Western Trip 2017 Day 8

On of the objectives our friend John wanted out of this trip was to go to the top of Mt Harney. (now called Black Elk Peak). So we planned this out on Thursday night and I mentioned we might want to start a bit early to avoid an afternoon weather that rolls through the Black Hills this time of year, having done this hike many times before. Well the best laid plans and so on, we didn't start early at all but left well after breakfast.

The day did start out looking very promising with blue skies and plenty of sunlight

The trail we use for day hikes is the Sylvan Lake trailhead. It allows you to go up on one trail and then if you want you can take an alternate back once you start to come down from the top that takes in the Cathedral Spires and Little Devils Tower. This is the way I planned to take John and Rex (who wanted to join us for the walk)

We started at the trail head about 11 am with still sunny skies

It is a lovely wide trail for the first half of the trail up to Black Elk Peak. It is Trail #9 if you are looking at a trail map for the area.

A considerable amount of damage still from a combination of the pine beetles and the wind storms over the last few years.

Still lots of wild flowers blooming along the trail.

As you get to the actual lookout of Black Elk Peak there is some excellent CCC rock work 

The views from the top of Black Elk Peak are very nice. Black Elk Peak is the highest point east of the Rockies 7,244 feet 

Look out tower
Rex (left) and John admiring the view

Looming on the horizon however was the weather I was concerned about. After spending about 30 minutes on the top the wind was picking up and the temperature was dropping. I suggested we might want to start heading back. I knew we wouldn't make it down dry but I had prepared by bringing rain gear for myself and John.

At the split we took trail #3/4 down. The sky opened up and it started to hail. Then I realized that Rex hadn't brought any rain gear either. So getting John into his set and giving Rex my set. I was now going to walk down the hill with just my fleece pullover and shorts. 

It hailed and rained for the next 2 hours! There was not much picture taking as my iPhone stopped working in the wet and I would almost run ahead for 500 feet and then wait for the guys to catch up so I could generate some body heat. The hail was large enough it actually hurt, but we all made it down to the parking lot
Getting back to the campsite in the late afternoon it was actually still nice over here.

It didn't last long however as the storm arrived just behind us
It rained like crazy as we had to seek shelter on the picnic table under the canopy as the water ran beneath us. 

As quickly as it came it left and the sky cleared for the remainder of the day and night
Dinner was still a great success as Brian cooked up a mess of ribs and chicken along with other tasty treats 

Meat cooked outside- perfect way to spend the evening

Dave and his son digging in. 
keeping the fire going all through dinner and later made for a great gathering place as everyone had plenty of great food and conversation

Turned into a lovely Friday evening for everyone at the hang.

Western Trip 2017 Day 6-7

We left Devil's Tower early after another good breakfast at the Hitchin Post Cafe. We drove the easy way back toward Rapid City.  We had to make it into Rapid to pick up our friend John at the airport at noon and then to dog sit our good friends fur kids for the night. 

We did pick up John at the airport at noon and the first order of business was to take him to The Colonial House (CH) restaurant. The Colonial House is an institution in Rapid City as kind of a dinner/bar that has recently moved into a new location. The other reason for going to CH is they make great pies and we promised to bring desserts for the Hang participants.

Afterward John wanted to go and visit Mt Rushmore.  We love Mt Rushmore as well and it is just a few minutes outside of Rapid City.

It might look smaller in person than it does on TV but it is still very impressive.

A view of Washington on the mountain and the scale model in the Borglum museum at the base of the monument.

It was then out to do some grocery shopping for the next few days for the Hang and really good pizza for dinner, then back to fur kids sitting for the remainder of the day.
Our friends home in the Black Hills is so lovely, it is always a pleasure to be there and we would see them later in the week. 

Sitting out on the deck in the evening with a glass of wine watching the sun go down is a relaxing way to spend a night

They have a lovely array of potted plants on their deck and each was in bloom

It was up early and then it was over to Sheridan Lake and campground to meet Brian and Susan and help set up for the Hang. The 6th Annual Black Hills Hammock Hang

Vicky (back), John, Susan

Picking your trees and getting our hammocks set up. I had also brought the tent I was going to be using in Glacier National park in a couple of weeks to get some practice pitching it.

