South & North Dakota in a Short Weekend
Now that I have a toddler these highpoint trips need to be fast and furious and pack as much adventure in minimal amount of time as possible so as to continue to be granted permission to go on them. I've been excited about this particular trip for awhile since it's an area of country I've never been to.
8/4/16 Day 1 Part 1- Harney Peak
My flight was out of Newark, NJ at 5:00am so I had a car pick me up at my apartment at 2:30 so for sure an alpine start, than after a layover in Dallas on to Rapid City, unfortunately there was plane difficulties making my timeline stretched even more thin. My cousin, highpointing partner, and personal photographer would be joining me in Rapid City. Little did we realize this weekend is start of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally making everything far more expensive and difficult to come by, after shelling out way too much for rental car we grabbed sandwiches and supplies and headed to Sylvan Lake approx. 1 hour of driving. Crowded summer day on the lake even though its a Thursday, hit up Trail #9.
Harney Peak trailhead
Nice View along the way
View on Trail up Harney
It was hot out on trails and it was fairly crowded. Literally everychild (more than a few) decided to tell us in mileage how much further we had to go. We also had to dodge horses/mules a few times on trail up. Still it was scenic and a new landscape for me, near the top it was more boulderous but luckily the Sherpa's have already set ladders for the season.
View from the top
View from #33
The famous tower.
view from tower
8/4/16 Day 1 Part 2- Wind Cave NP
Having completed this first objective of the weekend it was time to high tail it down to Wind Cave National Park to grab one of the final tours of the day. The drive was scenic but slow going and took almost an hour.
Drive through Black Elk Wilderness
Prior to going caving we hit up Rankin Ridge to Highpoint the National Park. This is a list I only just started and one I'm sure I won't finish but if I'm able I might as well grab as many as I can. Obviously the underworld is the highlight of this National Park but there is plenty to see above ground as well. This is one mile loop hike with both sides of the ridge having much different landscapes to overlook. Many Prairie Dogs greeted our arrival for this short hike
You go up on a sloping hillside overlooking the rolling hills of the National Park.
Hike up Rankin Ridge
View from the top, this is only my 3rd National Park Highpoint and 1st that isn't also a State Highpoint (lot of regrets about similar park points I've been nearby but didn't think to summit at time). In the distance on clear day, which this was, you can see Badlands National Park which unfortunately due to ridiculous timeline I've set will have to wait for another day.
Top of RR
Probably a touch too enthusiastic for effort involved
Then you walk down the dirt access road to the car
Ran into a few pronghorns on way to Wind Cave Visitor Center
After a long day of travel and hot hiking and driving many people would look for a pool to dip into, however going underground into 50 degree caves is just as refreshing an option
Its a nice tour with some interesting facts about both its history and geological features.
After this cave tour we grabbed dinner and a brew at Biter & Ester's Brewpub for local sausage and beer. Than we drove all the way Spearfish, SD which is 2 hours. We hit up Crow Peak brewing right at 10pm when they are supposed to be closing but due to the Bike Rally still had a big crowd, grabbed a few drafts and some to go and went to local hotel for night.
8/5/16 Day 2 Part 1- White Butte, ND
Woke up early and hit the open road for the 2.5hour drive to White Butte. Whole lot of nothing on this drive. After mistaking several formations for our objective we finally arrived at the trailhead.
The "trail" is overgrown and worried about Rattle Snakes the whole way. We had to crawl under barb wire fence on 2 occasions each way to Butte, this included one spot where someone had hung a dead rattle snake whose rotting carcass attracted flies and horrible odor.
Finally made it up the sandy peak and we cracked some brews we had leftover from Crow peak brewing the night before.
SD Beer on ND HP
With 3rd objective for weekend completed we headed to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we broke up the hour drive by stopping at Trappers Kettle for lunch which is trapped themed restaurant in Belfield, ND. Decorated with lots of taxidermy and traps it a little Americana type of joint for those that seek them out. Food is standard fair but not sure what else to expect way out here.
8/5/16 Day 2 Part 2- Theodore Roosevelt NP
This is a place worth exploring in more detail as the backcountry hiking and camping options are pretty endless but alas our goal was Peck Hill about 2.4miles RT. We were greeted by some Buffalo sightings which I was hoping to see.
Pulled off at couple view points
View on Loop
Between mile marker 12 and 13 on loop road you get to the Old East Entrance.
East Entrance Sign
There is a nice path to the Old Ranger Station that takes you through a massive prairie dog town with their chirps being ever present until you get to structure.
From here if you look southeast you'll see 3 cone shaped rock formations/buttes. You want to hug the far side of the leftmost formation. This will take you around a ravine and you'll find an overgrown trail.
You go through an evergreen type forest and get plenty of scratches on legs (I recommend pants). Then you get to the top of the hill and you can look around an find a can with summit register. Overall route finding isn't that bad.
Hiking in TRNP
The register is just instructions from peakbagger and no one had signed in over a year except for earlier that very day! what a coincidence.
Mission Complete 4 of 4 for weekend.
On our return Wild Horses blocked our trail and posed for pictures for us.
We headed to downtown Bismarck another 2hr drive. Stopped at Buffalo Commons Brewery just outside of town for cheap sampler trays. We then checked into hotel downtown and walked for dinner and to Laughing Sun brewery for well earned beers and Yahtzee.
The good thing about Bismarck is you can walk everywhere but there isn't although much to do or see anyway but we tried our best. Next morning went to airport and flew home.
This was a very fun (yet tiring) weekend in a unique corner of the country. 2 state highpoints (#33 & #34 for me), 2 National Park Highpoints (#3 & #4), and 4 breweries visited is a good time in my book. There are plenty more adventures to be had in this area so hopefully I'll have a chance to return. They call this is the American Serengeti for a reason and i'd agree with that sentiment as I've never seen more wildlife around every turn.