Sunday, 23 June 2013

Kayaks and Wildlife - Anglin Lake

With Andrew & Penny's sister, Clare, visiting from Victoria, we decided to take a 4-day family trip up to Anglin Lake. The weather was a real mix of sun, cloud and rain but we still managed several short kayak outings. 
Beautiful calm waters on Anglin Lake
Andrew and his sisters, Penny & Clare
A momma bear and her three very little cubs were frequent visitors around our cabins in the evenings but unfortunately this was likely due to garbage containers not being secured properly. There was a huge metal construction trash bin nearby that momma bear jumped in & out of with ease. Prior to seeing the bears we'd noted that it smelled like someone had also disposed of their food garbage here. And just outside our cabins was a wooden frame with an empty metal garbage can that the bears knocked over and pushed around. Despite this, it was fun watching the antics of the little ones but we hope their familiarization with garbage doesn't have a negative impact on them. We did let the property managers know of our concerns -- they seemed to not know about the bears.
Geese and their goslings on Anglin Lake
A goose was here.
Spring is definitely baby season in the outdoors. We saw several geese families with their baby goslings. The little ones are hilarious! Near the marina at Waskesiu there was a family in the water. The mother came up onto the ground and up over a dock area, probably about 4-6 inches in height. One by one the goslings managed to walk or jump (depending on size) up onto the platform. But one little guy just couldn't do it. He'd stand at the bottom, pump his legs and fling himself upwards only to slip off the edge. Over and over again. Then he'd go back into the water, momma would squawk at him to get back and try again. This happened several times . . . with the McKinlay clan watching and cheering him on. By the time we left, I'm not sure if I was laughing more at the gosling or the clan!

We also saw several baby deer and elk along the highway and turned into those annoying tourists who go really, really slowly or park their vehicle to watch the animals as if they've never one before. As Andrew took photos (and directed me to back up, go forward, stop, etc.) Penny, Clare & I instructed the deer and/or elk to put their heads up, pay attention to the paparazzi and assured them that photo release documents were being sent to their email accounts and that we'd send photos they could post on their Facebook pages and tweet out to all their friends. Yes, we had some good laughs! 

All in all, it was a great few days. 
Evening at Anglin Lake
Sunset on Anglin Lake
Clare at Hanging Hearts Lake
Beaver artwork by the boardwalk around Waskesiu River
Andrew & Clare
Andrew & I
Clare & Andrew on Anglin Lake
Anglin Lake

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Needles and the Badlands

After so recently coming from Skaha, climbing in the Needles was quite different. While Skaha has nice edgy holds, the Needles is mostly about trusting your feet to stick, plastering your hands to the rock and then praying to the good balance gods to keep you upright. Nevertheless, the granite spires are really a lot of fun to climb and have suitably descriptive names such as Shark's Fin, Shark's Tooth, Pointy Little Devil and The Tit.

We've climbed in the Sylvan Lake and Cathedral Spires areas on previous trips to South Dakota but a new guidebook in the gear store in Hill City steered us to a couple climbing areas along the Mount Rushmore highway,  Magna Carta and South Seas. Despite cloudy days with the sporadic sound of thunder and an evening hour-long storm that brought loud crashing thunder, a disco-like lightening show and buckets of rain, it didn't interfere with two great climbing days.

(Whether you're a climber or not, if you've never been to this area before be sure to take a drive along the Needles Highway from Sylvan Lake. Spectacular and dramatic scenery!)
Pointy Little Devil was a fun start to the day! Me rappelling -- photo by Andrew.
View from the top of one of the routes we climbed.
Climbers on a spire near us. Look closely. One climber on top of spire, the other in lower left part of photo.
Ride 'em cowboy! Andrew "au cheval" at the top of a narrow ridge.
We took various scenic routes on the way home, first driving the Wildlife Loop Road just east of Custer. It's mostly known for buffalo but we also saw deer, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs, and several types of birds including vultures and sage grouse. 

The drive north through Badlands National Park was quite spectacular with miles and miles of oddly shaped buttes and pinnacles with colored layers of clay and volcanic ash. 

Heading further north we followed more scenic drives found in National Geographic's Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways which took us along the Missouri River, the Sakakawea Trail, through several Indian reservations and grassland areas. Bright green was a constant color, whether from newly seeded crops or lush pasture land. 

We saw several deer and ring-necked pheasants along the highway which required one extremely heavy braking incident to prevent a baby deer from becoming a hood ornament. We even rescued a turtle from becoming part of the pavement. From a distance I thought it was a rock in the middle of the road so had moved over to miss it but then realized what it was. By the time we turned around it had scurried over to the shoulder but after taking a few photos (of course!) Andrew moved it to the relative safety of the ditch. 

