Lovers Leap Trail

This past Friday, Bill and I hiked Lovers Leap Trail here in Custer State Park. We get lots of questions about this trail from visitors who come in to our Visitor Centers, and I wanted to be able to speak about the trail from first hand experience, so off we went.

We’re not really sure how long of a hike lovers leap is or the degree of difficulty. One map shows it as a three mile loop and describes it a a moderate to strenuous hike. Yet another map shows it as a four mile loop and describes it as difficult to strenuous. All I can say is it was a beautiful hike, that felt like at least seven miles, and very, very, strenuous..!

And those “seven miles” were mostly straight up, up, up! When we reached what we thought was the highest point, as we stood there looking out over the lovely view way down below, I asked Bill if he thought this was the point where they decided to call this trail Lovers Leap? He said “yes, because at about this point, you are ready to throw yourselves over the edge just to get down faster…”

When we gained our composure, from laughing so hard, we continued along our way through an area that shows some the damage from a large fire two years ago.

As we paused to ponder on this sign, I was thinking to myself, these words might ring true, if we weren’t exhausted, and faced with the fact that we had no idea where we were, or how close, or far, we were from getting off this mountain… ­čÖé

We couldn’t find a log to sit on to “get our sanity back,” so Bill took a moment to lean on a boulder.

We noticed the pine trees in this area have really long needles, we had to try to find something to focus on besides how exhausted we were…

After about an hour and a half of steady climbing up, up, up, we finally started downhill,

and came upon a creek that had foot bridges allowing us to cross without getting wet. We thought that was nice of the park to put these bridges in as a small convenance to their visitors… We crossed five of these nice foot bridges along our way.

Now we find ourselves down in a canyon, hiking along the creek.

Beautiful wildflowers seem to grow right out of the rocks.

And just as we were thinking we might finally be nearing the end of this very long, strenuous hike, with the lovely foot bridges.. we came upon a wide area of the creek where the foot bridge was washed out, and all that was left to get us across the creek was this pile of fallen tree limbs. Not easy when your worried about falling in with your cell phone in your pocket… We had to cross two areas like this where the foot bridge was washed out…

Then we came to yet another area where we had to start climbing up, up, up again…

Finally, after almost three hours of steady climbing up mountains, and over creeks, we came upon an area where we saw buildings. Then we realized they were dorms where the seasonal workers live. We were exhausted, and nearly out of water, so we decided we needed to go down and see if we could get someone to give us a ride back to where we left our car at the trailhead. Lucky for us, one of the workers was just pulling our of her parking space. So I ran up to her car, introduced myself, told her of our ordeal, and all but begged her to give us a ride to our car… She hesitated at first (probably thinking I was some crazy woman), but then she unlocked the back doors and told us to get in. I said a quick prayer to thank Jesus for getting us off that mountain safely. Little did we know (because the map we had didn’t show any landmarks to indicate where we were on the trail), we were actually only about a half mile from the end of the hike. However, that last half mile was yet another climb up, and over, yet another mountain…

Aside from the fact that the trail was not marked well, and the map wasn’t of much help at all…, it was a beautiful hike and I’m glad we did it. But you can be sure that when I talk to folks about that hike, I will tell them it is beautiful, and well worth the effort, but I will also make sure they know it is very strenuous, and longer than what the information sheet indicates.

When I got back to work the next day, I told the lead person what we thought about the hike, and the misinformation, and/or lack of information on the information sheet, and the map, regarding the Lovers Leap Trail. She smiled and said “I’ll look into it.”

Stay Tuned!

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Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse

Yesterday Bill and I visited Mount Rushmore National Memorial. We drove along Iron Mountain Road that winds through Custer State Park, and parts of National Forest. We traveled through two tunnels, one that frames Mount Rushmore in the distance.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is centered around a sculpture into the granite face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota.

The sculpture features 60-foot heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. The four Presidents were chosen, respectively, to represent the birth, the growth, the development, and the preservation of the United States. Mount Rushmore attracts more than two million visitors per year.

As I gazed upon the faces of these four Presidents, I couldn’t help but wonder, what they would have to say if they could speak about our country today…?

After leaving Mount Rushmore, we traveled into Custer, and had a delicious lunch at Burger and Bun. A very small, local hamburger place, that offers a wide variety of delicious hamburgers. They often have a 45 minute wait time to get seated. However, Bill and I happened to get there just a few minutes after they opened and we got seated right away.

