7.30.2003 Last weekend was one of the best weekends I have ever had. Saturday, Tam and I spent the afternoon in the historic town of Custer. The town was celebrating their anniversary. According to the newspaper there were supposed to be several activities going on, but we did not see much going on and most of the booths were in the process of shutting down. Possibly it was because we did not get out there until after 3 o’clock. So we just looked around in the various shops along Main Street. We really enjoyed the art gallery. They had this set of prints that were actually two prints in one. On the left of the print was a picture taken during General Custer’s exploration of the Black Hills area. On the right was a picture of the same area as on the left, but taken within the last ten years or so. What amazed me the most was the lack of forest and trees in the picture on the left. Whether it was due to fire or just the way the land had been back then, there were hardly any trees. But when you looked at the same picture taken just a few years ago, the same hill top would be covered by tall trees, looking like the forest we all know and love. After spending a couple of hours in Cutster, we grew quite hungry and tired. Leaving the town proper, we traveled east to the entrance of Custer State Park. Since we had purchased an annual pass last month, we just asked the ranger if there were any places close by in the park we could picnic at. He told us just around the bend was a day use area. We were quite surprised to find another beautiful lake surrounded by tall pine trees, and the best part was, there were almost no people there. Looking on a map we discovered the name of the lake to be Bismarck Lake. The grounds were clean and manicured and the water clear. Having most of the area to ourselves, we found a table in the shade and proceeded to dig in to our sandwiches and potato salad Tam had made earlier in the day. Several ducks with a couple of ducklings came by to sample our bread. We had such a good time feeding them. They would come right up around our feet and Tam was brave enough to actually touch one just for a second. We spent maybe an hour at the lake and then decided to go for a drive around the wildlife loop. We have been told in the past that evening time is the best time to do the loop as that is when all the animals are close to the road. And I have to say they were right. Several hundred bison were loitering around the area, with quite a number of baby calves. It seemed the calves and the old males were making the most racket. We were surprised at the sound the old bulls make. It really sounds like a lion roar, or at least what I hear from a lion on tv. The sound was a deep throaty grunt. A mile or so into the loop we came across a second, larger group. Here all the cars were stopped, especially on the other side of the road. And this is where I will get plenty of fodder for my other blog. The rudeness of people is something I will surely rant on for a long time. The line of cars on the other side coming towards us must have been 10-15 cars deep. The first vehicle in line was a mini-van and two kids were perched on top. Can you believe that?! After reading just last month about a Dallas man getting gored in the park because he got out of his car, I was quite concerned for the welfare of these children. I promise you one big whack by an old bull and those kids were going to be tumbling off of the vehicle. That was stupidity and rudeness. The next guy in line was a case of pure rudeness. He was driving what looked like a quite new Jeep Grand Cherokee, black in color. He was parked on the other side of the road, but with his vehicle pointed in our direction. His tailgate was open and at first I could not see the owner at all. But shortly later I had my answer. He was either a professional photographer or he was a man of means. When we finally pulled even with his vehicle, I saw that he had an expensive photo rig. I did not get a good look and the camera itself but I did see what looked to be a 1000mm-1600mm telephoto lens and the tri-pod it was mounted on. He was out of his vehicle, walking around, sitting back down and just generally being a pain. Being an amateur photographer myself, I do not condemn him for shooting pictures, but I do think it was rude to hold up everyone the way he did. If he indeed is a professional, I am sure he could find a better time, like during the week when it is not near as crowded, to get his shots. If he is another tourist like most of the people in line, he just needs to get the shot and move on. If he has enough money to afford his rig, he has enough to come back during the week and get his shots. But I will rant more on this on the other blog, that is what it is for. This one is just to let everyone know what we are doing. Back to the subject. Once we got through that mess, we continued on, not seeing much more in the way of wildlife. We saw a few pronghorns, I am not sure what they were but they were not white tail deer. We finished the trip and returned home around ten o’clock. On the way home we decided to spend the next afternoon at Sylvan Lake. Laura had to work the 11-2 shift on Sunday, so we planned to go after she got off work. We arrived at Sylvan Lake around five in the afternoon and even though there were a number of people there, we had plenty of picnic tables to choose from. Once we got all our stuff moved to the table and I started grilling, it of course started to rain. We decided to move to another table that seemed to be more sheltered from the rain. It really was not raining very hard and I did not even turn off the grill as I moved it. The drops sizzled off the lid but it kept right on cooking the steak that had been marinating all afternoon. Hundreds of people left as the rain was falling so that when it quit 20 minutes later, we nearly had the lake to ourselves once again. I tried something new on the grill this time. We took our potatoes and sliced them lengthwise in half and put them on the grill with some butter rubbed on the skin. After about 20 minutes I removed them and let me tell you, that was some of the best potatoes I have ever had. I had no idea that you grill spuds straight on the rack, but it worked great. We are going back to Sylvan Lake this Friday to watch the sun set and see if we can see a clear night sky full of stars. This time we are going to do home made burgers but of course I am going to do the spud thing on the grill again. They were just too good. Since Laura had put my camera equipment away, I had to make another trip to the vehicle (it is a good 150 yards to the parking area) to retrieve my stuff again. But I am glad I did as not one but two rainbows formed to the east. I took 2-3 shots of the rainbows hoping one will turn out. At that time it started to rain a bit again so I just put all the stuff away and Tam and I just walked around a bit. We did climb on top the boulders that jut out into the lake. They are at least 40 feet high but Tam had no problem with it. It was a bit hard on her with her leg still being quite sore, but she toughed it out. Laura was getting bored and since we both had to work the next day we decided it was time to leave with maybe an hour of daylight left. We took some new roads home and discovered some new places to visit in the future.