Sunday, March 13, 2011

Box Canyon Revisited

This morning we set out to Rapid City for the 29th Northern Plains Outdoor Expo. It was the third and final day of the event which had started on Friday evening. There were lots of great booths and we acquired some priceless maps and bumper stickers. Josh found some great camo pants for his hunting adventures and eventually we left feeling quite satisfied but in need of more adventure.

The elusive Canyon 3.11

We headed South towards Keystone and Rushmore Cave with purpose. When Josh & I first met we explored nearly every cave in the Black Hills Region. On one of those adventures we had taken a dirt side road and found an awesome canyon. For some reason we didn't stop and explore it just then but instead marked it on the GPS and kept on adventuring. Somehow the waypoint was lost and we've been looking for it ever since.

In the last year we have taken to taking every side road that we could find in hopes of relocating that canyon. Josh had been South of Rapid City for work and that got our minds thinking that just maybe that canyon was further South that we had remembered.

Battle Creek Road, 3.11
There were four facts we agreed on; the road was dirt, there was a bank of mailboxes with a turnout just off the dirt road, that we had turned left onto that road and finally, that we had been caving that day. We actually couldn't agree which direction we were heading but we both knew we had turned left. Figuring those things out were a series of peculiar conversations. But since we had been caving that helped to narrow down the region. Keystone & the Rushmore Cave area was the only place that we hadn't searched.

When we went pass Rushmore Cave and didn't see it I think that we both started loosing hope. We drove and drove and every time we saw the jack pines giving way to prairie we would say "maybe it's up here..." but it really wasn't and we were just about to turn around when we saw a dirt road off the to right that seemed eerily familiar and when we saw that huge bank of mailboxes we started getting truly excited. Battle Creek Road. Of course.

Pass the mailboxes, onto Box Canyon Road, over the cut-out hill and just as you begin slowly coming down the hill the road will curve slightly to the left and Box Canyon will appear, as if out of nowhere, on your right. We saw that there were 'No Trespassing' signs posted so we took off to the nearest landowner house, the Bieber's. Mr. Bieber was home and was more than happy to let us hike with Wu for the day. He told us of his younger days when he ran a ranch and of his favorite horse. A very sweet man who, I think, was happy to have his day interrupted by two young kids in love and hungry to hike.
Box Canyon, 3.11

We parked our car in a little turn-around that the Bieber's owned and started off. We had been hoping that there would be an easy way to hike down into the bowl but from the start it was going to be impossible. The one place we had hoped would lead us into the canyon was actually a waterfall that dropped about 60ft to the floor below. That left us to hike the rim.

With the snow melt over the last week, there's not much left in the Southern Hills. As we walked around the edge we ran into very little snow. Wu sought out the few banks left to cool himself in. The yucca has already started to grow and the ground was dry enough to sit and enjoy the scenery. We walked until we realized that we had likely left the Bieber property and we still couldn't see the end to the canyon.

One of these at every spot, 3.11
After we had packed up and got back on the road we headed back towards Keystone and found a road called "Old Hill City Road." The train station was located just next to it and as it turned out the road followed the railroad through most of the canyon. It was beautiful- a quiet, steeply shadowed road that felt historic. It was easy to put ourselves in another era as we meandered through the curves. But sweet, little Wu brought us back to reality with his untamable desire for the window. That dog's a maniac.

We cruised home on all back roads, visiting spots we hadn't seen since before snow fell. Today was the kind of day that you daydream about. We immersed ourselves in all things outdoors, explored something new and then revisited the old. I don't think we can say it enough but "It's great to be home!"

He's pretty ridiculous. 3.11