A two day hike in Black Elk Wilderness in the Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota.
We have not gone on a overnight hike together since we were teenagers. This will be a challenging hike for us. The trailhead we will start from is a horse camp where we can leave the truck overnight. The total of the hike should be 15.6 miles with a 2,021 foot gain in elevation. Of course, that does not include the up and down we will hike to cross ridges and valleys along the way.
We will hike Willow Creek Trail to the Black Elk Peak to Harney Peak Spur to Lost Cabin Trail Spur to the Lost Cabin Trail back to Willow Creek Trailhead. It sounds complicated but it is not because they have very good signage.
Very early in our hike, we walk through some very pretty meadows.
Soon we got our first look at Elkhorn mountain which is 6,365 feet. We will be looking down on this mountain later in the day.
We get to walk through another pretty meadow with great views of mountains in the distance.
We are starting to gain some elevation. Still, it is a long way to go up the trail.
Elkhorn is getting closer but there is still quite a bit of climb before we pass this mountain.
Our first peek at the mountain that is the highest point on the trail which is also the highest point in the state of South Dakota. Black Elk Peak is 7,244 feet.
Let me zoom it a bit to show you where we are going. It is the Harney Lookout on the peak of the mountain.
We walk by many dead and fallen trees that were attacked by a pine beetle. It has caused a lot of damage in the forest.
Elkhorn mountain is close and impressive. Actually it is a bit worrying since it looks like portions could fall at any moment. Evidence surround us that it has happened not long ago.
The rock outcrops are amazing.
Can you see the face in this rock outcropping?
Our first overlook gave us some amazing views.
We are not quite up to the height of Elkhorn Mountain.
The trail changed as we walked . The beginning it was sand. As we gained elevation, the rocks started to be mixed in with the sand. Further along, the rocks were most of the trail. The rocks were gravel, rose and white quartz, mica, and several types we could not identify. Near the end, most of the trail was walking on open rock that made up the mountain itself.
Black Elk Peak is closer.
Harney Lookout was built to support rangers who used the tower to watch for wildfires in the surrounding forests. A lot of work was done to make the tower strong and as comfortable as possible considering the remote location. Even the walk up was interesting.
The rangers had a generator and a cistern to collect water. The closest natural water source is over 1000 feet below and over a mile walk down from the tower. I am sure that they kept the cistern clean while they were using it for drinking water.
The views from the tower were incredible.
The Cathedral Spires and Little Devils Tower are easy to see from the tower.
Little Devils Tower from below.
We found a water source to filter for our bottles. We have a sawyer water filter that did the job very well. The water came out clear and tasted great.
A little way further down the trail, we found a "relatively" flat piece of ground in a small meadow.
The "kitchen" was a rock a little way up the hill to the right and the "bathroom" was to the left behind a house size bolder. Very private.
Dinner was freeze dried dinners. Beef stew for Shawna and Teriyaki chicken for me.
It was a very quiet night once the birds stopped singing around 10pm. Being almost at the solstice and this far north, dark was just after 10. It was a chilly night.
In the morning, I made "coffee". Well it was Folgers instant which is just as awful as I expected. Our next camping trip, I will be drip filtering Kauai coffee. Breakfast was freeze dried Southwest Skillet for Shawna and Biscuits and Gravy for me. Not nearly as bad as it sounds, add some boiling water and wait 10 minutes, the food was pretty good.
We did see several really pretty flowers on our hike.
My fitbit shows that the first day was 27,000 steps and the second 17,000 steps. Total of 229 floors "climbed". Time for a day to relax and recover.
6/29/2020 07:34:38 pm
Best photos yet! The vistas are amazing. The watch tower looks like something out of a movie. Super cool.
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