On a recent road trip to a family event we stopped in at the Sica Hollow State Park which is located in northeastern South Dakota. This was only my second visit in about thirty years and I had almost forgotten how beautiful it was. This area is far enough north that the Autumn colors were already showing. Let me tell you a bit about this park.
It is an area with deep, forested ravines on the eastern slope of the Prairie Coteau Hills. The belief that it is haunted is widely held. The Dakota Sioux once used the area as their primary hunting grounds. They named the place "Sica", (pronounced she-cha) meaning evil or bad. One reason is that the water that gushed from the many natural springs was red-tinted, most likely from the minerals in the water. However the Dakota felt that is was a sign of supernatural forces at work.
Some of the areas have a form of quick sand, that only enhanced the spooky dangerous feel of the area. Not to mention swam gas and stumps that glow in the dark! All of these natural factors led to more stories and superstition. Even as recently as the 1970's a new fear factor was introduced, Big Foot! Several expeditions searching for the hairy beast ensued without any real evidence, but it makes for a good story! Many overnight campers claim to have heard war whoops, chanting and drums. It is as if the ancestors of the Dakota are still laying claim to this ancient place.
Sightings of brown bear and big cats (cougars) only add to its danger and mystery. While we were there we only encountered an occasional squirrel. Birds singing and the water running through the many brooks and streams where the only sounds we heard. I do feel it to be a very spiritual place though and can understand why at night it might feel a bit spooky!
The sumac was turning fiery red and some of the native grasses had an almost purple hue to them. In the meadows there were hundreds of sunflowers. The sky was filled with thin clouds that made the sky appear white but it almost made the area glow with color!
This is a close up of the Staghorn Sumac. We have it growing in our area, but as yet it has not changed color. This was a favorite plant of the Native Americans. The bright red autumn foliage is easy to identify and the large cone-like, dark red berry clusters are very distinctive. It's been used as a delicious drink and food source for thousands of years. The berries are used in a cold beverage (similar to lemonade) or in teas. I found a great site about how to harvest sumac and how to use it here. If you have access to your own you might want to try some of the recipes.
Autumn will officially be here in just a few days. I have finally excepted that summer is over, even though it took forever to get here and didn't last nearly long enough!
How are you all feeling about the changing seasons? Let me know!
Have a wonderful week! ~~ Diane