Turning Over Stones in Wind Cave National Park, SD

Traipsing around outdoors always gives me such a sense of discovery. No matter if the trail is one I’ve hiked a hundred times or if it’s my first visit – there’s always something new to uncover. I may spot timid deer or a find a smooth rock for my pocket, see a new bird or flower. And always, no matter how far off the beaten path, I’ll find a beer can, apparently so much harder to pack out empty than it was for someone to carry it in.

Wind Cave, SD, buffalo, bison

We were roaming with the buffalo last week, where the deer and the antelope play near Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. The prairie was the color of a Yellow Lab and the curves of the distant hills made me want to reach out to and run my hand over their backs. On the advice of a friendly park ranger, we followed buffalo trails out over the grasslands where we spotted bison and meadowlarks, elk and mule deer, and hundreds of prairie dogs that squeak and bark warnings to their pals before scurrying into the safety of their holes.

Wind Cave, SD, Prairie

Prairie Dog, Robin, Wind Cave

Of course, you can also discover other things in the woods. The other day we found a boondocking spot, pulled the Minnie off on a quiet dirt road and explored our small corner of the Black Hills National Forest. Like a raccoon, I’m drawn to shiny objects and the rocks were glinting with mica so I’m poking around, looking for the prettiest stones, nudging piles of quartz with my toe.  I move one large rock and see the corner of a box. Patrick comes in to look, and we pull a small box from its hiding spot. A Geo Cache? The wooden box is wrapped with sodden red ribbon, tightly tied but decaying. Maybe it’s a time capsule? Childhood memories? I’m thinking of that scene from Amélie where she pulls a cigar box from behind a loose tile and discovers someone’s long-lost treasures. Excitedly, we pry open the lid and peer inside. And what do we find? The desiccated remains of a bird. We’d opened a bird casket. That’s what I get for being inquisitive.

We replaced the box in its cairn of quartz and said a quick “rest in peace” to someone’s departed pet bird. I may be a bit less likely to go snooping around in the woods from now on, as I prefer discoveries like a beautiful view or living animals.

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