they were silhouetted against the blue sky.

They might be Mountain Bluebirds, but I couldn’t tell for sure…

We decided to drive down the Sage Creek Rim Road, a gravel road that is supposed to be where the bison and the bighorn sheep often hang out.  There is also a prairie dog town a few miles down the road.  We didn’t see any bison that day, but we were not disappointed because we had already done some fabulous spotting at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and Yellowstone National Park was still coming up later in the trip!  Soon we happened upon a huge herd of animals grazing in the field in the distance.  At first glance, we both thought they were deer, but after watching them for a few minutes, I figured out that they were bighorn sheep!  We took some photos and continued on, because they were pretty far away.

Soon we came upon a bunch of sheep hanging out right by the road, and often, in the road!  There were a lot of babies too!  I had so much fun just watching them and taking photos.  They were stunning and so close!  They weren’t bothered by us at all.

Baby Bighorn Sheep!

Not even this guy, who was too lazy to even stand up all the way to re-position himself for better grass!

This guy… I have no words…

It was tough to pull away from the bighorns, but we headed the rest of the way to the prairie dog town.  These prairie dogs didn’t want to pose as nicely for us though…  I did get a nice shot of a Western Meadowlark though!

Prairie Dog! He was on a mission…

 

Western Meadowlark at Badlands

We did so much wildlife spotting that it was starting to get late, and we wanted to grab some dinner.  We returned the way we came, stopping for some more photos of the bighorn sheep, before heading out of the park.  Just outside, we found a lone pronghorn posing beautifully, so I got some photos of him too!

 

Is this not the cutest trio of butts ever!

 

A stately Pronghorn, just outside of the park

It was a great day for wildlife!

 

SW National Parks Trip: Williams and a Drive

After our visit to the Grand Canyon, we spent another night in Williams, Arizona.  We got up early the next morning, because we had a long drive ahead of us.  The day had come to make our way back to California for Jon’s cousin’s wedding.  Marina del Ray, to be exact.  Jon was concerned that if we didn’t get an early start, we would end up in Los Angeles during rush hour traffic.  And if you have read this blog for long, you know that Jon and traffic don’t mix well.

I hadn’t had a chance to see much of Williams though, except for a quick drive by the night before.  So I convinced Jon that I would get out of the hotel a little earlier than he wanted, if we could drive downtown and I could have 20 minutes to wander around and take photos.  We struck a deal.  If we were out of the hotel by 6:30, I could have the 20 minutes while Jon filled the car with gas and drove by the coffee stand to get us a little perk-up.

The Gateway to Williams, Arizona

The Gateway to Williams, Arizona

Williams was founded in 1881, and currently has a population of about 3,000 residents.  Williams was located on Route 66, and contains the last section of Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40, in 1984.  Of course, I-40 passes right outside of town, so it didn’t have a huge impact on the economy.

Williams, Arizona and Route 66 – I love the Turquoise Tepee!

Williams, Arizona and Route 66 – I love the Turquoise Tepee!

The historic downtown core is 6 blocks long, and has several souvenir shops, restaurants, a wine tasting room and a historic hotel.  There are lots of Route 66 signs, and several historic neon signs from days gone by.  It is wonderfully maintained, and was a treat to spend a few moments wandering around with my camera in the still of the early morning.  I would love to go back and spend more time there.

Williams, Arizona Storefronts

Williams, Arizona Storefronts

Smokey the Bear has a presence in Williams, Arizona

Smokey the Bear has a presence in Williams, Arizona

The Grand Canyon Winery – I would have liked to check it out!

The Grand Canyon Winery – I would have liked to check it out!

Jon came back to get me after his errands, and we headed west on our way back to California.  The drive was long (more than 6 hours), but most of it was very easy, with very light traffic.  It was bittersweet as well, because we knew that although we were heading towards family and a fun occasion, it also meant the end of a fantastic, whirlwind tour of some really amazing parks.  I did finally get to see some pronghorn though!  There were a couple walking in a field near the road.  The picture isn’t fantastic at all – it is hard to take pictures of wildlife when you are driving by at 70+ miles per hour!  But I think you can tell that they are pronghorn.

Pronghorn! You can tell they are pronghorn, right?

Pronghorn! You can tell they are pronghorn, right?

The only hiccup was when our GPS unit finally pooped out and would navigate no more.  As we were heading into Los Angeles, we knew we would need some directions.  My Dad was kind enough to map our route and read it to me over the phone as we cruised through the Mojave Desert.

After hours of driving, and some traffic backups at the end, we finally pulled into the ritzy Marriott in Marina del Rey.  Valet parking only…  I don’t know what they thought of us…  We hadn’t showered, we were wearing hats and dusty hiking shoes, driving a subcompact car with dust everywhere and clumps of red clay mud clinging to the mudflaps and the undercarriage.  A memorable moment for sure!

Our vacation was winding down – but not before spending time with lots of family!