Thursday, October 18, 2012


Our plan to see Yellowstone required a lot of gear so we had to drive. In order to make that a good thing and not drive 17 hours one way was to break things up with stops on the way out at Rushmore, Devil's Tower, Wall Drug, and Keystone, SD and Custer, Sylvan Lake, The Needles and Black Hills on the way back.

We leave Jackson, WY before noon and drive about 9 hours to a hotel in Custer. We get up early, get some breakfast at the local egg toss and get to sightseeing.

Sylvan Lake was the water supply for Custer when this dam was built in 1881.

The lake was featured in Disney's 2007 film National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The film made the lake appear to be located directly behind Mount Rushmore when in reality it is actually five miles southwest of Mount Rushmore.

I think they used the rock below.

The tall rock in the back is called Inner Outlet and I've climbed "Classic Crack" to it's summit.

After an hour or so hike around the trails behind the dam and looking at odd shaped rocks we come up on a portal of sorts.

Oz joke not withstanding.
We leave Sylvan and head over to the Needles via the Needles Highway and it's famous tunnels. Our plan is to hike into the Needles and if possible the saddle of Spire 4.

The Needles of the Black Hills of South Dakota are a region of fantastically eroded granite pillars, towers, and spires. Popular with rock climbers and tourists alike, the Needles are accessed from the Needles Highway, which is a part of Sylvan Lake Road . The Cathedral Spires and Limber Pine Natural Area, a portion of the Needles containing six ridges of pillars as well as a disjunct stand of limber pine, was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1976. (she's reading the plaque in the photo below)

We load a small pack for a few hours hike and head up into and in between  these spires. It's still early and we are making great time. It's Saturday and we plan to be on the road tonight so it's kill the day looking around and we only have the Black Hills left and then 8 hours home.

We can't find the trail we want. It is a short scramble up steep rocks for a 100 feet or so. We are not sure and don't have the correct trail map so we bail on that plan and take the next major trail to the end and get a view none the less as grand. Like being IN the Tetons, being IN the Needles is so much better then looking up at them. The view from afar is cool but getting up close and crawling around you see details like how the beetles are killing the trees and how the forest service is fighting to save it.
 Above: View out from the trail
Below: View of the trail behind us. That's 'Chunking' a way to kill beetles and in the process trees but they say some tree live.

 Back into the van and through narrow roads and tunnels on our way to the Black Hills. I think it's noon-ish. We get to the Black Hill about 3pm. 


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