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Featured A Visit to South Dakota (Tons of Pics)

Discussion in 'Scenic, Architecture, and Travel' started by Mountain, Sep 18, 2017.

  1. Mountain

    Mountain Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 2, 2013
    9 days, 1000+ miles driven, 10s of miles hiked, one 2 year old, 2 National Parks, 2 National Monuments, caves, mountains, rocks, statues, sand formations, prairies, wildlife, and even some fall color. Here are some photos from the trip.

    EDIT: I didn't have time for much context when I made the post, so I've filled in a little more detail over lunch.
    The final day of our trip (not including the long drive home) had the best light of the week, since the wildfires in the west and a bout of stormy weather resulted in some flat lighting. As such, the photos are in reverse chronological order, from final sunset to first day in the Black Hills.

    Part 1: Badlands National Park:
    Badlands was a real treat. I think that most people have an idea of what to expect when they visit, but I was pleasantly surprised by the vastness of the terrain. The best part, IMHO, is that the entirety of the park is free to roam. While there are a couple of maintained and marked trails, the whole wilderness area is open to be explored (and visitors are encouraged by the staff to do so). I was surprised, and worried that such a cavalier attitude would result in the destruction of the soft formations. What I learned pretty quickly, is that the large formations are virtually impervious to climbing attempts (it could be done, but one could find oneself in a dangerous predicament quickly). The soft sandstone and clays that make up the formations are crumbly and extremely slick when wet. The bentonite that makes up much of the surface is the same stuff that used in drilling mud to create the slurry that cools the bit and carries away cuttings in oil and gas drilling. It rained on our first day, so there were slick spots that persisted for a couple of days. We were there for one evening, plus one full day, which is plenty for the typical sightseeing. I could see myself spending much more time exploring the canyons and hills, but the schedule didn't permit it.

    I've long wanted a camper van, and seeing this modest rig at the end of the trip just reinforced that the typical American way of camping in big RVs or trailers doesn't resonate with me. GX-8 w/12-40 PRO

    The following shot is the only shot that was made with a tripod. I set it up and then played with my daughter while we waited that the light to change the hillsides from brown to yellow to red. (GX-8 w 12-40PRO).

    My daughter exploring at sunset while waiting on me (GX-1, P35-100 f/4-5.6)


    Nearing sunset, the formations all took on a yellow hue (GX-1, P35-100 f4-5.6)

    These Big Horned Sheep were kind enough to pose at the edge of a high overlook, exposed to the setting sun, while the valleys below were over come by shadow (GX-1, P35-100 f/4-5.6, stitched pano)

    The sun was getting lower in the sky (GX-8, O12-40)


    Tiny spires shooting out of the prairie, with long shadows from the late afternoon sun (GX-8, O12-40 Stitched Pano)

    The start of the Notch Trail. All the literature calls this "strenuous" and suggest allowing 2hrs to complete the out and back. We found it to be a pleasant walk, and needed only half the time, even with some stops along the way. One of the few maintained trails in the park. GX-8, O12-40.

    Interesting greenish streak through the bentonite. GX-8, O12-40

    The view from the end of the Notch Trail, late afternoon. GX-8, O12-40.
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    The "strenuous" portion of the trail, a long wooden cable ladder that did prove a little awkward to negotiate while wearing a small human on my back. GX-8, O12-40)

    Bands of color (GX-8, P100-400)

    Giant bumblebee. GX-8, Rokinon FE

    Big horn sheep relaxing. GX-8, P100-400

    Early morning light on my favorite stretch of spires. GX-8, O12-40

    Clouds finally breaking (after ruining my sunrise photo ambitions) GX-1 w P35-100 f/4-5.6

    Great early morning light on the spires. GX-1 w P35-100 f/4-5.6

    The first formation to see any light on my mad dash across the park to find anywhere without clouds. GX-8, O12-40

    Possibly my favorite view of the park. GX-1 w P35-100 f/4-5.6, 3 image HDR

    Balanced rock with grey skies and boring light. (GX-8, and either the P7-14 or O12-40, can't remember which)
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
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  2. Mountain

    Mountain Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 2, 2013

    A trail of muddy footprints leading into the Castle Trail. GX-1 w P35-100 f/4-5.6

    Prarie Dog enjoying some fall color (or looking out for foxes, coyotes, hawks, etc. which were constantly roaming the area). GX-8, 100-400

    GX-1 w P35-100 f/4-5.6

    Prairie Dogs GX-8, P100-400

    I took this photo, because the sheep looked so wistful, as if compelled by the wide open prairie. GX-8, 100-400

    Yellow Mounds. Most of the formations are variations of greys, browns and reds, but this section of the park has some additional color. GX-1 w P35-100 f/4-5.6

    Little trooper. GX-8, 12-40

    The prairie dogs here are way fluffier and "cuter?" than those around the Denver area. GX-8, 100-400.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
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  3. Mountain

    Mountain Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 2, 2013
    Part 2, The Black Hills:

    Our visit to the Black Hills stated with a stop at the Mammoth dig site in Hot Springs. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the museum, it reminded me a lot of the quarry at Dinosaur Nat'l Monument. We followed that with a trip to Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument. The caves were interesting, but the tours that we could take the little one on in Jewel Cave left a little to be desired. We've been to a number of other caves in the past, and these were somewhere in the middle, ok, but not as ornate as some others (Carlsbad Cavern NP, Caverns of Sonora, Natural Bridges Caverns). From there we headed to Custer State Park for 4 nights at Sylvan Lake.

