Try bring­ing in herd for va­ca­tion in S. Dakota

The Korea Times - - TRAVEL - By Patti Nick­ell Walk in the foot­steps of his­toric Old West le­gends like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Seth Bul­lock. This 1870s gold rush town be­came a Na­tional His­toric Land­mark in 1961. To­day, it teems with Black Hills en­ter­tain­ment and things to

CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. — It was one of the most thrilling ex­pe­ri­ences of my life. Af­ter what seemed like hours wait­ing pa­tiently for some­thing to hap­pen, the seis­mic shak­ing of the earth sig­naled the main show was about to be­gin.

Rid­ers on horse­back fanned out across the top of the hill, while be­low in the val­ley the rest of us in rack trucks waited for our cue.

As if a di­rec­tor had yelled, “Ac­tion,” 1,300 Amer­i­can buf­falo came ca­reen­ing down the hill, with both rid­ers and trucks tak­ing up their po­si­tions to help herd them into cor­rals.

Wel­come to the an­nual Custer State Park Buf­falo Roundup. In this an­nual event, the shaggy bi­son are in­ter­rupted from their usual nosh­ing on the park’s lush grass­lands, and rounded up for sev­eral days of sort­ing, brand­ing, test­ing and tag­ging.

With one of the largest Amer­i­can bi­son herds in the world, park staff use the roundup to keep the pop­u­la­tion in bal­ance with avail­able land and re­sources — check­ing them out thor­oughly be­fore re­turn­ing most of them to their graz­ing a few days later.

Our group’s driver vol­un­teered that some­times the bi­son — an­noyed at the in­ter­rup­tion — get pretty bad-ass and refuse to co­op­er­ate, but this year, with the ex­cep­tion of one fright­ened calf who went AWOL with its mother in hot pur­suit, the herd was down­right docile. In no time at all, they were safely cor­ralled, and both par­tic­i­pants and spec­ta­tors headed off for a chuck­wagon lunch of brisket and beans.

Along with a group of na­tional and in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ists, I had been in­vited to take part in the roundup, and to say that we were right in the cen­ter of the ac­tion is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion. The herd’s head­long rush to the cor­ral was a sight I won’t soon for­get.

The gen­eral pub­lic is not left out ei­ther. While they are not al­lowed in the thick of things as we were, they can stake out a spot for op­ti­mal view­ing as the herd comes thun­der­ing down the hill. (FYI: About 14,000 peo­ple at­tend ev­ery year; if you want to make plans for next year, the roundup is al­ways held on the last Fri­day in Septem­ber; which in 2019, is the 27th.)

A wealth of at­trac­tions

The bi­son roundup was my main rea­son for com­ing to South Dakota this time, but a pre­vi­ous visit showed me the state has an em­bar­rass­ment of riches, both nat­u­ral and man-made. In the lat­ter cat­e­gory are, of course, the mas­sive stone heads of pres­i­dents at Mount Rush­more, and of Lakota Sioux war­rior Crazy Horse atop his own moun­tain.

Both never cease to amaze, but it’s the nat­u­ral won­ders of the state that hold a spe­cial ap­peal for me. On the drive to Custer State Park, I went through the Nee­dles of the Black Hills. Aptly named, the Nee­dles are gran­ite pil­lars and spires that reach up to stab the sky. The 14-mile Nee­dles High­way, with its twists, turns and tun­nels, is a scenic sight not soon for­got­ten. Beau­ti­ful any time, in au­tumn the stark­ness of the for­ma­tions is al­le­vi­ated by lush green pines and yel­low quak­ing as­pens.

An­other scenic won­der, the Bad­lands, in the south­west­ern part of the state, were no doubt bad to the un­wary pil­grim trapped within the waste­land with­out wa­ter or means of sur­vival, but for to­day’s vis­i­tors, the only bad is in the name.

The 243,000-acre Na­tional Park en­com­passes the largest mixed grass prairie in the United States as well as a lu­narlike land­scape of buttes, spires and pin­na­cles warped and twisted into fan­tas­ti­cal shapes rem­i­nis­cent of a sci­ence fic­tion film. If you’re lucky enough to catch a vivid sun­rise or bril­liant sun­set, the in­hos­pitable ter­rain takes on a strik­ing pal­ette of gold, hot pink, red, laven­der, indigo and pur­ple.

A tale of two ci­ties

No two ci­ties could be more dif­fer­ent than Dead­wood and Rapid City, but they rep­re­sent the yin and yang of the state — the for­mer a peek into its wild and wooly past, and the lat­ter a sym­bol of its vi­brant present.

Fans of TV Westerns know that Dead­wood in its hey­day was about as wild as the West got. Gam­blers and gun­slingers, law­men and ladies of the evening, cow­boys and cat­tle barons all played their parts in mak­ing Dead­wood the most col­or­ful town be­tween Dodge City and Cheyenne.

The two most fa­mous names as­so­ci­ated with it were Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok, whose graves can be seen in the hill­side Mount Mo­riah Ceme­tery, along with those of mur­der­ers, madams and pil­lars of the town’s so­ci­ety — such as it was. Af­ter tour­ing the ceme­tery, a his­toric walk­ing tour of Dead­wood’s 19th cen­tury build­ings will help put their sto­ries in con­text.

Be sure to ar­rive early at Sa­loon #10 to grab a seat for the Wild Bill re-en­act­ment (be­lieve me, they fill up fast).

Lex­ing­ton Her­ald-Leader/Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Custer State Park Buf­falo Roundup: Each fall, the ground rum­bles and the dust flies as cow­boys, cow­girls and park crews sad­dle up to bring in the thun­der­ing herd.

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