May Day (South Dakota-style)

Happy May Day from South Dakota!

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Yes, that photo was taken today. Its’ been quite a snowy couple of days. 5″ of heavy, wet snow on Tuesday, and several more inches today. They say that Rapid City has now recorded its 4th-snowiest winter of all time. To that I say…umm, winter ended about 40 days ago! It’s been quite the ride.

(Sorry, Ron.)

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Despite the snow these past two days, there have been plenty of signs of spring. Namely, the pasqueflowers (or Pulsatilla if you’re a genus genius). They are also called prairie crocus, Easter flower, wind flower, May Day flower, and meadow anemone. They’re the South Dakota state flower and quite beautiful, adding a nice splash of color to contrast the monochromatic prairie grass. The name is derived from pasakh, the Hebrew word for Passover, the time of year in which these flowers traditionally bloom. Bet you didn’t know I had mad botany skillz.IMG_20190422_090459_065.jpg

Or mad Googling skillz. Whatever!

We had seen pasqueflower photos, but it wasn’t until our trip to Wind Cave National Park a couple of weekends ago that we saw one in person for the first time. Tara and I whipped out our cameras and took about a dozen combined pictures of this one solitary specimen. A couple of days later I decided to take a hike along Skyline Wilderness Trail in Rapid City and stumbled upon hundreds and hundreds of them. Made me laugh over my excitement at spotting one flower. They sure are beautiful, huh?

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I’m sure we’ll see them again once the snow melts! (This shouldn’t take long since it’ll be pushing 60° by tomorrow.)

I forgot to recount an interesting experience I had while hiking the Homestake Trail last Saturday. TrailLink describes it thusly:

More than a century ago, steam locomotives lugged supplies from Deadwood to Lead and to the miners at Homestake Mine, once the largest goldmine in the Western Hemisphere. This narrow-gauge track fell out of use in the early 20th century, and with it was lost a storied history that connected the two cities. Today, the Homestake Railroad Grade Trail as its name suggests follows the same route as the old Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley railroad.

This has quickly become a favorite hike in the Black Hills because of the history and solitude. It’s lightly trafficked – we didn’t see another soul the entire four miles – and the views are amazing. There are still sections of railroad track partially buried in a few places. You are following the same route that ferried passengers to and from their homes in Deadwood to their mining jobs in Lead some 130 years ago.

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As we were walking along, I swore I could hear distant sounds from the past: the chugging of the steam locomotive as it traversed the ridge, the clatter of the rails, the laughter and cursing of men long since dead, headed home to wives or to the saloon for whiskey. I could picture them, dirty and disheveled, crowded close together, tired after a day of backbreaking work. These images were vivid in my mind. I’m sure they were nothing more than the byproduct of an overactive imagination, but for a few minutes, it felt like I was witness to a slice of pioneer life circa 1890. It wasn’t like seeing a ghost, but rather, feeling the presence of a whole locomotive full of them. I guess? Hard to explain, but pretty cool nonetheless.