Today, we decided that training for future long hikes needed to start. We have new backpacks and other gear and need to know how we will carrying it on the trail. Our packs weighed in at 20 pounds which we thought was a good start weight for the day.
The trail we picked was the Little Devils Tower hike in Custer State Park. It is 3 miles round trip and includes a “scramble” up a mountain. Scramble meaning you may be leaning forward and looking for foot and hand holds to keep from slipping. Some of this was like that especially on the climb down.
First, we had to get to the trail head (where the hike starts). The drive today was a bit more interesting than most. We have driven down some of the road before but today we added several miles. There are several 180 degree turns in switchbacks. Two tunnels one less than 9 feet wide and the next just barely 8 feet wide. Both are one way but the second one was so tight that we pulled in the rear view mirrors.
After the tighter of the two tunnels, the road itself became narrower. At less than two lanes wide with no markers everyone had to be very polite and give others room when passing. Everyone was driving very slow. Maybe 20 miles an hour but usually more like 5 or 10.. With all the blind curves, it was an interesting drive.
A lot of the hike was uphill but the packs did great and we actually are doing better than we do when the old day packs have been used. Not only do the new packs transfer a lot of the weight to our hips and off our shoulders but they feel much more stable when hiking.
The trail passes through a lot of really fascinating geology. The rock rises up as spires in many places. On some, there are boulders precariously balanced. The granite is mixed in with other minerals like tourmaline, iron, garnet, feldspar, quartz, beryl, pyrite, and mica. Mica is the most noticeable because of the way it reflects light and flakes are so thin you can look through them. The reflections are like mirrors. When we walk along the trails, the ground sparkles like a thousand tiny mirrors are on the ground.
As we started to walk up the last of the trail, we were able to look out far to the west and sometimes north. Really beautiful.
The top is our destination.
After we had completed the portion of the trail that was relatively flat and sandy, it turned into bare rock climb. Much of the way was negotiating the placement of boots and where to hold on to the rock for support. Our hiking poles were useless at this point and got in the way.
At the top, we were rewarded with a 360 degree view of the mountains, valleys, rock spires, and plains in the distance. To the east was Black Elk Peak, the tallest point in the state of South Dakota. It is also the highest peak east of the Rockies at 7,242.
We were only a few feet below that at just over 7,200 feet. As a comparison, our campground is at just under 5,000 feet and the trail head was just over 6,400 feet. Our climb was over 700 feet in elevation change.
Even near the top there were flowers.
Cathedral Spires was to the south. Wow! It is impressive. HUGE! Rock spires standing like slabs turned on end.
One formation is called Needle. It looks like a sewing needle jammed in the ground.
It was a fun hike.
On the way back down, we passed through several meadows and some flowers.
Time to take off the boots and put on a fresh pair of socks and shoes for the drive back to the campground.
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We are a couple who have started on a new adventure...