    Custer State Park in the southern Black Hills is phenomenal. I had originally planned on bringing rock climbing equipment on the trip, but when travel plans of some other couples didn't work out, it was clear that climbing was out for this trip (with a little one, it takes one person to climb, one to belay, and one to watch the kiddo). I'll consider it a scouting trip for future adventure. In any case the area lent itself well to half day excursions, which is a must for us as we like to keep a consistent nap time. The park is known for several of its drives (Iron Mtn Road, Needles Highway, Wildlife Loop), and we were able to sneak in a couple of them without feeling too guilty about out daughter being stuck in a car seat. We managed to alternate hiking and driving (and a little relaxing) so that she could stretch her legs.

    A misty/rainy morning on our way out of the Black Hills and toward Badlands. GX-8, 12-40

    Harney Peak (Black Elk Peak) trail #9 was a great day hike. It ascends the highest point in the park by way of a 6-7mile round trip hike. Our views were limited by the haze from fires in the area and in the PNW, but to be honest, it's a little hard to complain about obstructed views when others are much more impacted by the fires.

    Stairs leading up to the fire tower. GX-8, 12-40


    View back down the trail from the firetower. It was mostly well maintained dirt trail, but there was a man made portion at the top leading to the structure. Cathedral Spires in the background. GX-8, 12-40

    Info on the fire lookout tower. GX-8, 12-40

    Downed tree with bug trails. GX-8, 12-40

    An explanation for a cleared section of trail. I don't think the forestry work in any way detracted from the hike, and I would likely not have noticed the missing trees were it not for this sign. GX-8, 12-40

    Sylvan Lake, early morning. This was the first time that the wind was calm enough for me tro try for a reflection photo. GX-8, 12-40 stitched Pano

    The ladies enjoying the view from the top of Little Devils Tower trail #4 spur. The Harney Peak firetower in the right background. The trail is shorter than the Harney Peak trail, at about 3 miles round trip. There is a short scramble section at the top that would be difficult to those with mobility problems, but we enjoyed it, even with the child carrier.GX-8, 12-40
    Cathedral Spires from the pullout. GX-8, 12-40

    Flower near Sylvan Lake. GX-8, 12-40

    Sections of the trail sparkled in the sun from all of the Mica. GX-8, 12-40

    Needle's Eye Formation at night. I had promised the wife not to be out late, so I managed to grab a few wide angle shots and this 20min exposure during a clear night. Would have loved to do a wider/longer exposure, but alas no time. This shot at 14mm was about the max focal length I could use and still capture enough of the rock, and get some short star trails. I did some light painting as well for the shorter exposures, but prefer the backlit version with the trails. GX-8, P7-14. Tripod for this one!

    Obligatory Mt Rushmore shot. GX-8, 12-40


    Shot from the sculptors cabin, with the proposed statues before they had to modify for structural concerns. GX-8, 12-40

    One of the many tunnels in the region. This one on Needles Hwy at Dawn. GX-8, 12-40

    I got up in the dark and scrambled through the woods to a vantage point that I had found on google earth, from which to photograph the cathedral spires at sunrise. I underestimated the size of the rock I was to climb, and was left with a sketchy 5 class scramble near the top. I decided that since I had left on my own before the family was awake, didn't tell anyone where I was going, and was wearing sneakers, that it was better to bail on that vantage point and settle for one lower on the formation. Just as well, since the sunrise was far less dramatic than I had hoped for. GX-8, 12-40

    I saw this Pronghorn just as the sun was setting (from the wildlife drive loop). I tried to catch the sun on its antlers, but missed the opportunity when I tried to get into a better position and spooked the animal a little. It settled moments later a little lower on the hill, and it was clear that I needed a different composition. This backlighting from a vantage below was just the ticket, and I'm pretty happy with the outcome. GX-8, 100-400

    A friendly band of wild burros inhabits the southern area of the park, and they are not terribly scared of humans. GX-8, 100-400

    This little burro came right up to us, and our daughter got to pet it, which made her day. GX-8, P42.5 f/1.7

    A little deer welcomed me to my first night at Slyvan Lake. He was coming down the trail as I was coming up, and he stopped to stare at me a bit before moving on. GX-8, 12-40
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
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  4. longviewer

    longviewer Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 22, 2015
    SW Washington (Longview area)
    Jim R
    Great stuff so far! :) 
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  5. ohaya

    ohaya Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 1, 2016
    Love that silhouette shot!
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  6. Mountain

    Mountain Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 2, 2013
    Thanks, I was trying to get the setting sun between the antlers but spooked it a little and had to "settle" for the silhouette a few mins later after the sun had justed dipped below the horizon.
  7. rloewy

    rloewy Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    May 5, 2014
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  8. jederick

    jederick Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 14, 2017
    Northern Utah
    Every one a magnificent capture...thanks for sharing your trip, I enjoyed it immensely!
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  9. Mountain

    Mountain Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 2, 2013
    Edited the first post to add a little context, I'll update the others as schedule permits. Enjoy.

    EDIT- Done.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
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  10. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    Little Trooper up-R.
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  11. NCV

    NCV Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 9, 2016
    Loved your two posts. Great photo story of your trip.
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  12. Stunning country and photos. Thanks for the thread.
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  13. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 5, 2013
    These are beautiful. I love them. Makes me want to see that area for myself. One day...
    • Like Like x 1
  14. AaronE

    AaronE Mu-43 Veteran

    May 23, 2013
    Great images. Your images have made me add this areas to next years outings. Thanks,
    • Like Like x 1
  15. Mountain

    Mountain Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 2, 2013
    Thanks @AaronE@AaronE, it's definitely worthy of a trip.
  16. Mark56

    Mark56 New to Mu-43

    May 13, 2016
    Loved your photos and the stories behind them. Another set of NPs on our list. Well done!
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  17. t.eggleston

    t.eggleston New to Mu-43

    Feb 9, 2017
    Todd Eggleston
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