Introducing new people to hammocks is one of the fun things to do at these events, especially if you can start them young. 

Dave and his son came to the hang and it was the first time he had slept outside and his first hammock experience. He was a champ and took to it right away.

after setting up, it is the normal laziness of drinking a few beers and talking and greeting those arriving, getting acquainted stories with new people and catching up with returning friends. 

A lovely afternoon

Brian's Dad (Dick) and his mom Carol do as much as anyone to help make this a great event. They cook and serve as general good shepherds for our normal craziness and Carol brings great wine! 

Brian (Boothill)

your author (Skygzr) 
Susan (Sodakgrrl)


and let's not forget about the pies. 
Brian cooked a fabulous meal and everyone sat around the campfire telling stories and having a good first night. Plans were hatched for tomorrow, but that is another story!

2017 Western Trip Day 5

It was up bright and early for us today. We planned to walk all the rest of the trails around Devils Tower. We went into the little town of Hulett, WY. A great little tourist town with a little western feel main street. We found the perfect Cafe for breakfast, the Hitchin Post,  and had a big eggs, sausage, pancake meal.

After breakfast it was off to the park again. We planned to do the whole circuit around Devils Tower. Starting at the trail head for the Joyner Trail we would then pick up the Red Beds Trail and follow that around the Tower to the visitors center and then continue around to meet our original trail for just a bit and then take the (loop) trail back to the car. 

A total of just 5.5 miles. It was a beautiful day to walk. Blue sky and nice temperature. Just relaxing on the trail

Pretty flowers were in the grass

You get some great views from the distance and the views change all day as you circumnavigate the Tower.

The first part of the walk (and the end) is in open prairie and tall grass.

We were early in the morning before any crowds made it to the park, so we saw lots of wildlife. A large group of Turkey in the underbrush.

another angle on the Tower

As we came around the east side of the Tower and looked down toward the entrance we could see it is another busy day and a really long line of cars waiting to go through the entrance gate.
(zoomed in a bit)

The east side of the Tower is made up of very red rock, reminded me of hiking in Utah.

Vicky on the trail 

The lovely Belle Fourche River runs right past the Tower and the trail

Yet another view

Coming around to the south side you get a nice view of the country side again. I thought the balancing rock made for a nice shot.

looking south east with the Belle Fourche River on the left 

Back on the trail with a couple of signs, although the trail is well established with so many visitors, but the outer loop that we were walking today gets much less traffic. We only saw about 8 people on the outer trail all day and all of those were up near the visitors center.

The odd shape of the Tower you see from the North side 

We did see a trail runner, a young man working for the park out on the trail to talk to visitors and probably to check on their well being and talk about LNT (leave no trace ethic). He was very nice and we actually ran across him twice as he was going the opposite way as us, so we passed each other twice on the whole loop.

Getting back away from the upper sections you get wider views 

Back into the woods we found a groups of deer with young fawns

Don't mind me, I am just going to take your picture and then move on.

A surprising uphill in a day of just walking flat ground

Unusual rock formations found in the woods 

Back on the prairie and tall grass 

almost done walking for the day. 

After the hike it was off a bit to souvenir shop at the Devil's Tower Trading Post and then across to the KOA gift shop. Also negating any positive effect the exercise had by enjoying a lot of ice cream

It was then back to the Gulch Bar for a beer or two and asking for recommendations for dinner.
The Ponderosa Cafe back in Hulett was the overwhelming recommendation. So we returned to the our lodge to get a bit cleaned up and then headed into town again for a very nice dinner (they had the same beer I had discovered at the Gulch!) and then we wondered around town looking at the shops and walking off dinner and more ice cream.

It was back to the Hitchin Post Cafe the next morning for breakfast and a great ending to our trip to Devils Tower as we saw it the headed for Rapid City, SD. 

Support Our National Parks - Preserve - Protect - Enjoy