Memorial Day weekend is always a challenge. In Colorado, heavy snows prevent backpacking in the mountains. In Utah and southwest Colorado, it’s already getting hot and crispy. This year we gathered up a group of friends and headed north to the Black Hills of South Dakota.
This was my first trip to the Black Hills, so I didn’t know what to expect. What I found were a surprisingly rugged collection of mountains, spectacular prairies, and plentiful wildlife.
We left work early on Thursday, and spent over an hour trying to pack car camping gear into our two cars. The drive across Wyoming was very scenic, with great views of the prairie. On one stretch of road, we followed what appeared to be the busiest train track in America. On another we saw a family of deer, with a coyote checking them out from 100 yards away. And of course, enough hawks and antelope to fill a small football stadium. The best part, though, was an extended sunset that lasted for hours.
Only five hours later we rolled into Custer, South Dakota, where we had a hotel room for the night. Custer was a nice little town, with a great breakfast place. After fueling up with food and coffee, we drove into Custer State Park to our reserved campsites at Legion Lake. We set up our campsite, and then piled into one car to go hike the Little Devil’s Tower.
The trail was short but very steep. The rocks, terrain, and vegetation reminded me of the northeast, but without the pesky bugs.