Friday, September 26, 2008

Harney Peak

It seemed a shame to be so close to the highest point in South Dakota, and not climb it, so the next morning we loaded our packs and headed to the Harney Peak trail, (it starts at the Sylvan Lake Day Parking lot). Both of us were a little edgy about the seven mile roundtrip hike, which has a vertical climb of over a thousand feet. We decided to try it with the goal being to test ourselves and enjoy the hike, not measuring our success by topping out.
Taking Sylvan Lake Trail Number 9, we quickly climbed several hundred feet, walking though the towering mature ponderosa pines. An occasional aspen displayed it’s fall colored bright yellow foliage. Some oaks showed some red leafs and hinted at more beauty to come. About a half mile down the trail we reached our first view of Harney’s Peak. It’s topped by a stone fire tower, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.
We stopped further on and had a morning snack. A group of talking teenagers walked by, on no not a school field trip? Continuing on we had occasional views of the Picket Fence, Little Devils Tower, Cathedral Spires, and Harney Peak. After a long downhill, followed by a sharp uphill climb we connected with trail four and we realized we were near the summit!
Getting our second wind we decided to go for it and quickly climbed the last three hundred feet. It wasn’t until we neared the peak that the sight of the tower greeted us! Climbing the spiral rock stairs, the fire tower reminded us of the wicked witch’s castle in the Wizard of Oz. We cast a glance over our shoulders but didn’t see any flying monkeys, only teenagers scattered everywhere, (personally I would have taking the flying monkeys).
Never the less we enjoyed the view! Far to the east you could see the backside of Mount Rushmore. It is said that you can see four states, but some haze limited our view, as a fire burned far away. The entire Black Hills were visible and a new appreciation of their beauty dawned in our hearts. We climbed down to a cistern, partially filled with water. Eating lunch, the others left, and for a moment we were all alone on top of the world………..
The hike downhill was fast as Renita practically ran! The whole hike took us five hours and was as spectacular as any hike we have been on. Tired and sore we reached the truck. Time well spent! Clear skies.

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