The last couple weeks I’ve been posting about some of my recent hikes and have referred to a Black Hills Bucket List. About a year and a half ago I originally posted about “The List” and figured it was time for an update. I keep joking that when this list is done, there will be no option but to leave the Black Hills. I’m not sure that’s true but completing this list will wrap-up almost every major adventure I have left to do in this area. Of course, we keep adding items so maybe we’ll never leave! Either way, here it is: (If the adventure is completed, you can click on it to link to the story.)
Watch a show at the Black Hills Playhouse (Custer State Park, SD)
Go to the Rushmore Waterslides (Rapid City, SD )
Overnight in the Summit Ridge Lookout Cabin (Newcastle, WY)
New! Take the Lantern Tour at Jewel Cave Nat’l Monument (Custer, SD)
New! Climb Devil’s Tower to the Top (Huelett, WY)
5 out of 15 completed, not bad but there’s still a ways to go. And there might be a few more additions to the list. However, summer plans are in the works to tackle a few more list items.
Hopefully, by the end of June the Mickelson Trail End-to-End traverse will be done. (It will also be my first century if I get it right!) And since a cyclist needs to eat and Moonshine Gulch just happens to be right along the trail…I’m already dreaming about it! If it all works out, BAM, two birds with one stone! The Lantern Tour at Jewel Cave Nat’l Monument will probably also go down this month; just a few more days until they’re open. The Rushmore Waterslides are being saved for a day when my two favorite not-so-little girls can join me. July or August will see this one checked off. The Black Hills Playhouse has been someplace I’ve wanted to visit as long as I’ve known about it. In the way-back days, tor two summers, I lived just down the road from it and somehow never made it there. This summer I’m not taking any chances, the first weekend this fits into I’m there.
That will leave just a few more to accomplish. Will they all happen this year? It’s anyone’s guess. But there’s a definite possibility! I’ve some some extra motivation but that secret will have to wait for another day…
Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. -John Muir
The vanilla smell of pine trees on warm day filled the air while the soft crunch of needles fell with each footstep. Chirps and chatters warned of our presence. A good long walk has been much in need for awhile. Time to think, to not think, to ponder and just be. To be steeped in the magic of the woods and the zen of walking. Tuesday turned out to be a perfect day for a long walk. One step after another for 12 miles, Corbet and I made our way along the Flume Trail. Following the path of the historic Rockerville Flume, it’s gentle grade and tunnel of ponderosa pines provided a perfect setting.
Part of the magic of hiking alone (more or less in this case!) is the mind games you play with yourself. Passing through dark tunnels, hearing strange noises, knowing that if something happens you’re on your own force you step outside of your comfort zone, to face some challenges and succeed or fail of your own accord. The adventure’s outcome is entirely up to you.
This trail has been a curiosity to me for years: a hikers only National Recreation Trail, point-to-point, lots of history. Having finally found the time and a ride to pick me up at the end it was time to take a walk. Just the feat of engineering and workmanship, hand-laid retaining wall, massive wooden trestles, a 17 mile-2 percent grade path, created in an era before mechanized construction, made the walk worthwhile. Knowing the torrid history brought the ghosts to life. It was like stepping back in time.
When the walk came to an end a tired puppy and girl sat down and waited. The ghosts had whispered their secrets on the pine scented wind, the feats of manpower had been trodden over for 12 long miles and mental and physical challenges faced. For now the spirit had been washed clean but soon the time will come to walk again.
Two of the best perks of my new job have been an abundance of extra time and no longer being on call. While the abundance of time won’t be lasting much longer I’ve been trying to make the most of it while I can and no longer having a 2-hour call back means I can make the most of any hour of the day. This weekend Jake and I did just that. After work one evening we dashed down to the Hell Canyon Trail in the southern Black Hills to check another adventure off of our Black Hills Bucket List. (I’ll be posting more about this later!)
The Forest Service brochure listed this as a moderate 5-mile loop following limestone cliffs and the canyon bottom. Because this trail was pretty severely impacted by the Jasper Fire in the early 2000′s I wasn’t sure what condition it would be in or if it would be hard to follow. It had been closed for a number of years due to safety concerns.
As we pulled into the trailhead we noticed three other vehicles. Knowing this trail is getting used makes me happy! Because it was getting close to dusk, we met all the users coming out in the first mile. They all had smiles, dogs and young children. I figured this meant it couldn’t be too hard of a hike. With our limited time window before headlamps would be needed this was a good sign!
The Forest Service brochure recommends hiking the trail clockwise but we missed finding that option at the trailhead. Instead we hiked up the canyon bottom and then up onto the limestone plateau. Lately I’ve been lamenting the Black Hill’s lack of mountaintop views and this trail was the perfect cure. Around every corner another vista with layers and layers of rolling hills, fading in the daylight. My heart was happy!
Hell Canyon provided a perfect evening hike. It wasn’t too hard with only one steep uphill and downhill section. Some brave folks even mountain bike it but I’d definitely give it an R rating on the upper section due to the drop offs. My recommendation…don’t fall, it’s a long ways down!
If you want to see how the landscape heals after a wildland fire rolls through, this is a great place to learn. The abundance of wildflowers surrounded us with their perfume and the variety of plant life had me reciting latin names in my head the entire hike. Although we weren’t treated to the classic South Dakota sunset I can guarantee this would be an epic location for a view. It might even be worthy of a sleeping bag night to catch both the sunset and sunrise!