May 16, 2018 Interior, South Dakota

Badlands Stormy Skies
Badlands Stormy Skies

A Couple Days Exploring Badlands National Park

Badlands Morning Color
Badlands Morning Color

I continue to rack up the miles in the poor old Prius driving the roads through the park.

Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors

The sun rises very early here on the eastern edge of the Mountain Time Zone, so I am out the door by 6AM and head west through the park with the sun at my back.

Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors

The colors are constantly changing depending on time of day and weather.

Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors
Sam Exploring the Badlands
Sam Exploring the Badlands

Sam is still active enough to want to accompany me out to spots to take photos, but is left in the dust by her new companion Pearl.

Badlands Stormy Skies
Badlands Stormy Skies

Stormy skies to the west change the feel of the landscape. Daytime temperatures have been in the high 80’s but the evenings cool down fast for comfortable sleeping.

Clouds Over the Badlands
Clouds Over the Badlands

Gorgeous cumulus clouds cast shadows on the landscape

Badlands Bighorn Sheep
Badlands Bighorn Sheep

I encounter a small group of Bighorn Rams each morning …

Badlands Bighorn Sheep
Badlands Bighorn Sheep
Badlands Bighorn Sheep
Badlands Bighorn Sheep

… and again as I return back to camp in the afternoon.

Badlands Bighorn Sheep
Badlands Bighorn Sheep
Badlands Prairie Dogs
Badlands Prairie Dogs

There are numerous Prairie Dog communities throughout the park and the surrounding  cattle grazing land.

Badlands Prairie Dogs
Badlands Prairie Dogs
Badlands Prairie Dog Lookout
Badlands Prairie Dog Lookout

Some of these communities must contain hundreds if not thousands of individuals.

Badlands Prairie Dog
Badlands Prairie Dog
Badlands Prairie Dog
Badlands Prairie Dog
Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

If you scan these Prairie Dog “Towns” carefully with some binoculars, often you can spot a Burrowing Owl or two.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

Shaky images taken at a very long distance.

Bison
A Formidable Obstacle in the Road

I have encountered a few Bison bulls, but have not seen any cows and calves.

Scratching Post
Scratching Post
Bison Portrait
Bison Portrait

I had hoped to do some boon docking at the site just south of the town of Wall when I leave here Friday, but the weather is calling for some nasty weather ( possibility of large hail with violent thunderstorms ) and the road accessing those sites can get too sloppy for my rig after heavy rains, so I will continue to head west to Yellowstone and hope I can find a place to stay.

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May 14, 2018 Interior, South Dakota

Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Probably not necessary to put a name to this location as most people are likely to know where these shots were taken. I arrived here last night and settled in at the Badlands Interior Motel and Campground. I hated to stay in a commercial campground when the Badlands has one of the best boon docking areas that exist, but I had to order new Tow Dolly Basket Straps  ( used to tie down the Prius’ front tires to the tow dolly ) or risk dropping the car somewhere along the highway. And I had to have an address to have them shipped to and this was what I came up with.  They should be here Thursday and then perhaps I will move on to the boon docking area.

( Right clicking on any image will open a larger, sharper version of the photo in a new tab or window )

Badlands Peaks
Badlands Peaks
Badlands Peaks
Badlands Peaks

I was here many years ago and really don’t remember much about the park, so this is sort of a new experience for me.

Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors

First thing this morning I drove west on the park loop road and was blessed with some sun and blue skies to the west after two days of rain.

Yellow Hills
Yellow Hills

Pretty spectacular colors along the drive, made more so by the presence of green, lush grass, thanks to the unusual amount of rain this area has gotten this spring.

Yellow Hills
Yellow Hills
Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors
Yellow Hills
Yellow Hills
Badlands Bighorns
Badlands Bighorns

I found some Bighorn Sheep not far from the road, some of then kind enough to settle in amongst some flowers.

Badlands Bighorns
Badlands Bighorns
Badlands Bighorns
Badlands Bighorns
Badlands Bighorns
Badlands Bighorns

At the end of the loop road, I drove the nine miles in to check out the changes at Wall Drug. What I remembered as an all but stand alone tourist trap years ago, is now surrounded by commercial development.

Because of the recent rains, some of the drives in the park are gated closed, most likely impassably muddy. Hope they dry out quick! More on the Badlands coming … I hope.

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September 3, 2016 Estes Park, Colorado

Cow Elk
Cow Elk

Strange Morning, Great Day

Saturday’s forecast had called for clear skies and beautiful weather, so I was a little surprised to see clouds obscuring some of the stars as I packed my gear in the Prius and left the campsite for Trail Ridge around 5 AM.

Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
The Start of a Strange Morning on Trail Ridge

As I started the climb up Ridge Road, I stopped for a couple sunrise shots, made more impressive by the threatening skies moving in.

Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge

There was a weird red/magenta glow in the sky as dark clouds began to dominate the skies the higher up the road I climbed.

Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Trail Ridge Rainbow
Trail Ridge Rainbow

As I neared the top, I stopped and hopped out of the car as a fairly bright rainbow suddenly appeared out of the gloom. I was so close to the rainbow, I couldn’t get the entire thing in a photo even with a 20mm wide angle lens, felt like I could just about reach out and touch it at times.