One thing we really noticed on this trip was the incredible number of horses and cows we saw. Definitely spring time in ranching country with lots of small calves and foals staggering about on still unsteady legs. 

Glad to be home now. We always find the last few hours drive toward home so much more difficult than the drive away from home!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Possibly the Best Meal Ever!

After our hike in the Black Hills Andrew and I went to Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City. They are known for their Red Ass Rhubarb wine and creative wine labels. Andrew noticed a sign advertising a Chocolate Lover's Bistro they were having the following evening. Four courses featuring chocolate and paired with appropriate wines. Plus, live musical entertainment. Once we found out they could provide a vegetarian option for the main course, we made a booking without even asking the price. (It turned out to be $55 each, not bad for food, wine and entertainment.)

The appetizer course was a slice of toasted ciabatta bread topped with goat cheese and crushed cacao nibs and then drizzled in local clover honey. Very good and something easily made at home. It was paired with their Legacy Chardonnay, produced in limited supply and only available for sale to their wine club members (hence the name Legacy) so it was a treat to be able to taste it.

Goat Cheese Crostini with Cacao Nibs
The salad was local mixed greens, raspberries, orange segments, shaved white chocolate and a white chocolate and raspberry vinaigrette made with one of their honey wines. The wine pairing was Pink Slip which wasn't nearly as sweet a wine as we feared it might be.

Summer Salad with White Chocolate and Raspberry Vinaigrette

The main course for most people was a cocoa crusted pork tenderloin. The vegetarian option was a portobello mushroom stuffed with quinoa, topped with the same dry rub as the pork loin and then a layer of cheese. The rub was a spicy combination of cocoa, chili powder, cayenne pepper and some other spices, dried cherries and a red wine reduction. The combination was exquisite and probably one of best things I have ever tasted. The wine pairing was the Phat Hogg Red.

Portobella Mushroom Stuffed with Quinoa, Topped with Spicy Cocoa Chili Mix & Cheese
Dessert consisted of a small sampling of three different desserts. White chocolate soup with raspberries and mint leaves, a salted caramel chocolate torte and a dark chocolate mousse. Raspberry Honeywine finished off the wine pairing for the evening.

Trio of Chocolate
The other definite highlight of the evening was the entertainment. Montana Skies was fantastic! They are trained as classical musicians and describe their music style as "classical fusion". A guitar, a cello, a 6-string electric cello, a flute and singing bowls made up their instrument list. Added to this was some creative computer technology. Give them a listen. You won't be disappointed!

Montana Skies

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Black Hills Loop

Andrew and I left Saskatoon on Saturday morning and began the long drive south. We went back and forth between time zones, got confused, and stopped earlier than we really needed to. Oh well, we're not crazy about long driving days anyway!

We found a campground just outside of Bowman, North Dakota, and had supper at Hawk's Landing Fine Dining & Spirits. It's a bit different from Saskatoon's definition of fine dining but we had a very good fettucini alfredo and tiramisu for dessert.

On Sunday, even though it's a bit out of the way, we drove through Spearfish Canyon. We always enjoy the beautiful and dramatic scenery in this area.
Starting our hike at Iron Creek Horse Camp
By mid-afternoon we arrived at Iron Creek Horse Camp near Custer and started our hike -- a loop that included parts of the Centennial, Grizzly Creek, Iron Creek and Norbeck trails. Within the first couple hours we were able to see two of the famous four heads (aka Mount Rushmore) in the distance. The two we could see were George and Abe but my American friends would be ashamed of me for not knowing off the top of my head (pun intended), who the other two heads are.

George and Abe
We found a great campsite near a rocky outcrop so we were able to scramble up to get a view of the surrounding area.

Campsite #1
View to the northeast
Day 2 we passed by a lot of really interesting rock formations (granite spires) that make up part of the Needles. I'm sure if these were more accessible there would be climbing routes all over them, just like the ones closer to the road that we will climb later in the week.

It's easy to take a side trip from this trail and hike to the fire lookout on the top of Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota. We've already done this a couple times before on climbing rest days so passed by it this time.
Fire lookout on the top of Harney Peak (highest point in South Dakota)
Although we had plenty of time to get back to our starting point, it was a smokin' hot day and we were literally dripping in sweat so we found a nice campsite and lazed away the last half of the afternoon reading our books.

Funky rock formations in the Needles
A couple more hours in the morning and we completed our loop. This was an easy hike made only slightly harder by several fallen trees that required some up, over & around. Unfortunately many of the pine trees have been infested by pine beetles. It was also relatively quiet, meeting only six people on horseback and two sets of two hikers in the three days. Highly recommended!

A note someone left on our car. Humorous!