Sunday, January 1, 2012

Eagle Cliffs Explorations

Today, Amanda, me and a friend, Michael, went on a snow shoe to Eagle Cliff Trails. Eagle Cliff is a great snowshoeing trail that we've been reading about on Leave No Trace South Dakota and really wanting to hit up. Michael works with Amanda and we've all been talking about going on hikes together since late summer, but we still haven't gotten a chance to go.

Yesterday, I went to Amanda's work to pick her up and while I was there we all talked and decided that it was about time we went out. It was an amazing hike and I'm really glad I'm lucky enough to have a wife that likes to do this kind of stuff. Michael just recently purchased a pair of snowshoes at the behest of Amanda. He was excited to get them out and take them for a spin. It's always better when you have friends to go with.

So, this morning we headed out early to pick up Michael and make a stop at our favorite breakfast place, the Hickok House. After getting a good meal we started out towards Cheyenne Crossing, just south of Spearfish Canyon. The Eagle Cliffs trailhead is 8 miles south of the Crossing and when we arrived we were full of food and ready to take advantage of the recent snowfall. We strapped up our snowshoes and started off towards the Lily Park trail.

At the beginning of the hike there is a gate that you have to go through in order to get to the heart of the trail. We went through and quickly realized that this was going to be a difficult hike. At first I was a little worried that Amanda wasn't going to be able to do the whole thing but not even pregnancy can stop my baby. She powered through the snow and then quickly let one of the guys break trail. She's also pretty smart.

Michael didn't have a hard time at all even though it was his first time out. We were making a good go of it until we sort of lost the trail. No one had been out to the trailhead since the fresh snowfall, so it was hard to find where the trail was. You'd figure it would be marked a lot better than it was, but apparently the people in charge of the trail thought it wasn't necessary.

After heading around a large hill we realized that we had to go straight up that hill in order to reconnect with the trail. Once we got up to the top it was amazing. Everything was so peaceful and the sun was shining so we took advantage of it and snapped a few photos then headed towards the second trailhead which was about a 3/4 mile in.

We headed down towards the valley where the second trailhead was. Instead of walking down the hill we more or less had a controlled fall down. The snow was deep and very powdery so even in snow shoes we sank and slid and cursed the idea of having to make it back up in order to get back to the jeep.

At the bottom of the hill we checked the maps and started up the next side to continue our hike. It was tough hiking and we stopped frequently for breaks, but at the top of the next hill it was all worth it. The trees blocked what little wind there was and the level ground was a welcome change. We followed the snowshoe trail, which was poorly marked, and ended up making a large loop back towards the valley.

Wu Bear was flying around us the whole time, but as we approached the valley for a second time, he started to slow. He chewed ice cubes off his paws and panted a lot but still refused to let anyone be in front. His bounds through the snow had turned into trots along the beaten path, but he was as happy as he's ever been.

Let me tell you, that hill that led into the valley was a pain in the rump to get back up and we were glad when we finally made it back to the top. And then came the next hill which we had missed on the way in because of the poorly marked trail. We decided we would have to come back out here and mark these trails a little better for the next people who were unlucky enough to follow in our footsteps.

All in all, we were out there for about 4 hours and when we got back to the jeep we were ready to get home for some food and relaxation. Michael was happy that his snowshoes held up well and will most likely be going snowshoeing with us again.

It was a great day and I can't wait to do another snowshoe next weekend. We're gonna try to make this a group outing from now on. So many other people want to join and it gives Amanda and myself some good experience for our business.

 Life is good to us.

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