Time once again for the 5th Annual Black Hills Hammock Hang put on by our friends Brian (Boothill) and Susan (Sodakgirl). We decided since we couldn't go to Scotland this year we would spend the week before the BH Hammock Hang hiking the 111 mile Centennial Trail in South Dakota. The Centennial Trail runs all through the Black Hills from Sturgis to Wind Cave National Park. It even goes right past where the Hang will take place at Sheridan Lake. So the plan was set, we will hike the trail and take 8 days and then the final 4 days will be at the Hang.
It is about 1000 miles from our house to the Black Hills area of South Dakota. We decided to split it up into 2 days. We took the traditional way of going across Missouri and then up past Omaha to Sioux Falls, SD for the first night.
I have always like Sioux Falls, SD and it is the first place I ever ate at a Granite City Brewery, right along the Big Sioux River.
We had some tasty food and drink
The next day we got up and headed over toward Spearfish, SD, but no trip completely across South Dakota is possible without stopping at Wall Drug for a visit.
There is just no way to describe it, it must be experienced.
Sunflower fields across South Dakota
Inside of Wall Drug.
After a day of sorting ourselves out at Brian and Susan's in Spearfish and spending an evening with the Shaw's in Rapid City, We hit the Centennial TrailReady to go. It was hotter than expected the temperatures where close to 90 even with some cloud cover and expected to be that for the next few days.
The Centennial Trail starts at the base of Bear Butte. A sacred Native American site for the Plains Indians; The Lakota, Sioux and Cheyenne.
Several water tanks are positioned for the cattle that roam the area but nothing for humans to drink
(above and below)
After the first 10 miles you reach Ft Meade in Sturgis SD.
Vicky felt really bad at this point and was struggling with a sore back. She decided that this was just not going to be able to continue the way she felt. Luckly our friend Susan was shopping in Sturgis and we were able to reach her and she was at the Ft Meade trailhead in just 10 minutes.The trail after Ft Meade started to go up hill. The day remained hot and dry
After about 12.5 miles I reached Alkali Creek campsite. This had good water and some shade to relax for a bit.
At this point the trail runs under Highway 90 and heads up into the hills.The original plan with Vicky was to camp at Alkali Creek campsite or just beyond after going under the highway and I should have stuck to this same plan, but when I am alone I always push myself to hard. I continued up into the hills to the top of the ridge and back down the other side
I did not pack out enough water from Alkali Creek relying on the map that showed a spring and a creek about 3 miles further on from Highway 90. I ended up walking another 6 miles without finding any water and was left with just a 1/2" water in my water bottle by 6 pm.
Without enough water to make dinner. I set up my hammock and just relaxed as best I could for the night. It had to be the quietest night I have ever spent in the woods. No noise at all. nothing could be heard of the highway, now about 6 miles away, no airplanes and suprising no wildlife, birds or even small mammals, just dead quiet.
Well the next day I woke up early, it was a beautiful sunrise (above). But I was thirsty and according to the map I still had about 3 miles to walk before Elk Creek Trail head that might have water, but about 15 miles until Dalton Lake which would have water.
The day was beautiful but hot again. I would learn later temperatures in the 90's.
I did manage to get to Elk Creek. but like the previous creeks and springs the large creek was bone dry. I did manage to filter water out of some tire ruts in service road along Elk Creek.
This brings up the beginning of what I was suspecting about the Nat Geo maps of the Black Hills I was carrying. Their mileage and routing of the trail did not make sense. In fact in some cases I suspect it could be off as much as double the actual mileage and most forest road crossing where not indicated on the map.
However I pressed on. Having got some water, and it was fine after being filtered through the Sawyer filter I was carrying, But I made another mistake at Elk Creek. While I did rest from the heat there for awhile with the access to water I should have made food. It had now been 24 hours since I had eaten anything substantial and I should have just waited until I felt like eating and cooked a meal.
Instead I pressed on. I had about 12 miles to go to reach Dalton Lake and I had told myself I would stop there for the day.
Below is example of the many rather large creeks the trail actually goes across. Most of the them even had ropes to help the mountain bikers across?? but none had waterWell needless to say I didn't last until Dalton Lake. About 8 miles further on. I had enough. I was not hurt or sore but having spent more than a day without food (I could have survived for weeks!) but being a bit dehydrated I found a spot with cell service and I called in the cavalry. Vicky and Brian, who knows the forest roads, came and found me. The maps proved to be really poor in this regard as the roads that where marked on the Nat Geo Black Hills maps were completely inaccurate
It is all quite embarrassing actually, but it seems the only ill effects was that I actually lost my voice from being dehydrated and didn't realize it until I tried to talk on the phone and later when Vicky and Brian arrived.
Reunited with our hosts the only recourse was to rest for a day and then to hang out and have a good time. So the next day we all went to a great place in Spearfish called Steerfish.
Brian and Susan now had two unexpected house guests for the remainder of the week and were great about letting us stay with them.
Funny how we never thought about resting for a couple of days and then getting back on the trail?
We ventured out each day to see some touristy things. We visited the fish hatchery in Spearfish, which seems at odds with the name of the town. A fish hatchery in a town called Spear-fish!
But it was a lovely working hatchery with a lot of history.