After lunch, we made our way to the Crazy Horse Memorial. The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills, in Custer County, South Dakota. Several ┬álarge offers of money, ┬áhave been offered to let the Federal Government take over the project, but each offer has been declined, stating the Government wouldn’t have the same passion for the project, and most likely wouldn’t give it the same time and care to do it right… When completed, the Memorial will depict the Lakota Warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance.

This Memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Kiolkollski. Standing Bear wanted the white man to know the red man had hero’s of their own…

The visitor information sheet we received says “Crazy Horse has never been known to have signed a treaty or touched the pen. Crazy Horse, as far as the scale model is concerned, is to be carved not so much as a lineal likeness, but more as a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse to his people. With his left hand gesturing forward in response to the derisive question asked by a white man, where are your lands now? He replied, my lands are where my dead lie buried.”

The next picture is a small scale model of what the finished Memorial will look like.

This picture is a larger model of what the finished Memorial will look like.

Our tour guide told us he thinks it will take another 70 years to complete the Memorial. He told us it all started with a dream of one person, and that dream lives on today. After Korczak Ziolkollski died, his wife and children continue his work today. The Memorial, when completely finished, will include not only the sculpture of Crazy Horse, but also a Indian Museum of North America, and a Medical College for students to earn up to a Doctoral Degree in the medical field.

I found the Crazy Horse Memorial to be a very beautiful, and emotional place. I could feel the sense of pride from the people working in the various areas of the Memorial, from the front gate, to the gift shop, and especially from the tour guides. What a great tribute to honor the Native American Indians.

Next week Bill and I are taking the 1880 train that runs from Hill City to Keystone. And, the week after that, we are going to the Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper & Music Variety Show. The show lets out in time for us to get to the evening lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore. All of these events are offered free to us through the VIP  Training Cards we were given so we can see first hand all the Black Hills has to offer visitors. We will then be better prepared to talk about all of these attractions with our visitors to the Custer State Park Visitor Center.

Stay Tuned!

Missed Opportunity

This past weekend, I was scheduled to open, and work the first shift at the Wildlife Station Visitor Center, which sits half way around the Wildlife Loop road. When we work any of the remote visitor centers, we are assigned a state vehicle to drive. I picked up my assigned vehicle at the main visitor at about 7:00 a.m.  and started my route to the wildlife station visitor center. Normally, the drive from the main visitor center to the wildlife station visitor center takes about 15-20 minutes, and it is a beautiful country road drive.

I always think of the TV show, Little House on the Prairie, when I drive the wildlife loop road. So peaceful, and tranquil…

It’s not at all unusual to see one, two, three, or four big bull bison along the road while driving to the wildlife station visitor center.

 

And, I always get excited when I do see one, two, three, or four bison on my way to open that visitor center…

However, on this particular morning, I was all by myself, and the only vehicle on the road at that time in the morning, when I suddenly came upon what must have been at least 200 bison cows with their calfs. I mean they were all over the road and walking directly towards me. I have never seen so many bison in one spot in my life, not even when we spent the summer going in and out of Yellowstone Park. We would see maybe six or eight causing a little road jam in Yellowstone, but nothing like what I came up on while I was driving this road… I had to stop because there was no getting around ,or through them, and they just kept walking towards me and surrounded my vehicle. They stopped and started licking my doors, headlights, and tires. I tell you I was so scared. My heart was pounding, and I just kept asking God to please make them keep moving on down the road so I could get on down the road to open the visitor center. I didn’t have any other thought in my head except to get past them, so of course I never thought to get my phone out and take a picture… Duh!!

Finally, that herd of bison decided to move on down the road. And with my heart racing, and my knees shaking, I did the same in the opposite direction. I said a quick prayer to thank Jesus for getting me out of that situation, and I was thinking to myself, “ok, I got through that, I can handle this now” and I continued on my way to open the wildlife visitor center.

Imagine my surprise , and picture my face, when I got a couple miles down the road, and came across yet another herd of bison even bigger than the other. As I was looking down this stretch of road, I couldn’t see the end of the bison that were coming right towards me again. They were everywhere again! Oh no, here we go again… And, again, they surrounded my vehicle, licking it and just standing there looking at me looking at them… I guess I hadn’t had enough time to recover from the last herd, so again I was just to scared, and nervous, to even think about getting my phone out to get a picture…

Now, after getting through all that for the very first time on my own, and having time to appreciate the fact that I did get through it, by the grace of God, my only regret is that I let my fear get the better of me, and I missed a perfect opportunity to capture that many bison in one place on the wildlife loop road…

