Hiking Harney Peak & Continuing to Explore the Black Hills of South Dakota
We awoke very early this morning and drove back up to the Needles Scenic Highway to climb Harney Peak, elevation 7242 feet, which is the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the Pyrenees Mountains in Europe. It was three miles to the summit with a net elevation gain of 1200 feet and several great views of the Black Hills (really mountains!) along the way. At the top is an historic fire lookout ranger station built in 1939. It is no longer in use but was quite interesting to explore and the views were spectacular! We hiked back by a slightly longer trail that passed through more granite spires. Soon after we had started our hike back a mountain goat ran past us quite close! Wow – what an amazing thing to see! We got back to the car to discover that Ed’s keys were missing…..where along the trail could they possibly be? Liz had her keys so we made sandwiches and discussed what to do as we ate lunch. We decided we would come back at first light again tomorrow to re-hike the trail in search of the keys. Liz suggested that before we leave we check both trailheads as if she had found keys along the trail that’s where she would leave them. Joy, joy, joy…..thank you kind person for finding the keys and leaving them by the trail sign at the trailhead! Much relieved we drove the last section of the Needles Scenic Highway and then headed back to Crazy Horse Memorial.
In 1948 Korczak Ziolkowski, a polish immigrant, started a mountain carving of Crazy Horse on a horse. The Lakota Indians asked Korczak to do the carving because they “…would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, too”. While there are still many years of work to complete the memorial carving it is still an impressive sight today.
We then drove west to Jewel Cave National Monument where we had hoped to take a tour this afternoon. However we learned that they take reservations and the last three tours for the day were already full. We thus made reservations for a tour tomorrow morning and then proceeded to see the visitor center and movie while we were there.
We again drove back to the town of Custer, SD where we found a wi-fi hot spot and worked on our journal. We then enjoyed dinner and parked the van for the night along a forest service road near Jewel Cave National Monument.