Veins of Coal

Back in September of 2017, we made our second visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in South Dakota — this time to hike (since I couldn’t manage that in 2016). And what a great place to hike!

After the three-mile Petrified Forest trek we opted for something shorter and at least as interesting — the Coal Vein Trail, just shy of a mile and stunning.

Back in 1951 a fire started in an underground coal vein, and it burned until 1977. But just because it was underground didn’t mean it didn’t have an effect above ground: “Some days there was only a wisp of smoke. Other days… red-hot rock glowed at the bottom of deep crevasses. Plants withered on the hot ground. Hillsides crumbled” (from the informational sign at the start of the hike).

Though we both love a rigorous hike, these interpretive trails always give us a chance to learn something new about the area. We paused at each sign and read the explanation in the brochure (which we returned to the kiosk at the end of the trail — re-using is even better than recycling, you know).

The trail took us up and over and around in a .8 mile loop, with occasional steps.

It was a stunning day for a hike, though we worried that the wildfire smoke we’d driven all the way from Oregon to avoid was moving in.

Painted Ladies flew around us…

…and other bugs our trail guide didn’t tell us about:

But sometimes the best things we see are from unexpected encounters, like spotting this coyote on the side of the road as we drove the park’s loop road back to our RV:

Ah! Now that’s what it’s all about, right?

About Ellen

Fiction writer and photographer, I travel the country with my sweetheart of a husband as a "full-time RVer."
This entry was posted in and Critters in General, Animals, Hiking, Insects, National Parks and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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