This spring has been exceptionally wet across the midsection of the US and locals tell us that Black Hills National Forest is about as green and lush as it can possibly get. Streams are flowing high, water is seeping out of the hills, flowers are popping all over the place and trails are barely visible among the thick grasses and shrubs.
As we've moved North through the Black Hills we've noticed the rock change from granite to slate, and now limestone and igneous rock. These hills are a meeting place of different ecosystems, with the Rocky Mountains to the West and the Great Plains to the East the plant life is extremely diverse. A forest hike might include ponderosa pine, spruce, bur oak, aspen and birch.
We've done two hikes since we arrived in Spearfish and the forest seems to be even more abundant and vibrant than we'd seen previously in the Black Hills, though perhaps that's simply due to the crazy growth rate as the weather heats up and the rains continue, just a little less frequently.
Crow Peak is the dominant peak in these parts, topping out at 5,760 feet. The trail winds 3.2 miles to the top with about 1,500 feet of elevation gain. There's an annual trail run here called the Crow Peak Ascent, a local passed us near the top training for the upcoming race...he made it up in 38 minutes, compared to our relaxed hour and a half or so!
|We were dazzled by the incredible lushness of the forest!|
|All the rain this spring has been good for the fungus.|
|About half way up large boulders made an appearance on the hillside.|
|We saw our first nighthawk!|
If it hadn't moved we'd never have seen it...it blends in to its surroundings very well!
|As we neared the top we found profuse blooms on the hillside.|
|The East side of the mountain was burned some years ago and now provides wide open views...|
currently limited by smoke from fires in Canada.
|Stark contrast between the burnt and forested sides of the mountain as we make our way off the top.|
|Our nighthawk alerted us of its presence as we passed by on our way down.|
What a beauty!
Our second hike from Spearfish was Little Spearfish Trail. This is a six mile loop with moderate climbing, extremely thick grasses and shrubs, and a very beautiful section along Spearfish Creek. Best of all, you have to drive through gorgeous Spearfish Canyon to get to the trailhead.
Unfortunately my six month old camera died and I had to use my cell phone on this hike. We'll see if Sony has better customer service/repair than Panasonic did with my last camera...
|Roughlock Falls is a pretty stop along the road to the Little Spearfish Trail.|
Little Spearfish Trail was exceptionally overgrown, the grasses were so tall and thick in spots we could barely see the trail! It was also very wet from the previous nights rain...we were soaked and muddy within minutes!
|Flowers lined the trail beckoning us further...|
|A postcard perfect summer day in the Black Hills!|
|Chest high Queen Anne's Lace!|
|Old beaver dam and flowering watercress reflections in crystal clear Spearfish Creek.|
|Limestone cliffs carved out over millenia by Spearfish Creek.|
|Watercress flowers shimmer on the creek.|
|There were possibly a dozen old beaver dams along this stretch of Spearfish Creek,|
each pond now filled with silt.
|Colorful limestone cliffs.|
More adventures from Spearfish coming soon...!