As always, scroll down for earlier posts.
This post covers August 14 - 16.
After leaving Wall on the 14th we headed off to the Black Hills. Our first destination there was Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota. This was the only high point of our trip that actually required hiking. The photo on the left is the tower at the top of the peak, and on the right is the view from the top. Harney Peak is the highest mountain East of the Rockies.
It was interesting, because we've been on other high mountains (which apparently were lower elevations than this) and we are always very cold at the top. Not with Harney. It was a rather warm day up there!
Hiking note- there are two common trails used to hike to the top. We had asked the ranger which to use and she suggested to go up one and down the other. Sounds great. Only one problem- we couldn't find the trailhead of the one she suggested. So instead we took the more difficult trail up and the easier one down. No biggie, but a lesson that there should be better signs in the parking area about where the trails are.
After our hike we took a quick dip in the lake at the base of the mountain to wash off some sweat and then we headed off to Mount Rushmore. The roads through the Black Hills are challenging. It looks like it should be a short distance, but they are so narrow and twisty that it took us a while to get to Rushmore.
There was a trail that went close to the mountain, but unfortunately we were tired from our hike earlier in the day so we didn't take it. Instead we poked around the visitor center and watched a film on the construction of the sculptures. Can you believe that most of the "sculpting" was done with dynamite? Those workers became very skilled!
We were supposed to spend the night at a campground in the area, but we had to get to Leadore, ID by the next evening to meet Andrew. So we canceled our reservation and started driving west. We headed into Wyoming. WE drove for a bit and then decided to stop at a motel for the night. What? All the motels in town don't have vacancies? But the next big town is 90 miles away. Back in the truck. We drove some more. We got to the next city. First motel- no vacancy. 2nd and 3rd motels, same story. 4th motel- smoking only. Ick. Luckily they gave us a discounted rate since we didn't want smoking.
The morning of the 15th we got up and hit the road. Soon we were driving through lots of smoke. Guess there were some forest fires. At one point we stopped at a ranger station to see if there were any road closures. There are so few main roads out there (and lots of mountains in the way) that we would hate to drive most of the way to our destination to later have to turn around and go back to get to a different road due to closures.
No roads were closed, but the next day we heard that a town we drove through later needed to have their street lights on in the middle of the day because it was so dark.
Around 4:00 we arrived in Leadore, population 90- and that number may have included the pets. Interesting that such a small town had two restaurants and two convenience stores. Andrew had gotten a room at the motel (which was run by the mayor who was also the taxidermist) and we stayed with him.
There were 7 other hikers in town, so we gave them all snacks and we hung around on the lawn of the motel chatting. After a while we went to dinner. when we got back there was a bit more chatting, and then some TV watching and then bed.
In the morning we all went out to breakfast. Chris and I were rather entertained watching the hikers eat. They really know how to eat! Pie as an appetizer followed by at least 2 full breakfasts, and then maybe some pie for dessert.
After breakfast they did some last minute food shopping at the convenience stores (and bought some corn dogs as a snack) and Chris and I emptied all of our stuff out of the bed of the truck. Then we piled 8 hikers plus their packs into the truck and we drove them the 15 miles to the trail. On the way back to town we came across a herd of cattle in the middle of the road. We didn't know what to do, but luckily there was a truck behind us. He passed us and started driving through the cows, so we followed.
We stopped back at the motel to get our stuff and then we headed off to Yellowstone. We got there early evening, set up camp, and enjoyed not being in a rush to get anywhere.