Trail Ridge Rainbow
Trail Ridge Rainbow

The rainbow increased in intensity as the wind began whipping rain sideways, and, unfortunately, right in my face as I attempted more shots, covering the lens, and me, in rain and forcing me to retreat to the car.

Trail Ridge Rainbow
Trail Ridge Rainbow

I raced farther up the road hoping in vain to escape the windblown rain so I could get more shots of one of the most intense rainbows I have ever seen, but as I drove on, the rainbow faded and eventually all but the tail end disappeared before I could get out of the driving rain.

Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
From Trail Ridge
From Trail Ridge

By 8 AM, the rains stopped, the clouds slowly lifted and the good weather promised for today started moving in.

Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn Sheep

On my way back down the mountain, I spotted four Bighorn Rams grazing on the slope above me, but unfortunately, there was no nearby pullout and the Saturday morning stream of traffic coming up the mountain made it impossible for me to get any decent shots.

Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn Sheep

Since these guys were the only Bighorn Sheep I had encountered in my two weeks here, I was more than a little disappointed, to say the least.

Bull Elk
Bull Elk

By the time I returned to the valley floor, the wonderful weather predicted for today had fully arrived. And with it my first opportunity to shoot some nice bull elk basking in the early morning sun.

Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Two Bull Elk
Uneasy Peace

This actually was my first opportunity to shoot elk with some wonderful golden hour light, all my previous encounters have been in the dim light of dawn or duck, or in complete shade.

Two Bull Elk
Uneasy Peace
Bull Elk Sparring
Bull Elk Sparring

These two younger bulls would alternate grazing and semi serious sparring sessions.

Bull Elk Sparring
Bull Elk Sparring
Bull Elk in Retreat
Bull Elk in Retreat

One of them finally tired of the game and headed across the meadow at a full gallop.

Chapel on the Rock
Chapel on the Rock

Later in the afternoon, I took a short trip back down Route 7 to get some shots of The Chapel on the Rock. I liked the dark clouds setting off the sculpture on the hill above the chapel. When I was here several years ago, I remember this building being surrounded by water, actually appearing to be built on an island, so something has changed here in the last few years.

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August 22, 2016 Twin Lakes, Colorado

St. Elmo Hummingbird Feeder
St. Elmo Hummingbird Feeder

Day Trip to Saint Elmo, Pronghorns and Bighorn Sheep

Love the feeder hangers at the general store in the ghost town of St. Elmo, if I weren’t homeless, I’d have to find some of these to hang around my house.

St. Elmo General Store
St. Elmo General Store

Other than the general store, there really isn’t all that much to see in St. Elmo, though I did get a kick out of the assortment of rodents being fed in the fallen down remnants of a building across the street from the general store.

St. Elmo Feeding Area
St. Elmo Feeding Area

Two kinds of ground squirrel, least chipmunks, pine siskins, and  juncos, all gorging on sunflower seeds.

White Rock Mountains
White Rock Mountains

On the road up to St. Elmo, I passed these white rock mountains, quite stunning set against the Colorado blue sky.

White Rock Mountains
White Rock Mountains
White Rock Mountains
White Rock Mountains
Along the Back Road to Leadville
Along the Back Road to Leadville

Rather than drive the main highway from my campsite at Lakeview, I found a “shortcut” that went up and over the hills and then paralleled the highway as it made it’s way to Leadville. I drove this road several times after seeing pronghorns in the distance one morning.

Pronghorn Antelope
Pronghorn Antelope

Finally, one afternoon I ran into the herd moving at a fast clip along the ridge between the dirt road and the highway.

Pronghorn Antelope
Pronghorn Antelope
Pronghorn Antelope
Pronghorn Antelope

The lone male takes up a guard position in the rear and drives his harem toward a new grazing area.

Pronghorn Antelope
Pronghorn Antelope

So fortunate to catch them as they stopped atop this ridge gazing back at me, before disappearing down the hill.

Bighorn Ewe and Lamb
Bighorn Ewe and Lamb

On my last early morning trip up to Independence Pass, I came across a small band of bighorn ewes with a solitary lamb, kind enough to pose for a couple shots before slowly grazing up the side of the mountain.

Bighorn Ewe and Lamb
Bighorn Ewe and Lamb

I broke camp at Lakeview and drove 6 miles south to spend one night at the Clear Creek Reservoir dispensed camping area before heading north to Estes Park for a couple weeks of exploring the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Being more than a little concerned about the motorhome’s ability to climb the 8 mile grade on I-70 up to the Eisenhower Tunnel, I managed to find a shop in Buena Vista that could take me in to have the ignition wires and spark plugs replaced. For the last month or so, I could feel the engine sputtering a bit under heavy load and realized that I definitely was experiencing a loss of power. Anyone familiar with the Workhorse Vortex 8.1L engine would recognize the probable cause of this power loss … this is the fourth set of wires and plugs I have had done in 65,000 miles. A couple years ago, I finally had the Workhorse recommended fix for this installed, a pair of 3 inch fresh air lines that direct cool air up and back to the rear of the engine. I had hoped that would cure the problem, but obviously it did not, though it possibly did extend the time interval between having to replace ignition wires and spark plugs.

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