Today, we hiked the Hell Canyon Trail. It is s 5.6 mile trail loop. We started clockwise which puts all the elevation gain in the beginning. The total gain is 853 feet. All of the gain is in the first 2 miles. The trail includes a switchback climb up to the top of the canyon wall then turns just inside about 25 feet from the top. This gives a great close up view of the geology of the canyon wall and down into the canyon below. At the halfway point, the trail drops into the canyon and turns down in the bottom. The environment changes into a forest, meadows, springs, and a creek.
In 2000, there was a very large fire. There is still evidence of the damage. The primary change is that much of the forested land is now grassland and meadows.
Time to climb up. At the top, the hillsides are all grassland meadows.
The view of the valley was amazing.
We could even see Wyoming. The trail at this point is only 11 miles from the state line.
Time to get going.
We get more amazing views including a couple of arches.
The geology is amazing. We could see small caves and variations in the layers of rock.
We found evidence that the trail is used by the local wildlife. I could not determine if it was a Bighorn Sheep or a Mule Deer. Both are known to be in the area.
Half way through the hike, we reached the valley which gave us a different perspective of the canyon.
Of course, there were some pretty flowers.
This cave was a bit larger than the others we have seen. It is supposed to have some bats further back in the cave.
There is a spring at the floor of the canyon. The flow is over two inches in diameter that is pretty impressive. We found several with similar flow rates.
The walk just kept getting prettier but we never did see any Bighorn Sheep.
We crossed the creek formed from the springs several times. Butterflies were at several crossings.
Crossing creeks and streams is getting easier and we have not gotten wet yet.
We enjoyed the hike and it was time for a late lunch. The brewery in Custer has some interesting names for their beers. One is Buffalo Snot. Shawna said it was very good. It is aged in Wild Turkey barrels. We had a delicious lunch at the Pounding Fathers Restaurant located above the Mt. Rushmore Brewery.
History.... Learning... Just a warning.
We stopped to see a historical site we had passed by several times. The structure is the stockade that was used by a group searching for gold illegally in the Sioux nations reservation.
The Laramie Treaty in 1869 created a reservation for the Sioux Tribes. The boundaries of the reservation were as far north as the Yellowstone river in Montana and North Dakota, the east half of Wyoming, the west half of South Dakota, almost all of Nebraska north of the North Platte river. This was 26 million acres. All of the Black Hills Mountain range was inside the reservation.
In 1874, Custer took an expedition of 1000 men into the Black Hills with the stated purpose of surveying the land and mapping the region. Confirming reports of gold and finding the locations of that mineral in the mountains was the real reason for the expedition.
Soon the details on the gold find was public information which started a gold rush. From 1875 to 1877 over 10,000 people seeking gold came into the mountains illegally. Many just disappeared.
The stockage was originally constructed by a group seeking gold. Within months of it being completed, the army came and took it over arresting all those they found there. Despite being in violation of the treaty none were charged with crimes and all were released. Most returned to the reservation to continue to search for gold.
When the tribes objected to the invasion of gold seekers, the government responded by withdrawing troops and leaving the prospectors to stay at their own risk.
By 1876, the treaty was broken by the government and the reservations size was reduced to removed much of the Black Hills from the boundaries. Mining camps like Custer, Hill City, Keystone, Deadwood later became small wild west towns.
We as a government NEVER keep our treaties if there is profit to break that treaty. This is so wrong that promises are not kept.
We are a couple who have started on a new adventure...