Erin and I went on a hike a couple of weekends ago in Custer State Park. The trail we went on was the Cathedral Spires trail, which took us past amazing spires of Harney Peak Granite.
Unfortunately this time of year, the needles scenic highway is closed, which contains a lot more spires. It’s easy to see why the Black Hills are a mecca for both geology and rock climbing. There were also some biological wonders to encounter on our hike. First we came across some rather large tracks in the snow across the trail, after looking carefully we identified them as mountain lion tracks. This area has a history of mountain lion encounters, recently the news paper had an article about a woman in the area who was chased into her home with her corgi, just steps ahead of a lion. It also has one of the highest mountain lion densities in the west. Personally, I worked at a summer camp in the area in the summer of 2003 and there was a mountain lion that was known for sniffing around our commissary looking for food.
Near the end of the hike, we came upon a sign talking about a stand of limber pine on the trail that is the furthest eastern population of limber pine (Pinus flexilis). Erin got excited about the limber pine as it was one of the trees she had to identify in her dendrology class at university. Limber pine is known for being extremely flexible, which was pretty impressive as you could almost tie branches into knots.
Lastly as we were leaving, we saw three deer near the trail and watched them for a short time, going about their deer business and they in turn watched us closely.