High Plains 8/03

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      [Ed: Imported from Americas Roof ‘Summit Trip Reports’ forum]
      [By: markv on September 4 2003 at 3:32 PM]

      The Black Hills of South Dakota deserved more than the one day i had to spend there…i hope i get back there soon. I did all the scenic drives around Custer State Park, saw Crazy Horse from the road, (i’m not a miser ONLY when it comes to HP guidebooks, y’know) and scouted out a campsite. I think/hope i legally did dispersed camping. On route 244, about 5 miles west of the Horsethief Lake campground (sorry so vague), there is a dirt road that turns north. It has a cattle grate and a sign that says to close the gate if it’s open. From my maps, it was NFS land, Black Elk Wilderness. Following that dirt road downhill, taking the left fork when it forks, almost immediately on the left there was a clearing that looked like it had been camped at before. There weren’t any signs of a campfire, but it was just too perfect of a flat spot to be an accident. So i made some notes of how to find this spot again in the dark and then headed off to do Harney Peak before dark.

      I parked at Sylvan Lake, but took the #4 Cathedral Spires trail instead on the way up to the peak, and then the #9 Sylvan Lake trail on the way down. I liked the footing and the rock formation scenery much better on the #4. It was a much quicker hike than i expected, and there were about 5 other people on top of the Harney Peak tower when i got there. HP #13! The round trip was less than 3 hours, but i was hurrying more than i like to, worried i would get stuck hiking in the dark. I missed the lighting ceremony at Mt. Rushmore, but saw them lit anyway. If you want to avoid the parking fee, park slightly west at the free lot for the “profile view” of Washington. It’s about a half mile walk along the highway and on a little side trail to Rushmore.

      The camping spot was just plain ideal. Dry, cool, and in the morning i climbed up some rather crumbly (but low enough to be safe) rocks that turned out to be petrified wood. Lo, and behold, from the top of these rocks was a perfect view of the top of Harney Peak…a view which i never really had from Sylvan Lake or either trail.

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