Howell Ranch – Day 4

Last night we got to see the northern lights and I’m still amazed. I was working on my last blog post and my signal was spotty so I went outside with my phone and walked around to see if I could upload my last two pics. I noticed a wide band of light colored clouds on the northern horizon. They looked like city lights and I knew that was not the case, not that close. Then a few vertical streaks started to form and I ran back to the trailer, so excited I could not contain myself. I blubbered to Bill like an idiot, OMGTHENORTHERNLIGHTSINEEDMYCAMERAANDTRIPOD!!!!!!!!! Grabbed my stuff and got set up, tripping over sagebrush in the process.

This was the second time I’d seen them in my life. What I found interesting is that they didn’t appear to be the green/purple my camera captured. (Later, I looked it up and found this explanation.) The first time I saw them was over Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and saw a gorgeous shimmering green curtain of light, but this time they just appeared gray. Also, this time I was just a bit further south (colors are more visible the further north you are), and also, I wonder if being over the lake made a difference.

But when I reviewed the shot, sure enough..

I kept shooting on bulb and was also trying for the milky way when my joy was interrupted by coyotes. One cackle turned into two, which erupted into a chorus. And they sounded CLOSE. Bill scanned the hill we were behind with his flashlight but he saw nothing. I was too busy grabbing my tripod and running for the trailer. That was freaky.

I was up at 6am again to blue skies and the same familiar orange glow spreading across the eastern horizon. Today is our last day and will be a busy one, determining the best spot for the trailer, securing it, winterizing and covering.

We went into town for antifreeze and to flush the tanks, and found lunch at Blossoms and Brew, an awesome little coffee shop, café, florist and gift shop!

Again, I wish we had more time to explore the town. Our time here is never long enough.

The temps rose and thankfully, the wind wasn’t too strong.

We packed up, staked down the trailer, winterized and covered our new “place out west”. And said a prayer.

By now the western skies were a bright orange, with the sun already behind the horizon. I couldn’t quite capture it, will have to practice.

Driving south on 85 we passed more cattle that were perfect black silhouettes against the orange sky. Why do all the great shots occur when time is short and you’re traveling at 70mph?

LOTS of deer. Hunting season is in full swing here for deer and antelope. There were many along the side of the road as we approached Belle Fourche just at the time they started to emerge for the evening.

Another really cool shot would have been approaching Belle. 85 rises over a hill and the town of Belle Fourche appeared, all lit up. This was the first time seeing it in the darkness, as we are always back at camp in Spearfish by now, during rally. The two-lane highway met the expanse of city lights, dark sky dotted with stars above the town, and a band of clouds above that, illuminated by the half moon. This will be a definite future shot!

We stopped in Spearfish for our final dinner there before moving on to Custer. We would stay overnight to be in Custer State Park at the crack of dawn for the annual Buffalo Roundup. Another first and another off the bucket list!

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