Eventually, after a 15-20 minute drive became a 45 minute drive, I made it to the wildlife station visitor center, and open it for the day. About two hours after I opened, at least one of the large herds I encountered made their way to the wildlife visitor center. I mean they were all over the place. This would have been the perfect opportunity for me to capture a picture of the size of the herd, except for the fact that the bison were just on the other side of the fence you see in the next picture, and believe it or not, children and their parents, were sitting on the fence trying to get pictures.. Sounds like what is a fun thing to do, but for the fact that now the visitors are in a danger zone, and it is my duty to warn them that bison can jump that fence, and they can run 35 miles per hour… So it is NOT a good idea to get that close to the bison, especially, this herd of cows with their calfs.. There was even one mother that was trying to get her 10-12 yr old son to go beyond the fence and stand right by one of the bison so she could get a picture of him beside the bison. Thankfully, another park worker saw that and stopped it immediately. I mean, come on folks, all we can do is warn you, but if you don’t want to listen… that’s where ┬áthese types of incidents make the news…

Now that I have encountered two large herds of bison while driving by myself for the first time, I believe the next time, instead of being scared, I will reach for my phone, and capture the moment so I don’t have to regret a missed opportunity…

Stay Tuned!

Wildlife Station Visitor Center

Our training manual for Custer State Park says “The Wildlife Station Visitor Center in Custer State Park is a satellite interpretive and educational facility within the park that focuses on the wildlife and mixed-grass prairie habitate. It complements the overall program by providing quests services along one of the most popular scenic byways within the Black Hills, the Wildlife Loop Road, allowing visitors to take a break and enjoy the unique prairie setting”. This Visitor Center is one of four Visitor Centers within the park that the Volunteer Hosts rotate through when working our assigned schedules.

I love the way this park utilizes every bit of available space, including floor space, to provide educational information to the guests that come here.

The building was originally built in 1938 as the Herdsman’s home. In 1987, it was converted from a park residence to a visitor center.

I love that the park has dedicated a Visitor Center that is dedicated to the grasslands here in the park, and they provide so much educational information about the animals that live in these grasslands. Like Prairie Dog Town. Prairie dogs dig their holes for their families to live in underground, but all sorts of other creatures, like snakes, and burrowing owls, get in them and take over them for their own homes that they didn’t have to build. The black-footed ferret is a predator of the prairie dogs. They go right down into the prairie dogs dens and kill them while they are sleeping.

Visitors learn that “many animals can no longer follow their historic migration patterns to seek better grazing range. So resource managers within the park work to ensure a balance between health of the range and health of the animals who call it home”.


The Coyote is the state animal in South Dakota

 

The Wildlife Visitor Center also lets visitors know about all the animals of Custer State Park.

This sign is the source of lots of comical responses from visitors. It really tells what coyote’s eat, but because it says “coyote cafe”, many visitors don’t really read all the sign says like the “crunch platter, that says pick any two beetle species” and as a result they come up to us and ask how they can get to the coyote cafe… I swear you can’t make this stuff up. Just yesterday a visitor came in and asked “why we only shave half of the bison and leave all that fur around their heads”? Makes me wonder where some of these folks come from that they don’t know the bison are shedding their winter fur…

 

Now here is a face only a mother could love… I didn’t realize we had Porcupines in Custer State Park.

 

Bill and I haven’t been out enough yet to get to see the Bighorn Sheep that roam free within the park. We’ve been too busy getting trained and working our first real shifts…

 

 

 

All the Visitor Centers have information on Custer’s Expedition to the Black Hills..

 

I love the Cathedral Spires within the park. They are so majestic. We saw lots of them when we drove Needles Highway.

This is the barn that was built when the Herdsman’s home was built. It is used now as a picnic area for visitors. Every morning the host working at this Visitor Center, opens the barn doors, wipes off the picnic tables inside, and raises the flags. Then we go inside the Visitor Center and get it ready to open for the day.

 

This picture is the view from the back of the barn. This whole park is so beautiful, but the Wildlife Station Visitor Center area is one of my favorite places within the park.

Bill bought this handy, dandy, little flashlight so if the power ever goes out while working, I will at least have this to provide some light. It winds up so you never have to buy batteries. How cool is that.

And, it really puts out a lot of light. I’m all set now to do my job come rain or shine…


Stay tuned for more fun in South Dakota!

