Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Black Hills Loop

Andrew and I left Saskatoon on Saturday morning and began the long drive south. We went back and forth between time zones, got confused, and stopped earlier than we really needed to. Oh well, we're not crazy about long driving days anyway!

We found a campground just outside of Bowman, North Dakota, and had supper at Hawk's Landing Fine Dining & Spirits. It's a bit different from Saskatoon's definition of fine dining but we had a very good fettucini alfredo and tiramisu for dessert.

On Sunday, even though it's a bit out of the way, we drove through Spearfish Canyon. We always enjoy the beautiful and dramatic scenery in this area.
Starting our hike at Iron Creek Horse Camp
By mid-afternoon we arrived at Iron Creek Horse Camp near Custer and started our hike -- a loop that included parts of the Centennial, Grizzly Creek, Iron Creek and Norbeck trails. Within the first couple hours we were able to see two of the famous four heads (aka Mount Rushmore) in the distance. The two we could see were George and Abe but my American friends would be ashamed of me for not knowing off the top of my head (pun intended), who the other two heads are.

George and Abe
We found a great campsite near a rocky outcrop so we were able to scramble up to get a view of the surrounding area.

Campsite #1
View to the northeast
Day 2 we passed by a lot of really interesting rock formations (granite spires) that make up part of the Needles. I'm sure if these were more accessible there would be climbing routes all over them, just like the ones closer to the road that we will climb later in the week.

It's easy to take a side trip from this trail and hike to the fire lookout on the top of Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota. We've already done this a couple times before on climbing rest days so passed by it this time.
Fire lookout on the top of Harney Peak (highest point in South Dakota)
Although we had plenty of time to get back to our starting point, it was a smokin' hot day and we were literally dripping in sweat so we found a nice campsite and lazed away the last half of the afternoon reading our books.

Funky rock formations in the Needles
A couple more hours in the morning and we completed our loop. This was an easy hike made only slightly harder by several fallen trees that required some up, over & around. Unfortunately many of the pine trees have been infested by pine beetles. It was also relatively quiet, meeting only six people on horseback and two sets of two hikers in the three days. Highly recommended!

A note someone left on our car. Humorous! 

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