In our original plan Vicky and I would be walking by Pectola Lake on our 4th day on the trail, Friday night. We had planned to meet Brian and Susan at the campground and spend the night together and then they would spend one more night as Vicky and I hiked on. As it turned out Friday night it stormed badly but Saturday dawned perfectly, so we decided to go out for one night all together to the campground.
On our way we stopped by what is considered the best hamburger joint in the hills.
Lewie's Burgers and Brews. No joke the burger is excellent. It is a big biker hang out, so we were glad that the Sturgis rally was over a couple weeks ago.
I was still too exhausted to chop wood! LOL
The area was very pretty with lots of wildflowers
Vicky and Angus
A great horned owl flew into camp just as the sun was setting and set up watch for his evening meal.
The firewood came in handy
Sunrise brought another beautiful day.
Vicky and I made ourselves useful for the next couple of days. We did some chores that needed to be done for Susan, got to have breakfast at the new location for The Colonial House and also spent another great night with our friends Barry and Saundra in Rapid City. We had gone to their place for dinner the first Sunday we arrived in town, but then meet them at their hang out on Wednesday at Kelly's Sports Bar and then finished up at Shooters Woodfire Grille.
Vicky and I then decided to go back to Bear Butte and hike to the top.
We started early to beat the heat, which has persisted, but got to see lots of mule deer on the way up the trail.
Looking back down to the entrance and parking area from about half way up.Almost at the top.
View from the top.
Headed back down
nice way to spend the morning
5th Annual Black Hills Hammock Hang.
Sheridan Lake, SD
All the usual suspects arrived early. Carol and Dick (Brian's Parents) always go out of their way to support ever aspect of the hang.
Firewood stacked and fire started.
Paul and Missy arrived in style from Michigan, with a much bigger ride this year.
Carol and Dick and Brian's brother like to rough it at the hang!
Although last year we brought our RV to the hang as well.
In fact we might have Brian and Susan talked into one as well maybe next year we will need a bigger parking lot!
Vicky and Angus bonding again
More participants arrive
The Friday is usual a time when everyone goes off in the morning to do site seeing. We have seen it all before many times, but still ventured over to Mt Rushmore first. This was the first time I have ever seen it covered by low hanging clouds and boy were some of the visitors irritated they could not see the monument.
We decided to drive down to the wild life loop at Wind Cave and see if we could see the Bison.
We were not dissapointed. they were every where today. in the fields by the road and even walking on the roads
They don't even notice the crazy people, and I won't even mention we saw a few getting out of their cars to walk up to them. We couldn't bear to watch so we quickly drove on.
We stopped at the game lodge in the park for lunch
They have a whole new addition since the last time I was there.
That night a storm moved in, finally changing the weather.
Frank was well prepared for the rain...
Oliver (right) and Jarret along with their Dad Chuck were new to the hang this year.
All gathered around the fire after dinner. Brian and Carol cooked for everyone each night
The next morning after it rained it was beautiful again
Steve and his wife Nikki where also new to our group and it was Nikki first night ever in a hammock.
I think she enjoyed it.
Steve impressed everyone by making breakfast for all on the open fire.
Saturday is a bitter sweet day as those of us with long drives head out and can't stay till the official end (Sunday). We got some of the group together for a photos, others are too camera shy.
Before Paul and Missy left, we had to get Paul and Brian to recreate the photo from the first year of the hang (the dumb and dumber pose) when Paul rode all the way from Michigan on a scooter!
5 years ago.
Vicky and I decided to head home via Nebraska. About the same distance, a few hours longer because of more two lane roads, but it let us go by the end of the Centennial trail and pose by the finish trail head marker.
what might have been,
We headed home through the small towns of Nebraska. Highway 385 south out of South Dakota to Scenic Highway 2 across Nebraska
and into Grand Island Nebraska for the night. There would normally be no problem with a hotel in Grand Island, but the State Fair was in town so there was no room available. Fortunately I have a Crestron dealer and a friend in Grand Island and he was able to get us a Air B&B condo for the night in downtown Grand Island and just next door to his wife's restaurant the Chocolate Bar.
We stayed on the 3rd floor of the old Masonic Building in a lovely renovated suite and had dinner and drinks at the Chocolate Bar.
( the Tiramisu Martini and Triple Chocolate cake was fantastic)
Big Thank you to Amos and Shar
next day, the remaining 500 miles to home. Two weeks on the road complete and while it didn't turn out like we had planned it was still a great adventure and vacation.
Restaurants of note:
Granite City Brewing- Sioux Falls, SD
SteerFish- Spearfish, SD
Lewie's Burgers and Brews, Lead, SD
Dough Trader, Spearfish, SD. - this wasn't mentioned in the blog, but we ate pizza a lot while at Brian and Susan's and Dough Trader was one of the best pizzas we have ever had.
Saundra's House, Rapid City
State Game Lodge, Custer, SD
The Colonial House, Rapid City
The Chocolate Bar, Grand Island, NE
A new drink was discovered on this trip:
Henry's Hard Soda- Hard Orange
1 oz Van Gogh Chocolate Vodka
.5 oz Kahlua
.5 oz Vanilla syrup
1.5 oz cream
A special thanks again to Brian and Susan for putting up with us unexpectedly for so long, being such great hosts and being such great friends.