Expedition Team: Dave Miller, Rosie Miller
Date: June 17, 2022
After a delicious omelet and hash browns breakfast outdoors served at our Hot Springs KOA Campground, we drove 22 miles north to one of our favorite state parks due to its scenic views, wildlife viewing and hiking opportunities. Custer State Park and wildlife preserve in the Black Hills is home to 1,500 American bison. We think this should be a national park. The Lover’s Leap 4.5-mile loop trail took us through a ponderosa pine and oak forests, crosses Galena Creek several times and then a challenging ascent. Some of the oaks were 30 feet tall and over 200 years old. Rocks on the trail glistened in the sun and looked like gold. I picked up a beautiful quartz rock that I now use as a paperweight and some shiny gold-like rocks called leaverite. At the top of the ridge, we rested at Lover’s Leap Overlook where in the distance we could see outstanding views of Mt. Coolidge, the Cathedral Spires, and parts of the 1988 and 2017 wildfire damage. As the trail descended another hiker warned us of a 4-foot rattlesnake crossing the trail ahead. Sure enough, 40 yards ahead as we cautiously hiked, we heard a rattle in the tall grass about six feet off the trail. The rattle lasted about 20 seconds. I walked about 15 feet ahead and tossed a small rock into the tall grass and we heard the omnibus rattle again. The trail continued to descend to the prairie where we saw bison, mountain goats, prairie dogs, and some feral begging burros.