Sunday, June 15, 2008

Little Devil's Tower

According to our trail guide, Little Devil’s Tower is connected with a trail that runs up to Harney’s Peak. I selected Little Devil’s Tower b/c it gave us views of the Cathedral Spires, whose rock formations we saw from the drive to Sylvan Lake. Enchanted with the idea that we could climb high enough to peer down at this wind-sculpted peaks, I sipped some water from my camelback and set off. We strolled down the flat trail head until the split for either Devil’s or Harney’s. We bore left and immediately started to climb. We meandered around lots of fallen trees in the middle of the path and remarked at how such a popular trail was in such disarray. The day prior had been South Dakota Trail Day, and a team of hikers ascended this splendid peak to raise awareness for the hiking available in the state parks. Let me tell ya, they could use a couple of hiking clubs. In Shenandoah, this most visited national park—thanks to its proximity to the vast populations on the east coast—never wants for trail maintenance. New logs reinforce switchbacks and erosive side paths are blocked with debris before either become a safety hazard. But I digress.

We started climbing, and I started to get hot. I mean, really hot. I had on base layers, pants, short sleeve shirt, windproof vest, a hat, the works. As we ascended into the tree line, up 45% grades, my dehydrated behind was dragging. The topography for the Sunday Gulch Trail would have required the majority of my water in the latter half, not the first half as this one. I had executed poorly. The 45% grade was kicking my butt, too. Don’t these people believe in switch backs? No wonder it is called DEVIL’S tower! It’s pure torture to climb the damn hill. I must have sat and rested at least four times. Twice on the first hill and twice on the second hill. We received a small reprieve upon entering a crevice into which we descended. The second hill offered fantastic views of the Black Hills. It made for pleasant scenery as my ass was parked on a sharp rock trying to catch my breath and burping profusely as I continually downed water trying to rehydrate my weary body.

And how was Brad, you ask? Fucking peachy. Convinced I was going to take him on a 3.5 mile death march, that sneaky bastard was hydrated and was living large as he paced the hills with ease. In all, my ego was bruised more than anything.

At the top of the hill, I donned my grip gloves and climbed rock faces to the peak. We followed blue diamond markers which were hidden among the crevices. Careful to not stray from the blue diamond path, we reached the peak and beheld the beautiful cathedral spires. We enjoyed the breeze, and it was at that point that I was thankful of the extra layers. We descended, me burping the whole way.

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