Thursday, January 24, 2013

11th Hour Explorers

Spearfish Canyon is a hiking wonderland. Just when you think that you've done it all, another hike will pop up offering awesome views and new inspiration. This was the case with 11th Hour Gulch.

Looking to the road.
We've heard that 11th Hour Gulch is so-named because it only receives one hour of daylight a day. It is located around Mile 20, right around Kissing Rocks, and there is a small turn-off that allows for a few cars to park.

After parking, my brother-in-law, Jeremiah, Wu, and I headed south a few hundred feet to the gulch. When you are walking south, keep your eyes open, it's pretty easy to miss. The opening is only about 20 feet across and creeps back into a limestone crack.

Wu at the 2nd ladder.
At the entrance there are boulders that have to be tackled. It brings out your inner mountain goat, which is fun. Just past the boulders is an opening that's just big enough for a few people and their gear. Clinging to the right hand side is a iced over waterfall. It was marvelous.

Just past the clearing is a makeshift ladder that brings you up to the next area. It was easy enough to traverse, Wu climbed it without trouble. With the recent snow fall it seemed like a winter wonderland.

When there is one ladder, I guess you should expect two. The next ladder was much steeper and impassable for Wu, though he tried. I made it up beyond it and was confronted with a ice rink, another small iced-over waterfall, and a tree root ladder up to an area that allows for some real hiking.

With Wu stuck at the second ladder, we decided to call this hike and head north to Community Caves. It's a favorite spot of ours, especially with snow on the ground. The hike is definitely more intense but grappling up a ravine is more fun when there's snow to slide down afterward.

Anytime of year, the trail is easy to spot. There's no markers but the braided trails of the visitors throughout the years show the way. We wove down the creek bed and then headed up the ravine. The ice was well developed and we took our time.

The worst part of the trail was the last one hundred feet. It was solid ice but once we reached the top, the frozen waterfall and the green columns of ice were our reward for making it all the way.

It never ceases to amaze me how the area under the overhang is always dry and a perfect haven from the weather outside. It seems to have a calming effect. Each time I visit it seems that I discover something new. I always find the same spot, take a seat, catch my breath, and enjoy the moment.

Once we'd taken it all in, then we began the descent. It was really a barely controlled fall. It was energizing and fun and I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Hike on the High Plains

It has been far too long since Josh and I have been out in the woods. So, with warm weather in the forecast we have been planning a day to go out for a family hike. For the last week we've talked about clothing, supplies, and location until we had a plan. Of course, as plans go, it changed.

All packed up and on the road, we changed our destination. Instead of heading into the hills for some snowy fun we opted for the Ft. Meade Recreation Area in Sturgis.

There is an area north of the V.A. hospital that the Centennial Trail winds through and is also open to walk-in archery hunting. Wu and I had discovered it awhile back and it seemed like the perfect place to try out our new child carrier while letting the dog roam.

We arrived and it was apparent that we weren't going to need snowshoes. There was barely any snow at all. Eli was loaded into his pack, Wu was released from the jeep and we were off.

It was a perfect day to be out. The sun was at it's apex, it was nearly 60 degrees and a slight breeze was on our faces. Immediately we started to feel the weeks and months of being inside falling away. With each step we were feeling more like our old selves.

The trail wound through a treed area, across a small creek and then led us up to a ridge that was open and flat. Like most of the land in this region it was being leased out as grazing land for cattle. This was apparent by what had been left behind- we never saw the inhabitants- and the fact that we went through several cattle gates.

The whole while we were marching towards Bear Butte. With the sun at our backs, it was looming before us. Neither of us wanted to turn around, we could have hiked all the way there and back on a normal day. But this was not a normal day and asking Eli to spend a few more hours in a brand new carrier seemed like we would be pushing our luck.

As the sun began its descent on the Black Hills we decided to turn around and begin the march back. Josh had worn Eli on his back the whole way in and the way out was my turn to bring him for a spin.

It wasn't too long and we started to hear from him. All the excitement was too much and he was sleepy but he wasn't sure how to fall asleep standing up. We tried a few things, all of which seemed to irritate him but finally we settled into a nice sing-along of nursery rhymes and he settled down. By the time we reached the creek, he was asleep.

A few minutes later we were at the jeep, wrangling Wu and packing up. We were sad to be heading home but the taste of adventure had reminded us that this is who we are and we shouldn't get away from it again. So, in true Davis family fashion, we headed down the road already planning our next adventure.
1.8.13 Ft. Meade Rec. Area, Bear Butte behind us.