April 13th, 2002
an early morning mountain bike ride I contemplated what to do
with the rest of my day. I had been wanting to climb Harney Peak
before summer so I could use the short summer climbing season to
focus on the Colorado 14ers and some of the more challenging highpoints. I
checked the forecast for the Harney Peak area and the weather
looked favorable all weekend. I quickly packed some gear and hit
the road around 4 pm. Just outside of Fort Collins I realized I
forget to throw in my shell which serves and my rain and wind
protection. Oh well, too late now, I guess I would be one of
those unprepared people I usually make fun of. I arrived in
Custer South Dakota around 9 pm and checked in the Super 8,
there's not much of a selection of hotels and I've slept in my
car on previous highpoints and just didn't feel the need to do it
again for this trip.
April 14th, 2002
I woke up around 7
am and took my time getting ready thinking that the entrance to
Custer State Park wouldn't be open until 8 am. I was delighted to
learn that the entrance gates were unattended and you just put
your entrance fee in the drop box and put the permit in your car
window. I had heard that the Sylvan Lake trailhead was one of the
prettiest of the highpoints but I remained skeptical until I arrived there. It lived up to the reputation and the lake was still frozen and the were large rock formations in the middle of the lake encased in ice.
warns of steep trails and a strenuous climb. Knowing that it
gained 1500 feet in 3 miles, I thought how strenuous can it be.
Climbing Mount Borah in Idaho gained 5500 feet in 3 miles so I
didn't believe the hype. Anyhow I was on my way and quickly came
to an overlook of some impressive rock formations and Harney Peak
itself off in the distance. The tower can be seen in the center
of the photo below.
The trail had some
snow and ice in parts but for the most part was relatively dry.
So far so good and I was praying that it wouldn't rain since I
didn't have a jacket. The wind was howling but the trees kept me
well protected. This was one of the prettiest high point I had hiked so
far even more enjoyable the the Painted Basin of Utah's King's
Peak. At a trail junction a rock formation shown in the photo
below came into view resembling a small version of Devil's Tower.
As I hiked on I noticed
strands of red cloth tied to trees along the way and arrows drawn
into the dirt. I guess somebody didn't want to get lost but the
trails are well marked and the Sylvan Lake trail blazes the
number 9 and all junctions I encountered were well signed.
I arrived at the summit
around 10 am after hiking for a little over an hour. After
looking off the tower platform I noticed a suspicous rock
outcropping and decided to investigate it a little closer. The
Highpoint Guide I had written by Don Holmes said there wasn't a
USGS benchmark on the summit. After scrambing around on the rocks
away from the tower I found the USGS Benchmark. The photo below
is looking directly off the platform on the tower, the benchmark
is on a high spot across the rocks.
The photo below was taken
from the spot where the USGS benchmark is looking back at the
summit tower. I guess it's worth exploring the summit sometimes,
you'll never know what you'll find. It was extremely windy on the
summit and after playing around for about a half hour I was
pretty cold and ready to retreat from the winds (guessing 30-40
mph, and being from Wyoming, I know all about wind) and take
shelter in the trees.
The hike back down was
rather uneventful, although I did finally run into some other
people on the trail once I got close to the trailhead. I decided
since Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument were so close, I
might as well check them out before heading back to Colorado. I
do wish I had another day to cruise up and do North Dakota's
highpoint since it was only about another 250 miles away but that
will have to come another day.
Mount Rushmore was just
liked I remembered it, except there was about 30 people there
total instead of the hoards of tourists it has in the summer
The Crazy Horse Monument is
definitely a work-in-progress and still has about 10 - 15 years
before completion. Since it is all funded by entrance fees, I was
glad to contribute my $9 to the cause. You can see the outline of
his horse that will eventually be carved into the rock as well as
the chief. Overall it was a very good getaway and well worth the long haul from Colorado.