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A Night at Rankin Ridge – Bugling Elk – 9/7/2016

 

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Fire look out tower

Wednesday evening we went back to Wind Cave National Park for a visit to Rankin Ridge lookout in an attempt at seeing Elk or at least to hear the bugle of the male bull in rut.  Here is where the park ranger told us a few days earlier elk herds were spotted.  We parked the truck in the trailhead parking lot and made the 1 mile trek up the Rankin Ridge trail.

At the top of the trail is the Rankin Ridge fire tower once used as a fire lookout.  It is no longer used for that purpose and is closed off to the general public.

But the view from the trail itself offers panoramic views that are simply breathtaking. It was a most beautiful crisp evening around 5 PM when we started.

 

We knew we would have to be there and wait until around 7PM before we could even start looking out over the ridge for elk. But going up in the light of day to familiarize ourselves to the trail, makes it easier coming down at dusk. Having read the weather forecast and knowing from experience that on the very top of mountains and hills it gets windy and cold after the sun goes down. So I geared up with my long sleeved shirt and wind breaker jacket. I’m ready to sit and wait.  Mr. Wike on the other hand, has his short sleeved shirt and a fleece vest atop.  Oh no, we are sitting up there until we see or hear something and if he is cold, well, I won’t be.  (Kevin insert here – “Just another excuse to snuggle! LOL!”)

Close to the top of the ridge was a bench with a spectacular view of fullsizerender-7the hills and valleys dipping throughout the black hills. Something about this bench made me claim it as our spot to sit and wait.  It was quiet and aside from one other very young couple who walked by us and climbed the tower to sit and wait, it was just Kevin and I.fullsizerender-6

And while we sat taking in all the beauty this spot had to offer, it was a time and a place of peace and reflection.

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A place to talk about how grateful and blessed we are to be able to experience this, our journey to places we could only before imagine.

As the sun set, so did the temperature. Not unbearable, but chilly and breezy.  Abruptly our peace was interrupted. Somewhere out there is chaos.  In the valley, a predator, most likely a coyote, because we heard them yipping and howling, was raiding a prairie dog community and let me say, what a commotion!  The loud barks and screams of the prairie dogs were deafening.  Eerie as well.  And so the nocturnal life of the animal world begins!

After the prairie dog invasion settled and it is once again quiet, Kevin spots a herd of elk with binoculars. Standing there big and majestic is the proud bull with his harem. Unfortunately we were unable to get any good pictures as they were down pretty far in the valley in front of us, but we could clearly see and enjoy them through the binoculars. His solo bugling soon became a small chorus as a few other bulls in other areas were staking claim to their harems. We sat and watched and listened. It was exactly what we came for and more.

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It was now dusk and soon to be dark and we had to make that 1 mile trek back down to the parking lot.  It’s time to go.  Sad to leave this beautiful and peaceful place, but anxious to get started before we can’t see a foot in front of us.  Like I said, the nocturnal animal world started and there are mountain lions that are waking up.  And even though they are shy and avoid humans when possible, neither of us were interested in accidentally stumbling upon one.  So on our way we went.  We made it to the truck incident free.  It was a grand evening!

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