I woke up really excited today. Wild horses have been running through my dreams all night. All of the stories and movies I’d ever seen or heard had my anticipation at a fever pitch.
It didn’t take us long to finish our Jimmy Dean breakfast, I confess I was nearing the end of my tolerance to JD sandwiches but they were fast and free, and then we were on our way.
We no sooner made the turn off RT 44 onto RT 79 South than we spotted 2 beautiful pronghorn. They were just standing there as though watching the traffic go by. Heads up, they made a beautiful picture in the early morning light. Sorry, it’s only in my mind, I was driving again and couldn’t stop, although I was really tempted to try.
We made good time, even stopping to get a picture of a turkey in full display and of a deer peaking out of a ravine.
The entrance is marked by a really attractive sculpture of running horses. We stopped for that picture for sure.
Then we drove down a well graded dirt road. We passed horses that were behind a fence and then spotted one on the outside of the fence. As we continued on we went up a small rise and then back down a rutted portion of the road. Not too much farther on we saw some buildings and there were cars parked in the dirt parking lot. I think we have arrived..
We went into the building which we learned was one of the original homestead building. Now that the property was a sanctuary, the building was converted to the welcome center.
It was about 9:30 am and our tour was for 10:00am so we had half an hour to look around and get checked in. I got my “Kitty Fix” when we met the Sanctuary Cat. When I travel I do miss my pets but I always seem to connect with at least one cat on each trip…I call that connection my “Kitty Fix”.
Right on time our guide came out to meet up. This time our guide was a personable young lady named Krista who also happened to be one of the sanctuary photographers. That was great because she said she’d help me find some good shots. The tour was billed as “semi-private” but Sandy and I were the only ones on it so as far as I’m concerned, it was private. That gives us much more flexibility.
We told Krista about the horse we’d seen on the outside of the fence and she went back inside to tell one of the wranglers. Soon after we saw someone heading back up the road. Krista said he would round up the horse and get her back where she belonged.
Krista showed us the yearling paddock and explained that in order to manage the herd size, some of foals that are born on the sanctuary are rounded up and sold to offset the operating costs. She said that for the most part the herd size is managed by separating the stallions from the mares to prevent too many foals. South Dakota has been in the grips of a drought the last few years and if the horses had been allowed to breed, many animals would have starved even with human intervention. The horses are truly wild and are left to fend for themselves against the elements and predators. It sounds cruel at first but it’s really just nature’s way.
Krista soon had us in a large 4 wheel drive SUV and we were off. As we climbed a dirt road we asked about a statue of a black and white horse on the side of the road. Krista stopped the car and while I took pictures told us this was their “Little Horse on the Prairie”. We got a chuckle out of that and the joke let us know that our guide had a sense of humor.
The first stop on the tour was an overlook that Krista told us was used to film the ranch for several western films including Crazy Horse. Before we got out Krista checked the area for rattlesnakes.
Several more stops followed where Krista pointed out the flora and fauna in the area, explained about sage plants and flowers and in general set the stage for the main event.
At one stop we caught up with another tour. One of the women was upset because her camera had stopped working. Both Krista and I looked at it but we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it. I had 2 point and shoots with me as back up for exactly this reason. My DSLR hasn’t ever given me a problem but I have heard many horror stories of camera’s dying at the worse possible time so I always throw in a P&S or two just in case.
I offered to let the woman borrow one. I told her to just take the memory card and leave the camera with the front desk and I’d pick it up when our tour ended. Their guide was witness so I wasn’t too worried about the camera being stolen.
As we continued with our “nature “ tour, I admit I was getting restless for the wild horses.
It was worth the wait so I think I’ll let you wait another day too. I’ll tell you about the horses in another post. J