Monday, January 8, 2018

After the fire...

Bundle up! Jan here, taking you on a winter-time tour of one of our favorite spots in the Black Hills: Custer State Park!

A couple weeks before Christmas, a fire hit Custer State Park, burning over 54,000 acres of public and private land. (You can read more about the fire here.) Once the park reopened, we were anxious to take a trip out there to see how the park and wildlife fared.

Some spots were hit hard...

...and some not as badly...

Even though this tree was burned, it may survive. Larger trees like this one were scorched, but the bark is thick and can withstand fires.

The biggest loss was the grass - grass that was to provide winter grazing for the wildlife and cattle.

Most of the bison in the park have been rounded up and are being provided with hay in the spacious corrals, but a few bulls decided they'd be better off on their own.

By the way, my husband was watching a Golden Eagle
through his binoculars as I took this picture. It is perched
on that ridge above the bison. 

But bison and fires have been co-existing for centuries.

Curiosity about the aftermath of the fire wasn't the only thing that took us up into the Hills that day. We heard that there was a temperature inversion going on, and we wanted to experience it. :-)

This was our truck's thermometer as we drove through the park. Yes, it was a chilly day.

As we left the park, we went over the French Creek/Galena divide (about 5800 feet in elevation) and headed toward the city of Custer. Right around the western park boundary, my ears popped, and I looked at the thermometer again...

By the time we reached Custer, a few miles farther on, the temperature was 30°! Quite a difference!

But the biggest reason we went to the park that day?

To just stop...

To listen to the silence...

To experience the stark black and white world of winter.

Nothing refreshes my soul in quite the same way.

Now that we're back home, cozy and warm next to the fire with our cups of hot cocoa, what do you think?

Would you venture out into the winter world to see this beauty up close and personal?

Jan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband and growing family. When she isn't writing, she loves hiking in the Hills or satisfying her cross stitch addiction.

You can find Jan on Facebook, Jan Drexler, author, or her website, Jan


  1. Jan, sometimes that silence of nature is the best medicine of all. It's so relaxing. Especially when it's covered in white. Although, hot cocoa by the fire can be pretty relaxing, too.

    1. I love winter in the Black Hills...or in Michigan...or anywhere north. :-) And of course, the hot cocoa makes it even better!

  2. Stark beauty. I worry about the little critters that burrow under the grass though -- what happened to them? :-( Amazing how nature resets itself after a fire. You could frame those photographs and make a pretty penny selling them, Jan. And I'm all in for the hot cocoa after the road trip!

    1. We were wondering about those critters, too. The prairie dogs, the mice, the rabbits. Even the snakes. Rattlers live in a den underground in the winter, hibernating in a twisting mass of scales... {{{shudder}}} (it reminds me of Medusa!).

      But the critters must be safe underground, because there are always plenty of them around! After all, they survive the cold temperatures through the winter, they must survive fire, too!

      I'll watch for them the next time we go to the park. If it's a warm, sunny day, the prairie dogs will be out!

  3. Jan, there's nothing like the silence of snow. It's the most peaceful thing! And I don't get to "hear" it often. :)

    Thanks for sharing your photos. I felt peace just looking at them.

    1. Isn't it amazing that everything is so hushed when there's snow on the ground? And with the fog that day, everything was doubly quiet and peaceful.

  4. These are beautiful, Jan. Even the city felt hushed in the snow last week. Sadly, the hush didn't last long.

    1. Hi Mary/Cate!

      From what I saw on the news, you got hit hard with that storm! It sounds like things might be getting back to normal, though. :-)

  5. Jan, I'm so glad I'm not the only person who loves the stark, simple beauty of winter. I think there's a part of me that likes to rise to the challenge... to survive the tempest and the cold and to thrive in spite of rugged seasons.

    I AM SO WEIRD!!!!

    But it appears I am not alone, LOL!