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Category Archives: Black Hills

It was a beautiful morning and on the cool side so we decided to hike up Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak). It was renamed in 2016 to honor of Nicholas Black Elk and recognized the significance of the summit to Native Americans. Nicholas Black Elk was a famous medicine man and holy man of the Oakota Sioux. I suppose the child in the white house will want to change the name back to Harney Peak since it was renamed when Obama was president.

The fall colors were outstanding. This is the first time I’ve hiked the trail from Sylvan Lake to the top when the fall colors have been this good. It was mid week and there were not a lot of hikers on the trail. We did meet a woman who had three dogs with her. Two of them were hers and the third was a rescue dog she was training to walk trail.

More photos from Custer State Park can be found on my website.

This was the only wildlife we saw along the trail.

There were some great views from the top of the peak. We walked through the fire tower and then down to the peak where we found a stone structure.

On our way back we met a couple of hikers in cowboy gear (hats, boots and chaps). They left their horses down lower and walk the last part of the trail. It was a good decision becauseĀ  the trail near the top has deteriorated a bit and the steps were quite high. We found their horses tied to trees down below.

On the way back we took a different trail that took us over to the Needles and Little Devil’s Tower before winding back to Sylvan Lake. This portion of the trail was even more colorful.

We drove up to Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park to start our hike to Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak). When we arrived there was almost no wind and the lake was just like a mirror. Before starting our hike we walked over to the lake to get some stunning photos. More photos from Custer State Park can be found on my website.


After waking up at 3:30am so we could make an early start to the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup we spent the rest of the day at the roundup and arts and crafts fair. As evening approached we decided on an early dinner and a evening visit to Sylvan Lake. We thought it might be a good spot to get some evening photos.


It was still warm, after reaching 90 degrees earlier in the day, when we arrived at Sylvan Lake. W found a wedding party setup and photographing along the lake. We took a walk around the lake while waiting for things to clear out.


As night approached I thought it would be a good idea to try some star trail photography. My wife went along with it so we walked back to the car to get our gear and some warm clothes. We spent the early evening taking photos from the south end of the lake.


After taking about 30 photos I decided to call it quits. With the wedding party at the lodge there were a lot of cars driving around and I thought it would distract from the star trails. There were also quite a few planes flying through the background. The fact that we had been up for over 17 hours also played a part in the decision. This is as far as I got in my start trail attempt.


I keep thinking of it as a vacation but my wife keeps pointing out that retired people can’t take a vacation so it’s a road trip. The plan was to head out to the Badlands, Custer State Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park starting the latter part of September.Buffalo-14-9-_3035

The trip got off to an inauspicious start. The day before we were to leave my wife came back from town and said that a warning light appeared on the dash – something about a battery. She immediately called the dealer and they set up an appointment for early afternoon.

When she returned home she was driving a different van. Apparently the problem was an alternator, something that never goes wrong with a Toyota. The dealer was having problems finding a replacement. My wife talked them into letting her drive a van home so we could pack all of our gear and then make the transfer at the dealer and head out west without returning home.

The next morning the dealer called and said they would have the new alternator at 10am and would have it ready by noon. We called and canceled our reservation for the first night because there was no way we would make Murdo, S.D .given our late start.

When we arrived to pick up our van I started transferring our gear to our car while my wife paid the bill. When I reached for my tripod something didn’t feel right. Sure enough it was my old tripod. I really needed the new one. So, back home we drove to get the new tripod.

Once back on the road we headed to Wabasha, Wis. to catch the highway south to I-90. As we drove through town I took my normal shortcut. When we reached highway 61 I turned right. At that point my wife asked me where I was going. I said to catch the freeway. Unfortunately I had been so used to heading to Redwing, Minnesota to watch the eagles last winter that I was heading north rather than south.

Back on the road , in the right direction, we were within spitting distance of I-90 only to encounter a 20 mile detour. At that point we reassess our progress and decided to stop at Mitchell, SD. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a hotel we liked so we decided to continue on to Sioux Falls, SD.

Early the next morning we resumed our western road trip. We planned to stop in the Badlands but decided to skip that side trip and continued on to Custer State Park. The goal was to photograph the Custer Buffalo Roundup the next day so we wanted to scout the area.

So for the past month we have been driving around the western U.S. and the upper Midwest chasing the fall leaves. They are just about gone now so I should have time to starting going through the many photos I’ve taken and writing my blog on a daily basis.

In the meantime I’ve started processing some of my most recent photos and interspersing blogs from the western trip with those of the Midwestern leaf peeping trips.

Our late spring trip to Custer Park was supposed to be a chance and get out and hike. We had a nice hike in the Badlands National Park but things got off to a slow start in Custer. The problem was rain. It rained almost every day and not a little shower but a real old fashion electrical storms with downpours. Every time we started out on a hike the weather turned ugly. We have Custer on our weather bug and it appears the rain has continued into the summer.

One day it did look like we would not get any storms so we headed to the Harney Peak trailhead at Sylvan Lake. When we arrived it was so foggy that we could barely see the boulders surrounding Sylvan Lake.

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

There were a lot of flowers out on Trail # 9. This is the first time I’ve hiked in the area when the spring flowers were at their peak.

Birds-foot Trefoil

Birds-foot Trefoil

When we reached Harney Peak we couldn’t really see much. We hoped to see some sheep at the top but there were none to be found. In fact the rangers said they had not been seeing many around.

Harney Peak

Harney Peak

Harney Peak

Harney Peak













On the return trip we hiked down the Cathedral Spires Trail #4 l with a detour to Little Devils Tower before returning to Sylvan LakeHarney-Peak-Trail-Custer-State-Park-14-5-_3026

We headed out early in the morning to do some hiking around Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills. The trail starts out on the Sylvan Lake Trail. As we walked around Sylvan Lake there was some nice light and a couple of fishermen out on the lake fishing.Sylvan-Lake-14-5-_3108

Our initial plan was to hike the Sunday Gulch Trail but we found it blocked by high water just below the Sylvan Lake Dam. I took a few shots of a waterfall but that is as far as we could go.Sylvan-Lake-Trail-14-5-_4444

We backtracked and continued on the Sylvan Lake Trail. About two-thirds of the way around the lake it started to rain fairly hard so we headed back to the car. We drove out of the park a little way and checked the radar on our phone. Rain, Rain, Rain.Sylvan Lake Trail 14-5-_3128