LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — A Long-Overdue Wild Badlands Day

My family journeyed west earlier this week for a long-overdue wild Badlands day.

Our first stop was to view the ongoing bison round-up at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The corrals were full of bison and from outside the fence, we watched the trailers being loaded, and we could hear the racket those massive beasts make when their bodies meet steel.

In the heart of the park, we were delighted to see the saffron cottonwoods in our beloved Little Missouri River Valley and observed that the water was unusually deep for this time of the year, a reflection of the wet cycle we’ve been experiencing.

My daughter and I went for a hike, a bushwack really, making our own trail, a couple of hours of bliss on a 75-degree sunny day, with a gentle Zephyr wind, no ticks and the knowledge that a blizzard was coming the very next day. (See photo at top) Chelsea told me her favorite was the shades of red in the chokecherry bushes and little bluestem grasses. We savored every moment.

It turned out to be a pretty snakey day, one small rattler and two blue racers, and Chelsea, of Wild By Nature Photography (my daughter), got some good photos with her telephoto lens. I have exceptional “snake radar,” having honed it growing up in Slope County, where snakes are abundant.

The day ended with a stint at Peaceful Valley Ranch where a team of young scientists is banding Northern Saw-whet Owls, an annual ritual. While we didn’t have the fortune of catching any owls this particular night, it was a thrill to stand under the stars listening to the Sandhill Cranes fly over. “Hurry up,” we shouted.

After a good night’s sleep at the Rough Riders Hotel, we rushed home to wrap up the last of the gardening work before the blizzard. I dug out the snow shovels from storage and hurriedly picked raspberries with cold fingers and Jim planted and mulched next year’s garlic.

If you need me, I’ll be happily watching it snow on our lovely new metal roof at Red Oak House. Since we bought the house, the roof has leaked. This will be the best winter in our ten years here, no doubt.

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