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A 2008 sunset over Big Stone Lake. Click to enlarge photos.
A 2008 sunset over Big Stone Lake. Click to enlarge photos.
The last of the storm clouds flow over the old fishing dock.
The last of the storm clouds flow over the old fishing dock.
Pasqueflowers from the spring of 2010.
Pasqueflowers from the spring of 2010.
Fall colors along the Prehistoric Village trail.
Fall colors along the Prehistoric Village trail.
A closer look at 2011's fall color.
A closer look at 2011's fall color.
A view of the fall foliage from Hartford's swimming beach.
A view of the fall foliage from Hartford's swimming beach.
This large stone marks the location of at least five 1880 pioneer graves.
This large stone marks the location of at least five 1880 pioneer graves.
Big Stone Lake in the morning light, as seen from the Willard Andrews lookout area.
Big Stone Lake in the morning light, as seen from the Willard Andrews lookout area.
The historic Robar trading post building was built in 1863 and in business until 1873.
The historic Robar trading post building was built in 1863 and in business until 1873.
A spiderweb in one of the trading post windows.
A spiderweb in one of the trading post windows.
A family of wild turkeys greeted me on the park roads just after sunup on a recent visit.
A family of wild turkeys greeted me on the park roads just after sunup on a recent visit.
Look for this small waterfall along the Aspen Spring hiking trail.
Look for this small waterfall along the Aspen Spring hiking trail.
A view of the Aspen Spring trail.
A view of the Aspen Spring trail.
A fawn follows its mother in the tall grass.
A fawn follows its mother in the tall grass.
Sunflowers bloom along the hills.
Sunflowers bloom along the hills.
Sumac leaves are beginning to turn red along the edges of the wooded hillsides.
Sumac leaves are beginning to turn red along the edges of the wooded hillsides.
Detail of a backlit sumac leaf.
Detail of a backlit sumac leaf.
A sunflower peeks out from a lead plant's past flowerings.
A sunflower peeks out from a lead plant's past flowerings.
Closeup of a black samson flower
Closeup of a black samson flower
This aromatic aster grows along the Aspen Spring trail.
This aromatic aster grows along the Aspen Spring trail.
An interestingly colored beetle hanging out on a yellow cone flower.
An interestingly colored beetle hanging out on a yellow cone flower.
Close-up of prairie clover flower.
Close-up of prairie clover flower.
A pelican circles for a landing on the waters of Big Stone Lake.
A pelican circles for a landing on the waters of Big Stone Lake.
Sunset over Big Stone Lake from the boat dock area.
Sunset over Big Stone Lake from the boat dock area.

Rediscovering an Old Friend

Aug 6, 2012

The poetry of camping in the great outdoors calls out to many South Dakotans one way or another. I don’t exactly know why, but I do know that I have developed unexpected relationships with places in South Dakota. There are places that I find myself drawn back to again and again. Places that seem to always have a timeless beauty no matter what the season.

Just over four years ago, I first walked the trails of Hartford Beach State Park on the shores of Big Stone Lake in northeast South Dakota and we’ve been friends ever since. It was around that time that I decided to take what was then a hobby of mine, photography, a bit more seriously. From then until now I’ve been learning, shooting, traveling, trying new techniques, failing, shooting some more, all in an effort to get better at outdoor and landscape photography. Up until then I was primarily a sports photographer that dabbled in landscapes. I found myself facing a few difficult changes in my life that summer. As hard as those changes were, there was good that came of them, as the door to pursuing photography more seriously opened and I made the decision to walk through.

That first time I visited Hartford Beach State Park, I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t really been in northeast South Dakota very much before then. I didn’t realize how much unique beauty, rich history and simple peacefulness awaited me at the park. Hartford Beach is basically a picturesque portion of Big Stone Lake’s shore. Big Stone Lake is a long and narrow body of water that is situated in what is called the River Warren Valley, a prehistoric river created from large volumes of melting glacier water. As time moved on, Native American peoples called the region home. Visitors can see burial mounds and other markings that remain along the trails of the park to this day. In the time of the Civil War, a trading post was started that operated for ten years. The building is still intact along the park’s eastern boundary, with hiking trails leading away into the woods below.

For a photographer, the park is full of variety and many opportunities to find unique images. It is easy to find wildflowers in the warm months of the years on the high hillsides, and it is just as easy to lose yourself in a heavily wooded trail on the lower hills along spring-fed streams leading to the lake. There is a large swimming area for water enthusiasts as well as a fishing dock. It is a particularly beautiful place in the fall when the trees turn to gold and red. When I was first there in 2008, the fishing dock was of the old wooden variety. A storm had just passed and the clouds hung low and flowed into unique shapes and colors as they fled eastward. I spent a lot of time sitting at the end of the fishing dock simply listening to the waves and watching the storm move on while thinking about life and the road ahead of me. I suppose you could say that natural world I looked out on that evening was a mirror of my life at the time as well. Maybe that is one of the reasons I like going back to visit. It offers a time to reflect, a time to take measure of life’s goodness and a time to rediscover an old friend.

 

Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing our prettiest spots around the state. Follow Begeman on his blog. To view Christian's columns on other South Dakota state parks and recreation areas, visit his state parks page



Comments

08:14 am - Mon, August 6 2012
Rick Crocker said:
I had lived in Big Stone City for over 27 years. The area's on the South Dakota and Minnesota side are awesome. I cannot tell you the countless times I was at Big Stone Lake and the Hartford Beach area.....it is one of the spots that you can for sure enjoy the peacefullness the area has to offer. And indeed when I return for visits, it is my "old friend". What a great story, I thank you.
11:56 am - Mon, August 6 2012
John Begeman said:
Thank you for this wonderful story!
12:19 pm - Tue, August 7 2012
Bernie said:
Hartford Beach is an amazing place, every South Dakotan should visit. It has history, natural beauty, great walking trails, etc. And the nearby towns are great lake towns ... Big Stone City, Ortonville, Minn., and be sure to see the cabin at Brownsville, Minn., which is a little further away. Sam Brown, the town's namesake, was the fellow who rode all night in a blizzard to ward off an Indian/cavalry war in Dakota Territory. One of the greatest stories survival stories of the Old West. He never walked again, but lived to old age in Brownsville and his cabin is a museumto his story. It's just across the state line. Thanks, Christian, for a great story.
07:42 am - Thu, August 23 2012
Lisa said:
Fantastic, shots. Great story, Christian.

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