Getting Settled In Custer State Park

If you follow my blog, you know by now that my husband, Bill, and I are hosting in any one of four Visitor Centers, in Custer State Park, in South Dakota. We are so excited to be here, and just like any other visitor to Custer State Park, we are always excited to see the many Bison that roam freely throughout the park. This big boy wandered freely through our campsite,

 

and stopped to look at me, taking a picture of him, through our bedroom window. It was raining that day but I still liked this picture of him through the rain drops…

Bison are THE number one animal most visitors want to see in the park, so much so, that we actually get a Bison report every morning at the four Visitor Center’s throughout the park, that let us know where the Bison are so we can let the visitor’s know.

Of course, there are lots and lots of other animals roaming freely in the park. We get visited by a herd of dear every morning and evening at or campsite, and I get excited to see them as well.

Once we got settled into our campsite, we ventured out to find a Catholic Church to attend when we are off on Sunday’s . We are not always off on Sunday, but when we are, we attend Mass. The closest Catholic Church to us is in the City of Custer, which is only about 13 miles from our campsite. It’s a small church, but I love the small town feeling of being welcomed this church provides.

 

So after a week long, whirlwind, most amazing orientation/training we have ever had at any park we’ve hosted at, we are ready to begin our hosting duties here in Custer State Park. We received our official South Dakota State Park uniforms, and are ready to start helping our visitor’s have an amazing experience here in Custer State Park.

We were told during or orientation/training ,that sometimes there could be one, or a herd of 400 Bison outside your door at any given time. The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter if there is one, or a whole herd, you can NOT go outside if you have a Bison within 75 yards of the structure you are in. Bison can run 35 miles per hour, so obviously, with this big boy right outside our door, we weren’t going anywhere until he decided to leave… Or, we would have to call for assistance to help him move on down the road… How may people do you know that can call into work late because they have a Bison blocking their path to their car? ­čÖé

We are loving our experience here in Custer State Park.

Stay Tuned!

Custer South Dakota Orientation

Bill and I are all settled into our home for the summer in Custer State Park, South Dakota. What a beautiful and magical place. We arrived on May 7th, and on May 9th, we began a very exciting orientation that started in the main Visitor Center, where we will host. This visitor center has a 100 seat theater, where we were saw a movie of the history of Custer State Park. We then spent the morning being introduced to all of the permanent staff, and learned what their responsibilities are, and the seasonal paid workers, and what they do, along with all the other volunteer staff, like us,  that will be working in various areas throughout the park.

When lunchtime rolled around, we were loaded into vans that took us on tours of specific areas within the park so we could get an understanding where things are located within the park. With over 71,000 acres of park land, housing 4 Visitor Centers, there is a lot to learn about how each Visitor Center is different from the others. As Visitor Center Hosts, we will rotate through each of the four Visitor Centers according to our weekly schedules. But before we made a stop at the Visitor Center of the day, we were treated to lunch in one of the many restaurants within the area.

After lunch on day one, we visited the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Visitor Center. We will host here as well. This building serves as the base for the majority of the interpretive and educational programs offered within the park, it’s the primary location where visitors can interact with park naturalist and participate in hands-on-activities, learn about wildlife and the plants of the park, and pick up a junior Naturalist booklet. The focus of the center is a kid-friendly adventure to “Discover How to Explore”.

 

 

 

 

There are lots of interactive things to see, touch, open,

and learn about while looking both up and down along your way.

Information like how to make sure you have a backpack that is truly ready to meet your needs out on the trails.

And information on what you might want to look for within the park when you’re out hiking, camping etc.

There are lots of camouflage things on the floor designed to show you how easy it is to miss things if you’re not paying attention. Do you see the snake on the ground?

The outside of the building is another opportunity for children to explore. There is an opening designed to look like what might have been a gold mine. As the kids, or adults, get closer, they can see specks in the rocks that may or may not have been gold…

Our next stop was Badger Hole, another Visitor Center where we will host. This was the home of Charles “Badger” Clark (1883-1957). South Dakota’s first poet laureate. He wrote poems such as A Cowboy’s Prayer, I Must Come Back, and other poems, verse, and short stories that are popular among South Dakotan’s, cowboys, and travelers from all over the world.

 

After Clark’s death on September 26,, 1957, the Badger Hole was acquired by the state from his heirs on the condition that it is maintained as a museum. Everything, his personal belongings, library, clothing, antiques, etc. is to be maintained just as he left them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we took a tour of the wildlife loop in the park. Lots and lots of Bison roaming freely throughout the park.

 

Again, we were treated to lunch at yet another restaurant within the park, and then we toured the Wildlife Station Visitor Center. No pictures of that yet, but stay tuned for more on that later.

