Golden wintry scenery, that is.  On December 10, thirteen Black Hills Explorers went in search of outdoor adventure on Deer Creek Trail near Silver City.  What they found was a bitterly cold trail with a silver lining that evolved as the day went on, to a toasty golden sunny landscape that was seasonally decorated with beautiful ice formations of all shapes and sizes along Rapid Creek.

The trek crisscrossed six impressive heavy-timber pedestrian bridges, and passed between deep, vertical canyon walls of rock warmed by the direct rays from a low winter sun.

The entire trail is on an old railway bed, with smooth surface and gradual slope.  However, that did not prevent having to deal with slippery footing on ice and snow.  As part of the day’s adventure, trip leader Lee Alley provided a short seminar on how to select and use snow shoes on various trail conditions such as found that day.

To learn of next month’s program, see the Black Hills Explorers’ web site, www.BlackHillsExplorers.org or call group leader Lee Alley at 605.863.0806.  To receive activity announcements, and to get last minute alerts on travel changes, send your email address to Lee@LeeAlleyRealEstate.com. 

We Found a Golden Winter's Day Near Silver City

The purpose of the Black Hills Explorers is to explore new knowledge, activities and places in the Black Hills in order to better appreciate where we live.  The group normally meets the second Saturday of each month by 8:15AM at the Canyon Lake Center (but check each time, for occasional re-scheduling).   Sign up at least two days prior, in the Canyon Lake Center office.  Van seating is first-come/first-served for pre-signups. Be sure to read the special Participation Guidelines for each trip when you sign up. 


No Exploration Activity for November

Sorry to say, we will not have a monthly Explorers activity this month of November.  

We -will- meet on December 10 at CLSC.  Please sign up in the CLSC office at least two days before, by 5PM Wednesday, December 7 if you want to reserve space on the van (first-signed...first-seated).  We've had a number of recommendations for checking out the Little Devil's Tower area.  If you have an alternate suggestion please let me know.  See you all on December 10!


PS:  We've had a number of folks indicate an interest in snow-shoeing in January - March some time.  If that interests you, then you may want to get your request in to Santa for some snow shoes, and (I highly recommend) two adjustable-height hiking poles.  



Many of us in the bee club suffered through the summer with our new nucs of fledgling colonies doing very little to prepare for winter.  Every spring the hives are supposed to awaken at around 60 degrees, to start the 6-month rush to make enough honey to live on over the next winter.  That's the annual cycle.  Supposedly. 

My first colony two years ago went gangbusters from the start, with lots of excess honey in the fall to share with humans.  This year, my four colonies will be lucky to make it through the looming winter with enough honey.  They need that energy to beat wings all day, all night, every day, clustered around the queen to keep her at 92 degrees even when it's 20-below outside.  Good luck, Ms. Queen and all the attendants. 

Here is how they looked on September 18, 2011, over three months after receiving the shipment from a new supplier in Nebraska:

After 3 months, almost nothing to show.

Seem to be in no big hurry toward the white plastic frames.

But, they are avoiding these wood frames, too.
They seem to avoid the plastic frames, building upward to the feeder instead.
Bottom of feeder

Detail of feeder bottom



The fall season’s first chill was in the air on October 8 and autumn leaves were abundant on the trees.  It was time for the Black Hills Explorers’ (First) Annual Fall Foliage Photo Fling.  And few places better to find colorful outdoor scenery than Horse Thief Trail, from the lake of same name to Mt. Rushmore. 

Horse Thief Trail is a short three-mile route deep in the forest, mostly in ravines and draws with trickling brooks, and surrounded by towering granite pinnacles.  But mostly, the Explorers were on this particular route on this day, in search of the yellows, oranges and reds of fluttering fall leaves.  And they weren’t disappointed.  For three delightful hours the club strolled among the flashing rainbow colored leaves, while protected from the chill wind by giant grey granite monoliths.
Vern Thorstensen, Bev Schlosser, Stan __, Cathy Schofield, Gigi Kern, Jim Kern

A photographer's dreamscape

Jim and Gigi Kern stirring up leaves

What's a hike without a quaint bridge?

and a beautiful mountain brook?

Cathy Schofield scouting a meadow

"Kinnickinnic"?   These berries were prolific.  They are quite tastey, but with a strange texture.  Vern Thorstenson seemed to know all about them.  
Photo by Bev Schlosser



Most of us know about Bear Butte, a stand-alone monolith towering 1,200 feet above the prairie just east of Sturgis. But did you know it was originally formed 2,000 feet underground?  On September 10 the Black Hills Explorers climbed high to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Photo (c) 2011 Lee Alley
The Butte, called Mato Paha (“Bear Mountain”) by the Sioux Indians, is so named for its resemblance to a reclining bear in eternal sleep resulting from combat injuries.  On this trip, the Explorers were joined by geology professor Alvis Lissenbee, who has studied the geology of the area extensively.  Lissenbee explained that around 50 million years ago, this entire area was covered by a lake bed 2,000 feet above the current prairie. Then, Dr. Lissenbee explained, molten magma (quartz monzonite) from far below was thrust upward into higher underground cavities.  That is the same extra-hard material of the boulders and needles around Mt. Rushmore.  However, the magma that formed what is now Bear Butte chilled more quickly, resulting in its highly fragmented small pieces.  Eventually the softer sandstone and shale over and around this mass has eroded, swept toward the Gulf of Mexico, leaving the Butte to stand 1,200 feet above its surroundings.  We were also joined by one of the park rangers who helped us appreciate the long-held deeply spiritual place of Bear Butte in Lacota culture.  There was an impressive display of items used in Lacota spiritual practices.

