Needle’s Eye Hike

Tracy Potter and Laura Anhalt

Our Saturday, June 2nd, hike to the Needle’s Eye began and ended at the west Paddock Creek trailhead. The trail stays above the creek while crossing a large meadow taken over by prairie dogs in recent years. Wild horses observed our group of ten hikers as we set out. It’s an easy to moderate marked trail with several splinter routes all heading east and up and down a couple ravines on the mile and a half to the Needle’s Eye, an excellent spot for lunch, and photos.

One of the greatest things about BCA hikes are the companions. Someone in the group will likely know what native grass we’re seeing, or what bird we’ve just heard, or glimpsed, or the name and location of a constellation over our campsites. Geology, history, and habits of the free-ranging animal species almost always have an expert or two eager to answer questions.

On the way back from the Eye, I found a big ant hill. I crouched and started studying. It’s something I could do for hours, but other hikers were passing me to get back to the vehicles, so I pulled myself away from watching an ant hauling a dead bug carcass to where the ant thought it belonged.

As we returned to the trailhead, the horses were still grazing nearby and we had the delight of finding a huge bull buffalo had taken up residence in the trees 30 yards from the parking area. It was a double delight that we were able to join three young tourists marveling at him. One had never seen a buffalo up close, but no matter how often, it is always exciting to be with these amazing creatures with no barriers between human and beast.

We got up early on Sunday morning and joined the 64th Annual Bird Walk of the Theodore Roosevelt Nature and History Association. An expert took us to the Little Missouri River and around the Cottonwood campground, identifying birds, bird calls and places where certain birds roost. Then we joined the Friends of TR National Park for a pancake and sausage breakfast … with door prizes! I won a beautiful scarf that is a map of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.