South Dakota Vacation: Black Elk Peak

I took this shot about halfway up the mountain. You can see the highest point, the Fire Tower, just to the right of the middle

Today is a good day to talk about my trek up Black Elk Peak. Formerly known as Harney Peak, this mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota rises 7,244 feet above sea level, making it the highest point in the state. It also happens to be the highest point between the Rocky Mountains to the West and the Pyrenees, in France, to the East. 

The beginning of Trail #9 at Sylvan Lake, our starting point.

I've already talked about the fateful vacation my Dad took me on back when I was 14 and how I nearly died (sarcasm) on this very same trek. Well, we talked for a while about going back out there now that I'm a seasoned hiker, so this is exactly what brought us out to South Dakota together this year for a combined vacation.

My kids survey the rising landscape about halfway up the mountain.

The kids are more agile and quicker than my Dad and myself, so about here, they ditched us to make their way to the top on their own.

The trail is pretty even for the first two-thirds of it, although it slowly climbs.

My Dad posing along a rock face.

This man has hiked the Peak seven times, four of them by himself. I get my love of hiking from him.

If you don't sign in at the kiosk, you risk a $100 fine.

Once you get to a certain point, you are required to sign in your party. I imagine this is in case anything should happen to you on the rest of the journey as it's not an easy hike after this.

The farther you progress on the trail, the rockier and steeper it becomes.

A deer crossed our path. It wasn't even frightened of us as it stuck around for a minute.

The vista expands the higher you get, making for gorgeous views.

The Fire Tower approacheth.

A view from the small tower, about 30 stair-steps from the Fire Tower.

Finally! We reached the top about three hours after we started. Just look at that view. From here you can see four states: Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana. That view makes the hard hike worth all the effort, and at nearly 8,000 feet, it's breathtaking...literally.

A view of the inside of the Fire Tower.

A view through the doorway to the Fire Tower. I like taking "window" shots like this as the perspective is interesting.

My favorite shot of the whole series. Just look at how magnificent it is! It is here where I felt one with nature and all my woes and stress from the last year and a half just washed away. 

My daughter and my dad.

A plaque on the Fire Tower gives you some information about the mountain.

I kept my discourse minimal on this post for a reason: to let you visualize the hike with me. This post has a lot of pictures, but how else can you describe something so massive, so monumental, then with photos? I hope you enjoyed the journey with me. It was nice to experience this again. Hiking up this mountain was more than just a goal: it was a testament to how far I've come since January of 2014 and a healing experience for me. 

It ended up being more than all that as well. I got to spend a solid six, uninterrupted hours visiting with my dad. My dad was a single father so we spent a lot of time together when I was growing up. He got married after I graduated high school, I moved away, and then I had a family of my own. This means that 99.9% of our time together is spent in the company of other people. While I've never lamented this, I never realize how little we get to have one-on-one time together until we actually have some.

I'll go into depth about the experience in its own post sometime. Until then, I hope you have a wonderful weekend.


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