Like walking on tennis balls.
On this adventure the Explorers were made uncomfortably aware of the small talus rocks that formed the Butte, as they rolled and slid under underfoot.  The trip to the top was long, steep, hot, and sometimes precarious.  If one goes, it should be noted that some of the stairs are difficult to manage, and some in need of repair.  However, the reward for reaching the summit was a delightful 360-degree panorama of the entire Black Hills skyline, from Crow Peak west of Spearfish, to The Needles south of Harney Peak, plus the vastness of the surrounding prairie.

Some of many steps along the way.
(Sorry, Google's Blogger insists on us hiking sideways!)
On October 8 the Explorers will celebrate its first annual Fall Foliage Foto Tour, this year along the Horse Thief Lake Trail.  The purpose of the Black Hills Explorers is to explore new knowledge, activities and places in the Black Hills in order to better appreciate where we live.  The group normally meets the second Saturday of each month by 8:15AM at the Canyon Lake Center (but check each time, for occasional re-scheduling).   Sign up at least two days prior, in the Canyon Lake Center office.  Van seating is first-come/first-served for pre-signups.  For questionable weather, check the web site prior to leaving. 

More information about the Black Hills Explorers can be found at www.BlackHillsExplorers.org or by calling Lee Alley at 605.863.0806.  Any person of any age is invited to accompany the Black Hills Explorers’ activities, and encouraged to join the Canyon Lake Center.  Be sure to read the special Participation Guidelines for each trip when you sign up. 

What's in a name?  The first to summit:
Kathleen, Kathy, Cathy and Kathryn.
Too bad my wife, Kathryn wasn't able to come.

Well, hey.  Why not?  Google's software won't allow this upright either!
This is Dr. Alvis Lissenbee describing how the Black Hills were formed sideways.
The Black Hills Explorers

Thanks, Clint, for this GPS track of our route.



Have you ever wanted to take great pictures of your adventures, then share them with friends and family?  On August 13, members of The Black Hills Explorers attended a workshop at the Canyon Lake Center to improve their skills in taking digital photo’s, enhancing the photo’s on a computer, then sharing the results with friends and family.  As part of the workshop, members practiced their new skills with a “field trip” to photograph scenery, close-ups of flowers and critters, and portraits of friends.

The workshop covered three aspects of digital photography.  The first topic “exposed” essential facts about the inner workings of a digital-image computer file, how to set the cameral to take the best pictures, and what the photographer can do to help the camera do its best job.  In the second segment, participants learned how to move the digital photo’s from the camera to a PC, and then how to edit (“tweek”) each photo’s size, framing, color, brightness, and even clarity.  In the third and final workshop segment the new photographers learned how to organize their photo’s on a PC, how to set up an online album, and how to email photo’s to friends and family. 
These Are Glamorous Models Recruited for the Pictures

Kathy Goodrich-Wilmes Snaps a Close-up Flower Photo

Instructor Lee Alley editing one of his photo's.



I heard about a book written in, I think, 1924 that claims chickens benefit as much from feathers for warmth as people do if we make coats out of their feathers.  

The book also claims chickens suffer more from moist, musty, deseased, pest-ridden enclosed chicken houses than from exposure to cold.  Hmmmm....who woulda thought, keeping chickens warm with a form-fitting feather coat.    The author, an MD, made extensive studies of commercial and research chicken operations in the northeastern states and concluded the best chicken house is not closed to keep them warm, but rather open on one side to keep their air fresh.  Cold fresh air over warm, dank air.  

However, my night vision videos disclosed we have a pair of foxes living on our property.  They would love an open front chicken buffet.

However, the book's author admitted that on the most bitterly cold blizzards it is ok to enclose the chicken house.  We also respect that chickens are just plain happier and more productive when not laying eggs pre-frozen.


Nervous Deer and Fanciful Foxes at Our Forest Pond in Piedmont, SD

I placed a motion-activated trail camera on a tree trunk, overlooking the water's edge of a pond on one of our properties in the Black Hills, SD.


Nervous Deer and Fanciful Foxes
Well, that doe is apparently still dating that worthless buck.  Even after he failed to rescue her from the Invisible Pond-monster.  In the non-color scenes, the two are out on a midnight date, by infra-red light.  Maybe she doesn't want to be seen with him in daylight any more.

In the Frantic Deer scene, we believe the little fella is being stung by wasps.  These wasps' stings are far more potent than a simple honey bee.

I think this pair of foxes used our free-range chicken flock as a buffet before the chickens learned to go in to the hen house at night.

Stay tuned.  More to come.



The goats and I were kinda bummed-lonesome with Jane gone so we decided to cheer ourselves up with a walk in the woods and to high places.  It worked.  It sure cheers things up to wander around nibbling on Mother Nature's grass and Grandma Jane's sausage biscuits.
Custer with Bear Butte in Background

Saving the Good Stuff for Later


Just some random glimpses of the faces of a wonderful life at Ten Green Acres in South Dakota.  Nothing like it.  

Goose Eye
Cat's Eye

Goose Eye
Eagle Eye

Glass Eye

Haunted Eye