Sullys Hill -- Saturday, 7/116/16
On our way to the fort yesterday, we passed this impressive sign, but we thought a separate day to visit would be better so we'd have plenty of time to scope out the preserve. Jan, the lady we spoke to at the Totten Trail Historic Inn yesterday, recommended -- no, she urged us to go. Wouldn't you know that the day we pick, rain was heavy in the forecast. Geez. Well, we set off anyway, taking our rain jackets with us and wearing waterproof shoes.
A 4-mile, self-guided auto tour route is open from May to October. It provides lots of wildlife viewing opportunities as it passes near wetlands and through the woods and prairies of the big game pasture. Of special interest for me and Jimmy is that this preserve used to be a national park, and it's only one of seven national parks to be disbanded. Of the seven, only two -- Sullys Hill and Mackinac Island -- are no longer under National Park Service control. And we visited both of these never-been-to-before places within a few weeks of each other!
Two overlooks, Devils Lake Vista and Sullys Hill Overlook, provide breathtaking views of the area. The Devils Lake Vista is handicapped accessible. Sullys Hill Overlook, above, involves a whole lot of climbing! I started counting steps, but gave it up. Jan said there were 193. Regardless, we were a bit winded at the top. Smartie is parked down there somewhere in the dark green. Also, a nature trail (varying lengths depending on which route or combo of routes you take) winds through the bottom lands and wooded hills. From the VC, we set out on a 2-mile loop hike, with one eye on where we put our feet and the other one keeping watch on the darkening sky.
Really liked this vivid flowering shrub, called Lead Plant (Amorpha canescens). It's in the pea family and it was a bee magnet. This was a new one for me.
Big ol' bees were all over Purple Prairie Clover, too. Dalea purpurea is another one in the legume family. The two flowers above (prairie clover and lead plant) were similar in color -- an eye-dazzling purple.
Nice overlook, but we didn't tarry ....
White coral fungus, one of several types of 'shrooms growing in the damp woods.
Looks like this Carolina Wren has a family to feed!
Sullys has a prairie dog town, and they're so cool. These are black-tailed dogs. As soon as I got out of the car, camera in hand, this guy sounded the alarm. He didn't shut up till I was up on the platform and far enough away that made picture-taking a real challenge!
Although the day was overcast, or maybe because the weather was so gloomy, the flowers blooming in Sullys Hill were really bright and colorful.
Doesn't this look dreary? Raindrops had begun falling as we made our way back to the VC and Smartie. The rain was light and we weren't too terribly far out. I think the dead trees lend a somber note!
The 1,674-acre game preserve has elk, bison, migratory birds and prairie dogs. We hoped to see bison while on the auto tour. Jimmy drove slowly and we looked and looked. Finally, a car in front of us stopped, backed up and stopped. Yup. Bison. One. Hiding in the woods. Wait a minute, Jimmy saw a young one rustling in the bushes next to Mom. Maybe it was newborn, maybe that's why she was in the woods. Well, we can honestly saw we saw Bison!