Fall has arrived in the Black Hills, and with it many opportunities to get out and admire G-d’s wonderful creation. Sights, sounds, and smells of this bountiful season are all around us.
We used this past weekend to soak in as much of this fleeting beauty as possible. The hard part was not finding places to go. On the contrary, the hardest thing was choosing between so many great options.
Between the annual Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival in Custer State Park, annual Pumpkin Festival in Rapid City (complete with giant pumpkin weigh-in and pumpkin chucking from catapults designed by the students of Dakota School of Mines and Technology), Harvest Fest in Spearfish, Crazy Horse Memorial Autumn Volksmarch, the annual Badger Clark Poetry and Music Gathering in Hot Springs, and a drive through the fall color adorned Spearfish Canyon, it was really hard to choose just two or three that could fit into a very busy weekend.
After thinking long and hard, we decided to provide a fall feast to our senses by watching the Roundup on Friday, and spending the day in the Spearfish Canyon on Sunday.
That day of rest in between, on Saturday, was needed to help us warm up after three hours in the cold and breezy 45 degrees at the Roundup on Friday. Thank goodness for warm parkas and rabbit fur hats! Without them, Friday’s weather would have turned us into icicles.
Custer State Park is a wonderful place where one can go year round to enjoy the nature, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Among other types of wildlife, the park maintains a herd of over a thousand heads of bison. Every fall for the past 48 years, the park employees and hired cowboys and cowgirls (or would that be bisboys and bisgirls?) would round up the herd into the pens for branding of the calves, counting the animals, and separating those that would be sold at the auction in November. The roundup itself is quite a spectacle with scores of people from all over the country gathering to watch horse mounted and pickup truck driving ranch hands gather and drive the buffalo into their pens. By the way, dust rising under the hooves of stampeding buffalo is not optional.
The reports this year say there were approximately 14,000 observers, both locals and those from places as far away as New York, Alabama, Oregon, and California. One thing I know for sure: it took us longer to get from the entrance to the State Park to the buffalo pens (which are centrally located) than to drive from Rapid City to the park itself (approximately 43 miles). Traffic in the park was bumper to bumper, crawling at a snail’s speed as people were trying to make it to one of the several designated parking areas. I bet those buffalo were thinking that the roundup was all about herding humans.
Thankfully, the weather got gradually warmer over the weekend, reaching into the 70’s on Sunday, which made it a perfect day to go see some fall colors in the Spearfish Canyon, and take a short hike along the creek above Roughlock Falls.
Spearfish Canyon is a famed destination for fall color enthusiasts in the Black Hills. Every year, scores of people file through the canyon to see the beautiful scenery and enjoy crisp fall air in the Hills. Different types of wildlife, ranging from deer and porcupines to mountain lions, are part of the draw too. True, we only saw chipmunks and different birds on our hike, but I don’t think we would have liked seeing a mountain lion anyway.
Although the colors were not at their peak yet, there was still plenty to oooh and aaah about. Yellows mixed with greens, rugged cliffs protruding between the vegetation covered slopes, last of the colorful flowers mixed with first of the ripening berries, gurgling creek water and swooshing of the waterfalls… All of that made for a veritable feast for all senses.
Wish we could have gathered some of the bountiful wild rose hips. They would have made a great jam for winter.
People driving through the Spearfish Canyon are usually familiar with Bridal Veil Falls. That seems to be one of the most visited spots in the canyon. However, there is another waterfall as pretty as the Bridal Veil Falls, which is a bit of a hidden gem as one has to get off the main road and drive on a dirt road for about a mile in order to reach it. This bit of a trek is completely worth it, as both Roughlock Falls and the surrounding area are stunningly beautiful and offer great opportunities for hiking as well as picnic areas for those who prefer to enjoy the nature’s beauty in a more leisurely way.
True, after a good long hike, one can also rest next to the creek, in one of the many sunny spots, and enjoy the calming sound of the pristinely clean waters.
What interesting areas for fall outings do you have in your neighborhood? Have the leaves started turning yet where you live? Feel free to share in the comments to this post.