At our next stop we visited the Corrals where they bring in all the Bison during the annual Bison roundup at the end of September. Bill and I won’t be here for that because we will be on our way back to Arizona for our winter hosting positions at McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

At the Corrals we learned that all the Bison are rounded up at the end of September every year. This is a huge visitor draw, and lots and lots of people come out to watch the roundup. Cowboys on horseback drive the bison to the holding corrals, and it is all hands on deck to ensure they get weighed, tagged, and the bulls get separated from the cows.

And as needed, they get vaccinated,

and branded with an (S) that identifies them as state Bison.

About 250 Bison are sold at the Bison roundup, the rest are set free to continue to roam freely throughout the park for another year.

It’s all so beautiful and exciting here in Custer State Park. We are impressed with the detailed orientation we are receiving, and that will be followed with on the job training as we rotate through the four different visitor centers throughout the park.

Stay tuned for updates as we learn more about our jobs within each Visitor Center, and as we get out and about to explore all this amazing state has to offer.

 

Looking For Customer Service

What ever happened to the days when people went to work, and did the job they were paid to do regardless if it is your dream job, or a job you are doing until you find your dream job? What happened to showing up to work everyday and providing the best customer service you can provide, because you signed on to give your best when you took the job you have now?

If you follow my blog, you know my husband, Bill, and I, have a daughter, Shantel, that is totally blind, but she has never let that get in the way of her living her life to the best of her ability each and everyday. She has a job in a call center, that just so happens to be in the customer service field, and she shows up everyday anxious to do her best to provide the best service she can for each and every call she takes.

The past two weeks Shantel has been working a lot of overtime, because the main call center for the company she works for is located back east, and they have been hit with extreme cold weather, that caused a lot of folks to not be able to make it into their jobs. So, all the east coast calls were rerouted to the Phoenix based call center where Shantel works. This caused Shantel to have to work ten-hour days, then deal with the two-hour Dial-a-Ride ride service two and from work. Dial-a-Ride is another whole nightmare story, in regards to customer service, but that will have to wait for another blog posting.

When I talked to Shantel today, she told me that last night she decided to treat herself when she finally got home from work, and use Uber Eats, to order her food and have it delivered to her. ┬áI Googled Uber Eats and found the following information. “Uber Eats is a food delivery platform that makes getting great food from your favorite local restaurants as easy as requesting a ride. Uber Eats is the easy way to get the food you love delivered” Shantel has used Uber Eats several times in the past with no problems. So, because she was tired, and just wanted to order her food, eat, take a shower, and go to bed so she could get up and do her job well again the next day, she called Uber Eats and placed her order. She told me she always tells them she is visually impaired, and needs to have her order delivered to her door. In the past, this has never been a problem. However, last night, the driver called her when she was in the parking lot of Shantel’s apartment complex, and told her she didn’t want to walk to Shantel’s door with the food because it was too dark… She told Shantel she would leave her food order in the parking lot and left!! There is no way Shantel could have ever found her food order in the parking lot, and there is no way she should ever have to do that. Shantel called and made a complaint to the Uber Eats customer service line but they just told her “they will look into it”. I am beyond appalled at the lack of not only customer service by Uber Eats, but also the lack of common decency, for our fellow human beings ,by the Uber Eats delivery driver that told Shantel she would leave her food order in the parking lot and left, even though she knew Shantel is blind. If that woman was afraid to deliver the food order to Shantel’s door in the dark, perhaps she shouldn’t be working for a delivery service at night!

Shantel has also used Grubhub, which is another food deliver service, and found them to have excellent door delivery service. However, Grubhub doesn’t deliver from some of Shantel’s favorite restaurants.

Of course as her mother, I’m always upset when I hear about some of the obstacles Shantel has to deal with in her daily life. I know we all face obstacles in our lives, but sometimes I just think Shantel gets her share, and then some… However, being the beautiful, old soul ,that she is, Shantel never lets any of it get her down. She just keeps on going ,and makes the very best of what she has to work with… I asked her what she did for dinner last night since it was late, and her food order (that was already paid for) was left somewhere in the parking lot, and it was too late to start cooking dinner…? She laughed, and said “lucky for me, I found a can of soup in the cupboard”.

That’s our girl! We love you Shantel.

Stay Tuned!

 

 

Previous Older Entries

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On the Road Since 2010, Traveling Across USA & Europe With 12 Paws

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the next few years

family life..with a unique perspective of motherhood

Gotham Girl Chronicles

a mixture of random musings...life in NYC...travel...photography...cycling

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Living An Active Full Life

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